[ Update: This place has since closed down.]
Note: This is a food rant.
Last night, the boy, mum and I decided to check out the new restaurant – Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh – that has opened at nex. We are on a vengeance to try and eat through all the food stalls at nex but as the boy rightly quipped: “Even if we eat at a new restaurant once every week, we might not even get through it all!”
Pao Xiang BKT recently opened at Basement 1 of nex and we thought we’d check it out because mum loves trying out new places.
Do a quick google and you’d find loads of good reviews about this BKT chain. It originates from Malaysia (specifically, Klang which is supposedly the mothership of BKT) and I believe this is their first branch in Singapore. Their BKT is string-tied which apparently makes the meat really tender and gets rid of the fats….
As you can tell from the picture above, the casual restaurant wasn’t very crowded save for about 2 other occupied tables. They have different types of meat that you can choose from so we ordered the ‘Go Hui’ (五花）and ‘Ka Chark’ (脚则) along with a portion of intestine (粉肠), siew pak choy (小白菜), tau fu pok (豆腐卜). We had a flyer that entitled us to a free bowl of you char kway so we didn’t need to pay for that.
As you can see from the picture, all the dishes were served in small little bowls with a little flame below to keep it warm. I took a mouthful of the plain rice (which wasn’t hot) and things started to go downhill from there. Let me count the ways:
See how small the bowls were? This means that there was barely enough space for me to dip the you char kway. And we all know that one of the joy in eating BKT is dunking the you char kway into the steaming hot soup. No space to dip you char kway, how to dunk?!?! FAIL.
The menu did not offer salted vegetables or as we call it, ‘kiam chye’. I love eating ‘kiam chye’ with BKT and this place had option for 4 types of vegetables and none included ‘kiam chye’. Fine, I’d choose the healthy vegetables and can live with not having ‘kiam chye’ with my BKT. Problem is, that plate of siew pak choy (or xiao bai chye) that you see above costs $8.50. It was nothing more than pouring hot water over the veggies and then slathering on oyster sauce and fried onion bits. FAIL.
Mum and I ordered a cup of warm barley while the boy had a glass of iced water. There was no mention that tap water with ice would be charged so I was very surprised when the bill arrived. What made my eye pop was the fact that we were being charged – get this – $1.50 for a cup of plain water with ice. ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS?!! What the hell was going on?!
I highlighted this to the generally completely clueless serving staff (made up of students who were working part-time) who then scrambled about trying to find a menu to see if they charged me correctly. (What if I didn’t notice it?!) It was then that I realised, that on the menu, there were 2 items called “Ice (Large) – $1.50” and “Ice (Small) – $0.30”. It doesn’t say “iced water” or “plain water” so I was left wondering if they were charging for ice (!) and if so, $1.50 for ice is a tad cheeky, no? After a couple of t-ing and fro-ing, the cashier finally decided to charge me “Ice (Small)” for 30 cents. Did I mention that I absolutely abhor restaurants who charge for plain water? Not only is this place charging for plain iced water, they don’t even have the courtesy to inform their customers about it. I don’t blame the staff, I blame the management for failing to train the staff in BASIC service skills and product knowledge. FAIL.
Let’s talk about the service staff. I am not expecting wait staff to fawn over me but I think if I’m paying a 10% service charge, I expect basic service such as actually knowing what you are selling? Questions about recommended dishes were answered with a “errrr….” and a blank expression, followed by a random jab of the finger to one of the pictures. And remember, the restaurant wasn’t even half filled! FAIL.
When the boy noticed that each bowl of BKT was miniscule, he asked the young male staff if we could have another bowl of soup. Staff hesitated for a bit before saying “er, ok” and heads off to the kitchen. Now, I don’t know about you but I’m guessing that the total time taken to scoop a small bowl of soup from the kitchen to arriving at the customer’s table can’t take more than 3 minutes. Ok, maybe 5 minutes if the kitchen is like really huge and you have to spend some time trying to figure out where the soup pot is.
In reality, the soup took more than 15 minutes (!!!!!) to arrive at our table. What is going on?!? Scooping a bowl of soup to refill need to take so long or not?!?! Finally, after what felt like 2 centuries, it arrived at our table, held very gingerly by the same male staff (maybe they were being charged for using the tray which explains why he didn’t use one and chose to risk burning his fingers with hot soup. Then again, remember, soup was lukewarm anywaaaay). And yes, the soup came in the exact same miniscule soup bowl. The boy then told male staff to please, can we then have another 2 bowls please since it is sooooo tiny? He goes off and of course, takes another century and a half to return with 2 (miniscule) bowls. By this time, I was pretty much seething in frustration and quipped: Out of curiousity, is your kitchen very far? (你们的厨房很远啊?) To his credit, young male staff actually got my drift and gave a sheepish smile. FAIL.
This, my friend, is the BIGGEST CARDINAL SIN of all – the soup from every bowl of meat was not hot. At best, it was lukewarm. That little flame below each bowl wasn’t strong enough to warm it up unless you sat there for 3 hours (or more) to wait for the heat to get through the bowl. I have to say it again: THE SOUP WAS LUKEWARM!!!! How can any half-decent BKT place serve barely warm soup??!! EPIC FAIL.
And to cap off an utterly horrible dining experience, the total bill came up to $59.20. Each (miniscule) of pork ribs/intestine cost $9.80 so you go do the Maths. Needless to say, all 3 of us walked out of the restaurant feeling completely ripped off with half-filled tummies. There’s really nothing worst than wasting precious tummy space on bad and expensive food. Oh ok, in their defense, the soup, which looked more like a thick broth, was pretty tasty but it wasn’t out of this world. So what if the meat fell off the bones? So what if the soup broth was flavourful? The fact that the soup was LUKEWARM (WHYYYYY???!!!!) is enough for us to swear off the place forever….
..and in the meantime, tell everyone I know through this blog, Facebook and Twitter. Behold the power of social media 🙂
And just to remind you where it is (so you don’t accidentally walk into it), here’s the address:
Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh
PS. I found out through the power of Google that each bowl of BKT sells for RM10 in Malaysia. I guess someone (i.e. customers = us) has to pay for the high rental at nex.