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Oct 10, 2006 03:53 PM

Merlion - anyone been?

Last night I noticed a new restaurant on Dundas, east of Spadina called Merlion. According to their takeout menu the chef is from Singapore, and the serve food from there as well as Thailand and Malaysia! I scanned the menu and happily noticed they have a number of items I haven't had since I was in Malaysia years ago (notably all forms of laksa, teh tarek and roti chanai)... Anyone been? I'd love to know if it's actually as exciting as I think it is!

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  1. I was just there yesterday, had nasi goreng and laksa noodles. I was excited too by was let down. Laksa is the only dish I remembered from my visit to S'pore 30 years ago, and I don't like theirs compared to other versions I've had in T.O., it was too strong and not enough coconut milk. Also I don't remember nasi goreng being dark yellow, almost brown in colour. However I may be wrong on both accounts because they could be actually authentic, as I'm not from S'pore. But I can say that the chicken and shrimp in the laksa tasted a little stale (as in precooked much in advance).

    My dad loves Hainan Chicken Rice and he's eager to try it out there, I'll forward his comments after he's tried it. Other Malaysian/Indonesian dishes look tempting too, hope they are better than what I had.

    The decor is pretty cheap, the partitions are just roughly painted boards. And the menu they give you inside is just the "takeout menu" in a plastic file holder.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Teep

      I developed a taste for Hainanese Chicken Rice when I visited Malaysia and Singapore, but haven't found anything that tickles my fancy downtown. What's your dad's or your recommendation for downtown? Or even in the suburbs for that matter. Thanks!

      1. re: mikeb

        As a Singaporean immigrant to Canada, I've been disappointed by the many incantations of Hainan Chicken Rice that the GTA has to offer.. until now!

        If I can call anything comfort food, it'd have to be Hainan Chicken Rice! Thanks to my friends' recommendations, I found excellent substitute at Phoenix Restaurant in Markham (2 locations: woodbine/steeles, mccowan/hwy 7)... fresh, tender, springy, fragrant.. served with good chicken oil rice, the requisite garlic sauce and a thai sauce.. too bad they don't have good chili sauce to serve with it!

        And you know what the best part is? They de-bone the chicken! By all means, cook with the bone, but that doesn't mean you should have to eat with it! On my visit back to Singapore, every hawker debones their chicken to allow their customer to enjoy without the hassle. I was pleasantly surprise to find big hunks of meat without bone.

        I'd so be willing to have this once a week! Try it and let me know what you think!

    2. Went with my dad the second time. Conclusion: we won't be going back.

      Started with a "propiah", a kind of S'porean spring roll. It's OK, a little different, with a veggie and meat stuffing in a soy based marinade. Also chicken sate, which didn't look too good but tasted fine. Ordered a roti to go with it which was very good, flaky and tasty. Next is Hainan chicken rice. Dad declared the chicken to be not bad, but the rice (cooked in chicken broth) to be lacking in flavour - he much prefers the version at the Bun Saigon Bun on Spadina. Then the last dish was "grilled fish in banana leaf" - sounds exotic and recommended by who looked like the owner. Well it was just deep fried fish, resting on a fresh banana leaf, with a sauce on it (which consists of fermanted black beans and bits of veggies and garlic.) With his first bite, my dad said "Oh it's skate!" so I asked what's wrong, is it non-traditional, he said "it's one of the cheapest fish!". So overall we were not impressed and even though there are lots of interesting things on the menu (I've only ever had fried kwai-tiu, a kind of noodle, but they have kwai-tiu soup) we will not be going back.

      BTW a Merlion is a lion-headed fish (thus a mer-lion) - an icon of Singapore.

      1. If you haven't heard about it, and are interested in Malaysian food, try Matahari Grill on Baldwin St., between Spadina and McCaul. Consistently good food, but a bit on the pricy side.

        2 Replies
        1. re: olivergail

          Matahari Grill is a disappointment. I find that it's not authentic at all. Their coconut rice (nasi lemak) is soggy and missing the lemon grass and kaffir lime flavours. Curry is also a let down. It's bland. I went to Merlion once and it's not bad,not to the greatest. We had nasi lemak,hokkian mee, Penang prawn noodle as well as Laksa. Out of these 4,Penang Prawn Noodle is our favourite. If you want a good Malaysian/Sinagporean food,try Restoran Malaysia in Richmond Hill or the Lion City in Mississauga.

          1. re: Foodie_gal

            I'm not sure what you are expecting for the type of prices at Merlion. Dinner for two for about $20 is more than reasonable. Also, considering the food is quite fresh - I think it's a great place to go when your hungry and have empty pockets.