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Aug 1, 2008 02:29 AM

Singapore - White Rabbit at Harding Road

Much has been said about White Rabbit, the bright, pretty restaurant in Harding Road named after the quirky punctuality-challenged rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.

I went there with high expectations, expecting the unexpected – after all, any restaurant which conjures up visions of Carroll’s fantastical imagination has to be exciting & different, no? Alas, I was just a little bit disappointed. The food was good, but not anything which one cannot conjure up at home oneself – with the exception of the White Rabbit Blackforest Cake – a deconstructed dessert which looked anything but a cake: a cylindrical chocolate mousse/parfait resting on a bed of delicious choc cookie crumbs, served with whipped choc & vanilla creme & brandied cherries. THAT was what one expected in a place like the White Rabbit. Its brandied cherries are the best in Singapore!

Here’s the current set lunch menu (2 course for S$30+++):

- Soup of the Day
- Roast vegetable salad (eggplant, zucchini, peppers topped with arugula & light anchovy dressing
- Salad of Salmon Confit (slow-cooked salmon with baby salad leaves, new potatoes & a honey-mustard dressing)
- Summer salad (watermelon served with cherry tomato confit & Parma ham)
- Poached Egg & Asparagus (slow-cooked egg served with steamed asparagus & orange Maltaise sauce)

- Verjuice Pot-Roasted Chicken (served with mash & baby carrots)
- US Choice Ribeye (pan-roasted & served with escargot butter & a celeriac puree)
- Pan-Roasted Mullet (served off the bone with braised fennel & tomato-herb fondue)
- Fish and Chips (served with aioli)
- Braised Lamb Shank (hearty stew with tomato saffron jus & arugula)
- Herb Risotto (served with grilled King Oyster mushrooms)

In the a la carte menu, the much-talked-about White Rabbit Mac and Cheese (S$28) was quite bland, and so was the Slightly Spiced Prawn Bisque topped with aromatic coconut-and-laksa-leaf soufflé(S$16). Two other soup choices were the Mushroom Cappucinno (S$14) and Chicken Consomme with foie gras tortellini (S$15).

Oysters, served either au naturel, au gratin or Rockefeller were fresh (S$8 a piece/minimum order of two pieces). So were most of the fresh salads offered on the menu: Smoked Chicken Waldorf (S$15), Warm Spinach with poached egg & bacon (S$17), Salad Printemps which consisted of fresh Mesclun with mangoes, asparagus & black truffle (S$18), the Duck Confit Salad with crisp green apple, mesclun & hazelnut dressing (S$19) and the Dressed Crab with tomatoes & avocado (S$24). All were very tasty - one can’t go wrong here.

Mains were quite traditional & a bit ho-hum:
Chicken a la King served with pasta (S$28); Sole Meuniere with baby potatoes & arugula (S$29); Poached Salmon with cauliflower couscous (S$29); Braised Sea Bass (S$32); Oxtail Stew (S$34); Roast Yorkshire Pork served with braised cabbage & Pommery sauce (S$36); Roast Rack of Lamb served with Gratin Dauphinois (S$38); Grilled 150-day-old Ribeye served with veggies/fries & choice of Black Pepper, Bordelaise or Bernaise sauce (S$39); Tournedos Rossini (S$45); Live Maine Lobster Thermidor (S$58); and lastly Cote de Boeuf (serves 2, S$168). The steak comes with a choice of two sides.

Dessert choices continued along the traditional line of offering: Banana Split served with 3-flavors of ice cream a la Neapolitan (S$12); Crème Caramel (S$12); Strawberries Romanoff (S$14), Mars Bar Souffle (S$16) which was disappointingly boring; Baked Alaska (S$16) which was awful – more like a stale meringue than the traditional sweet we all so loved; and a Cheese selection (S$18). Not forgetting, of course, the Blackforest “cake”.

I just wished the staff uniforms could have been more unique – say, updated tunics of monks’ robes (in keeping with the chapel-like décor) or else charming English outfits which echoed Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

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  1. Klyeoh,
    The photos of White Rabbit look beautiful. Yet, your review isn't the rave I had hoped for. And, the food seems a bit too international for us in Spore. So, do you have any recommendations for the Holland Village area? Or, perhaps in Rochester Park?

    We leave next week and have your (and everyone's) prior postings printed out for our food tour. Thanks.

    3 Replies
    1. re: comiendosiempre

      Both Holland Village & Rochester Park are popular with the expatriate community because of their myriad choices of international dining - which is probably not exactly what you're looking for if you're seeking local Singaporean tastes.

      But if you do still want to check out Holland Village, be aware that there are actually 2 separate dining precincts there (albeit within a short walking distance): the first one is the Lorong Mambong/Lorong Liput stretch where you can find quite good Arabic food at Al-Qasr (its older rival Al Hamra is a few doors away, but not as good), a localised Mexican joint Cha-Cha-Cha, and a collection of pretty average but popular Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian & British eateries, plus a coffee joint, an ice-cream parlour & a trio of bakeries. There are two Crystal Jade restaurants there which is worth checking out: a Shanghainese one which offers good la mian & xiao long bao; and a Cantonese seafood one which serves up very good HK-style stir-fries & dim sum.

      The other dining precinct is 10-minutes walk away, across Holland Road, at Jalan Merah Saga. I liked the restaurants here much better - Original Sin which serves up the best Mediterranean-style vegetarian food; Michelangelo, which has been one of the main stalwarts for Italian food in Singapore; Bistro Petit Salut, which serves marvellous French bistro fare; Da Paolo, with its delicious pastas & risottos; etc.

      Rochester Park has some fancy restaurants worth checking out, e.g. One Rochester; Min Jiang Sichuanese; North Border Tex-Mex Grill; another Da Paolo branch; and my personal favorite, Graze (which serves fusion/continental cuisine). But then again, there's nothing really Singaporean here.

      There's an interesting 6-table restaurant called Xi Yan (38A Craig Road, Tel: 6220-3546, Dinner starts at 7.30pm. Closed on Mondays) which can be quite a memorable dining experience - if you are lucky enough to snare a table (the place used to have a 3-month waiting list when it first opened back in 2005, but should be easier to get in these days). Recent write-up in TimeOut Singapore:

      Hope you enjoy your Singapore trip, let us know if you have any specific queries.

      1. re: comiendosiempre

        If you're looking to dine in the Rochester area, you have to try Cassis, a new french restaurant set in and around an old black and white.

        There's really nothing you could order that would disappoint, as all their dishes are extremely well executed. The pigeon salad and pan seared foie gras are divine as starters, and for mains the duo of scallops, duck and tenderloin are all good choices.

        Save room for dessert and try their papaya souffle or giant raspberry macaron before the petit fours arrive :)

        1. re: dolceus

          How do you compare Cassis to the established French restaurants like Le Amis, Gunthers, Iggies? And how about compared to the new one like Nicolas?

      2. Klyeoh,
        Thank you, that is terrific information. I looked at the restaurants you mention in Holland Village, Original Sin and Da Paolo. They look great, just what we are looking for for lunch. There is also a Da Paolo pizza, is that good? Is it also in Holland Village.

        And, as I was looking at these spots I saw reference to a new Thai spot called Kha. Its only a few months old and is located in HortPark. Have you been? And, where is HortPark? The place looks beautiful and, if its Thai, we are looking for that. Ironically, the executive chef, David Hamilton, cooked at Trisara and Silk in Phuket. We have been to both and thought both were excellent. In fact, we had one of our best meals anywhere at Trisara, it was outstanding. Black pepper soft shell crab that was memorable and an outstanding red curry pork. Kha's website is:

        One more follow up question, Graze also looks very good. Is the food equal to the venue or it is a bit more style over substance? Thanks again.

        And, yet one more: I see discussions of crab bee hoon. Is that a dish unique to Spore? As good as chili or black pepper crab?

        3 Replies
        1. re: comiendosiempre

          Jalan Merah Saga has become a battling ground of sorts for the Michelangelo Group's stable of restaurants (Original Sin, Michelangelo, Sistina Pizzeria) and the rival Da Paolo Group (Da Paolo Gastronomia, Pizzeria, etc). Both are very good - you'll find good pizzas at both Da Paolo's & Sistina Pizzeria.

          Kha at the HortPark is along Alexandra Road, only about 10 minutes' taxi ride south from Holland Village. I've dined there a few times & must say that their rendition of Thai food reminded me of David Thompson's Sailor's Thai (and the old Darley St Thai) in Sydney and his 1-Michelin star Nahm in London. It's pretty authentic & very good, but with the ingredients upgraded (with higher prices to match), e.g. use of lobster instead of prawns.

          It's nicer to lunch at Kha as the HortPark is basically a large horticulture park run by the Singapore National Parks Department, surrounded by greenery & tropical rainforest.

          I'm not sure what you'll think of Graze, I had Sunday brunches there a couple of times - the food was passable. The few times I dined there in the evening, I found some of the dishes to be too outlandish for my taste: e.g. a beef salad that was so spicy, I thought I was in a Thai restaurant! But it's a nice place for drinks, and has a great ambience.

          Crab bee hoon is worth checking out - it's popular amongst the locals, & the Geylang outlets you'd have read from the threads are the best in town. But, of course, the Chilli Crab is Singapore's unofficial National Dish.

          1. re: comiendosiempre

            Hi com :

            Crab been hoon is a dish invented by the chef/owner of Sin Huat in Geylang area. There are others who try to copy his recipe without too much success. It is definitely not as well known as chilli or black pepper crab; there are plenty of restaurants that cook these 2 dishes that almost resemble a commodity now. I don't think I will recommend you to try crab bee hoon in Sin Huat. Based on your writing, I think you prefer restaurants with comfortable and relax ambiance; Sin Huat, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: hole in the wall, arrogant attitude, terrible service, inconvenient location, and quite dirty for Singapore standard. And worse, it is expensive with all those features. It just attracts some die hard fans (like me, for example) that just go for the food and tolerate those negatives since its chef tend to invent his own dishes with natural fresh seafood that is not available elsewhere. Famous dishes include Gong Gong (a type of whelk) with chilli sauce, frog leg with chicken essence, squid with garlic flavor and the crab been hoon. I don't even think Sin Huat is that famous here in town as many people not willing to pay that type of prices in such atmosphere.

            Since klyeoh refers to Dempsey Hill and you took an interest in chilli crab, one notable place that has been getting good review in that area is Long Beach Seafood at Dempsey. I personally have not been there but a few reliable friends strongly recommended.

            1. re: FourSeasons

              Despite having been there only once, I am a big fan of the crab bee hoon at Sin Huat. Yes, it is a hole in the wall, where the owner and staff are a little arrogant and there is no service. But hey, you're in a stall in Singapore! And the owner's business is highly touted in Makansutra and Anthony Bourdain came to I expect a little atttude.

              Food was good in general but the crab bee hoon really stood out. Price was definitely expensive but worth a visit.

          2. Thank you again.

            It sounds like Kha is for lunch then, as is Da Paolo pizza. If Graze isn't very good on the food front, maybe we can stop by for a drink, walk around, and then flee for a good restaurant back in town. Thanks again.

            2 Replies
            1. re: comiendosiempre

              The main attraction of Graze (as with the other 5 or 6 restaurants at Rochester Park) is that it's located in a re-furbished British-colonial bungalow, surrounded by lawn & greenery. It offers a respite from the hustle-and-bustle of city life in Singapore (3rd-densest country in the world). But other similar spots have sprung up after Rochester Park - the current hotspot is Dempsey Hill (both the White Rabbit & Au Petit Salut are located on the fringes of this dining hub).

              I find Dempsey Hill's dining outlets a bit over-priced. There's a beautiful Mexican place, Margarita's, which serves very authentic, I'd say, Tex-Mex food (sour cream everywhere). They used to make great tamales off-the-menu last year, but have discontinued that as business soared. They also now charge for salsa & nachos (previously gratis).

              I wasn't too impressed with the other eateries at Demspey Hill: Prime Society (steakhouse) serves pretty average fare despite having impressive high-ceilings & beautiful murals; Vintage India is horribly over-priced & has snooty service (there're loads of better Indian spots in Singapore); La Forketta Italian charges an outrageous US20+++ for a simple pizza Margherita (which is an indication of the prices you'll have to pay there); Rakuichi Japanese food seemed to be targeted at Chinese-speaking clientele (everyone only speaks Mandarin in there); Barracks serves simple fusion food; whilst Jones the Grocer's only good for simple lunch/brunch.

              There's one place there which you may want to check out though - The Tippling Club, which I heard has started operations very recently. It's headed by Ryan Clift, formerly head chef of Melbourne's Vue de Monde (voted best restaurant in Melbourne Age's 2007 Good Food Guide). He's also cooked at Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle, London.

              1. re: comiendosiempre

                Hi com:

                since you come from NYC, I will not recommend you to try the pizza here unless you are homesick and really need to have some comfort food. If you want to stroll around Holland Village, I think it is better to try the Crystal Jade chains that were recommended by klyeoh; both places offer northern and southern style Chinese noodle that are better than what is available in Manhattan.

              2. Thank you for those ideas.

                I see that Crystal Jade has many locations. Is there one in particular you like for dinner, or lunch? There is one in Holland Village but, is that one only for dessert?

                The Tippling Club looks very interesting. The website, however, doesn't show much. Do you know is it only a set or tasting menu?

                Also, I ask about the crab bee hoon because I think some local foodies may take us to Ya Kwang, an informal spot which is known for that dish - I believe. Have you ever been? They also recommend Chinatown Food Center for a good hawker center. Yet, I think we would prefer more Malaysian options for our hawker center, or maybe Glutton's Bay.

                Thanks again.

                3 Replies
                1. re: comiendosiempre

                  Yes, Crystal Jade is huge pan-Asia Chinese restaurant group with presence from Singapopre to Shanghai. Not only it has many location in Singapore, but it has more formal Cantonese and Shanghainese restaurants as well. The two that klyeoh mentioned in Holland Village are the more informal chains, one specializing on northern Chinese noodle and comfor dishes and the other on southern Chinese noodle/congee/rice and comfort dishes. I usually go for lunch at the branches in Ngee Ann City since I don't frequent Holland Village.

                  As to Ya Kwang, the chef/owner there invented the dish called Crab Tang Hoon (hope this does not confuse you with the terms: Tang Hoon is local term for glass noodle, and Been Hoon is rice vermicelli). Ya Kwang and Sin Huat are very close to each other, about 2-3 minutes walking distance. The boss of Ya Kwang (I believe his name is Jason) is much more friendly and the price here very resonable. I actually personally prefer the Crab Tang Hoon at Ya Kwang more than the Crab Bee Hoon at Sin Huat, but I still find Ya Kwang to be much more a one dish stall and still not able to develop other varieties to match up well with this dish. And the dishes tend to be more greasy as well. The other signature dishes there are Lobster noodle, Oyster Omelette and Penang Char Kway Teo, I am actually very surprised your local foodie friend will bring you here; it is not really a place for western tourists.

                  Chinatown Food Center, I believe, is known as Hong Lim Food Center. I think it is a good place to go there for you to look at what hawker centres are like in Singapore before it turned affluent. It is much more messy than other centres but offer very good local dishes.

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    I visited Ya Kwang for the crab tang hoon. The crab was good, the price was cheap, and the tang hoon was OK, although it needed time to soak up the sauce. The Penang Char Kway Teo was hands down the best value.


                  2. re: comiendosiempre

                    Sorry, comiendosiempre, I just called the Spa Esprit Group (which operates Barracks, Camp & the Tippling Club) just now, and the receptionist who answered said that the Tippling Club will only be opened in 2 weeks' time. If you're coming to Singapore so soon, maybe it's not a good idea to include this in your itinerary.

                    BTW, Four Seasons, I believe there's a Chinatown Food Centre (which is separate from the Hong Lim Food Centre). It's located at Smith Street - I've been to the old one whence they were serving out contraband meats like stir-fried snakes & lizards. But the food centre was closed for upgrading in 2005/2006 thereabouts & the hawkers were operating temporarily at a site beside Outram Park MRT station.

                    But they've sinced moved back to the refurbished Chinatown Food Centre early this year. I haven't gone back there yet (like comiendosiempre, I prefer Malaysian hawker food to Singapore ones).

                  3. Thanks on the Tippling Club. On the chinatown food center, my understanding is that it now just moved into a new redone spot. Photos look nice. And, while I thank you for the compliment, I'm not sure I was differentiating between Malaysian and Sporean food centers. Is there one that combines the two? Or, Gluttons Bay will give us a good selection of both?

                    Also, do you know if we can just get pizza at La Strada? Or, for that De Paolo pizza is likely the best? Thanks again.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: comiendosiempre

                      Actually, Malaysian & Singaporean hawker foods are pretty similar. It's just that Malaysian hawkers tend to stick to more laborious cooking methods, e.g. using charcoal-fired cookers, etc. They also use pork lard (for more taste) in their stir-fries like fried koay teow, fried carrot cake, etc. The Malaysians also use fresh ingredients, e.g. coconut milk, pandan leaves, seafoods whilst in Singapore, oftentimes our hawkers take the convenient route by using canned coconut milk, bottled pandan essence, frozen seafood, etc. Both Singapore/Malaysian hawker foods consist of Chinese, Malay & Indian food options. You can check out this well-known Makansutra website for more reviews:


                      If you like to try Malay satay, Lau Pa Sat food centre in the evenings turn into a veritable haven for such fare.

                      Yes, you can get good pizzas at La Strada - in fact, some friends from Melbourne thought they had some of the best pizzas in Singapore at La Strada. But my favorite dish at La Strada is a crabmeat linguine dish which is positively ambrosial.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        I will second the pizza at La Strada, probably the best pizza in Singapore. The pasta klyeoh recommend is delicious as well. But i find La Strada to be rather inconsistent; I have visited there 3 times, the first time was excellent but that expectation was never met again in the subsequent two visits.

                      2. re: comiendosiempre

                        Hello All,
                        I’ve no intention to be cruel but I’d give the Tippling Club a miss if I were you. I’m a foodwriter who recently did a tasting there and while it was (on a whole) interesting, some of the dishes were downright strange, even for me. Also, the portions were tiny for what they are planning on charging. If you're into molecular gastronomy, you'd do much better at Iggy's.