Straits Cafe in the Westfield Mall- I was disappointed, does anyone agree with me?
I grew up in Singapore and when I moved to San Francisco I was thrilled that there was a Singaporean restaurant in the city. Straits Cafe when it was on Geary was not quite authentic but was enough to bring back a lot of good memories of the wonderful food of my youth. My wife and I even had our first date there. So we were excited to find out that Straits Cafe was reopening in a spot that was much closer to us.
We just ate there two nights ago and I was very disappointed in the food and missed the charm of the old restaurant.
We didn't stray from our favorites; Roti prata, beef rendang and chicken rice and of those only the beef rendang stood out. The roti prata was smaller in size, was rough and without taste. I don't think they used the right dough or cooked it with enough oil. The sauce was soupy and bland.
The chicken rice came without sweet soy sauce and while the chicken was good, the rice was undercooked and the soup incredibly oily and over salted.
I also have to note that one of the strengths of Straits was the very Singaporean dishes they had on the menu that made it truly special from the glut of Thai and Chinese restaurants in the city. I loved Chin Chow (grass jelly drink) and Gula Mulaka (sago desert with palm sugar and coconut) when I was growing up and ordered it every time I went to Straits. In the new restaurant neither of these items were on the menu anymore. In fact the desert menu seemed lazy, with over half the items containing coconut.
I am truly saddened that I no longer have a place to get my comfort food.
I'd have to agree here, that when Straits Cafe was just one location, that it was probably the best SF had to offer in terms of Singaporean fare that in a way had a Thanh Long kind of neighborhood yet classy vibe to it. I too remember Chris coming out of the kitchen to talk to friends at our table back in my college days in the 90s (they'd even drive all the way from Stockton just to eat there then go clubbing or karaoke). At least you connect the face with the food and then some.
The Palo Alto location was ok from its opening till about 2000/2001 then last I went in 2002 the quality kept going down for me, and I haven't been back since (which was around the time Chris left for Santana Row's opening).
My uncle and his golfer friends know Chris (who also is an avid golfer himself). Let's just say that the SR location was admittedly opened strictly to cater towards a much wider audience (to put it politely) and I don't doubt about any other locations after that.
The moment the concept of making the simple fare more upscale, fusionized, and catering it to the masses (aka "selling out" in music circles), the intimacy disappears and ditto with the food quality (in general) and the true spirit of what it really is (simple comfort food yet very tasty street style fare). Sadly that's pretty much what really happened here.
You might find slightly more decent Singaporean fare at various Malaysian restaurants, but that's not saying a whole lot more.
For a restaurant that I remember being pretty decent was the one on Clement Street that served Singapore and Malaysian fare (Robert Lauriston has mentioned this place multiple times) which I believe is next to that hobby shop that sells Japanese anime/robot/science fiction/models/toys. Simple, unpretentious, and no nonsense. While it is nothing like Singapore or Hong Kong (which have some superb Singaporean restaurants), it is still a decent place.
We ate there a couple of weeks ago. It was so bad. Service was terrible. Food came out in the wrong order, we finally canceled the appetizer after we had had soup and the entree. We were made to feel that we were a bother. The food was barely average. AND IT WAS SO LOUD.
No second chance on this one.
We were told there is no order for the food to come out... it comes out what they called "family style". Basically, it comes out when the kitchen sends it out, like tapas. If I were to go again, we would probably order 2 things, get them, then 2 more, then 2 more, etc. But it's a big "if"...
I never ate at any of the other locations, but stopped in at Westfield Mall for a quick small meal at the bar a few weeks back: ordered a chicken soup that was on special (sorry, can't remember the name) and waited, waited and waited...
Once my soup finally came it was fairly tasty but lukewarm, and the large bowl it was served in was less than half full, making it a fairly small portion for the price. To add insult to injury, as I was walking out I noticed someone else had the same soup, but a portion almost twice as big!
Bottom line: nothing made me want to go back and try more. I'd guess based on my limited experience that consistency is a big issue there, and service definitely is hit and miss. If I were to go back, I would eat in the bar again: much more pleasant and no noisier than the overcrowded dining room.
I went a few weeks ago and was also disappointed, particularly after having just been to Burma Superstar. We had roti (too thick - the best versions should be almost transluscent), mee goreng (rather horrifyingly tomato-y, though had a good kick to it), and a banana blossom salad(?) that was half shreded carrots. Sigh.