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Straits Cafe in the Westfield Mall- I was disappointed, does anyone agree with me?

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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.

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  1. Thanks for the report ... especially from someone who could compare it to the old location ... and who has it in their top five restuarant list. Have you tried any of their other locations?

    Here's the website.
    http://www.straitsrestaurants.com/

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Janet

          I've been to the Santana Row one a couple times. Similar experience...they are so crowded that service is bad and unfriendly.
          It is sad that Straits has become another overpriced, trendy spot with bad service and deteriorating food quality.

          1. re: Janet

            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"...

          2. 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.

            1. 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.

              1. Forget Straits, try either Jayakarta in Berkeley, Langkawi in San Mateo, or Layang Layang in San Jose for decent approximations of Singaporean food. No one hits the nail on the head for authentic Singaporean food in the Bay Area.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Benny Choi

                  Jayakarta is Indonesian.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Jayakarta bills itself as both Indonesian and Singaporean. It's printed on their menu's front page. There is a lot of overlap between the two cuisines.

                    1. re: Benny Choi

                      Jayakarta's chef is from Indonesia, and most of the less enthusiastic reports here have been from people disappointed that some dishes didn't taste like they would in Singapore.

                      http://www.jayakartarestaurant.braveh...
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Point well taken, although, as I know many Singaporeans in the Bay Area, there is no local restaurant serving Singaporean cuisine which satisfies any majority of them.

                        However, they'll all agree that Straits is the worst. And Jayakarta is certainly better than Straits, in my opinion.

                2. Well, I hope their chef moving to Palo Alto means there's hope for that location.
                  We had a $90 lunch for 3 at Zazil yesterday (next door to Westfield Straits), and came away horribly disappointed. I have found the restaurants in their "collection" at Westfield to be overpriced renditions of formerly great restaurants. Their astronomical rents must be pushingthem to sell more volume at a higher price. Food quality & service are clearly not the priority here.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: foodiegrl

                    I agree with you about Zazil and Straits, but think there is hope for Lark Creek Steak. Here is my report:

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/343500

                    1. re: foodiegrl

                      Same here on Zazil. My friend and I shared one appetizer and an entree for lunch last weekend. The total cost was $55(!) and we left still hungry and feeling like we'd been had. The food is mediocre and overpriced.

                      1. re: alag

                        To their defense, the items I ordered were very well-executed. Someone in the kitchen really seems to care.
                        However, the quality of the material (pork shoulder) did not warrant a $22 lunch price tag. I can get a better & more satisfying plate with pork shoulder and amazing sides at A16 or Incanto for dinner at that price.

                    2. Straits had moments when it first opened. But no more. Singapore cusine is seriously lacking here. I had a decent pepper crab at Shiok in Menlo Park (www.shiokkitchen.com/) but the other dishes are hit and miss. Still, haven't found anything like what I had in Singapore.

                      1. At the request of a friend, we ventured to Straits at the Westfield. I assumed going into the situation that the food would be "ok," but I'd probably be a little disappointed because of the price tag. We shared the corn cakes, ahi tuna tower, the spicy basil chicken, and the rendang beef.

                        Corn cakes were so-so, but mainly didn't care for the texture - basically kernals with a little bit of batter to hold them together, no flavoring, and were wayyy too crispy.

                        The tuna tower had far too much ginger in it. I frankly could not taste the tuna.

                        The spicy basil chicken was edible, but for the size of the portion I felt as though I could have gotten something similar at Panda Express and I would have been more satisfied.

                        The rendang beef's flavor was too bad, and the beef was rather tender. However there was probably enough sauce for 5 orders in that bowl.

                        The fact that we paid $70 for lunch was hard to swallow, too (my friend had one drink, I stuck with water). It's becoming incredibly clear that foodies and fashionistas are NOT uniting, Mr./Mrs. Westfield Marketing Person. *scoff*

                        1. Chris Yeo was mentioned in Singapore's press a few months back as having started one of the best Singapore restaurants in the US.

                          Unfortunately, when I tried their prata, chicken rice & sayur lodeh - they must be the worst renditions of Singapore food I've ever tasted in my life! Isn't there any decent Malaysian-Singaporean food to be found in SF?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Try Banana Island in Westlake...they have a combo of Malaysia, Singapore and Thai food.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Or Lime Tree on Irving - the old chef from the original Straits in Geary is the owner and chef.

                              -----
                              Lime Tree - Southeast Asian Kitchen
                              450 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122