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Singaporean Food in LA Anyone?

Last post we saw on Singaporean in LA was back in 2003 and we are hoping someone has invested in this bold flavored cuisine....anyone have any ideas where we can satisfy this craving? We can't get the thought of it out of our minds since trying it years ago in NY and recently watching a TV show about it....someone help we are going off the deep end of a culinary cliff!

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    1. Singapore Express in Marina del Rey, and Thai Fresh in Westwood both have Singaporean specialties such as Nasi Goreng and Hainan Chicken on the menu. I love the food from each -- fresh, tasty and reasonable.

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      Singapore Express
      4248 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Dl Rey, CA 90292

      Thai Fresh
      1771 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

      1. Litz Restaurant in Monterey Park.

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        Litz Restaurant
        201 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755

        3 Replies
          1. re: J.L.

            Have you tried the version of kaya toast at Street? I need to get over there and give it a whirl one of these days.

            http://www.eatatstreet.com/

            1. re: J.L.

              We've purchased kaya - very good kaya - from Yazmin in Alhambra, but they didn't offer kaya toast at the time.

          2. The Banana Leaf in the old farmer's market on 3rd. It's a super casual little place. I thought it was very tasty and the people working there are really helpful and nice.

            1. Thank you all for your insight....we want to try them all but given our delectable experiences with Asian cuisine in Monterey Park we will probably start with Litz!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Pathological Eaters

                Not sure if this will work, but here is a link to a menu (menu is a few years old, so prices likely different)

                http://www.sporq.com/montereypark/lit...

                click for the other page.

                I don't see kaya toast listed, but Litz is more a restaurant than a street food/snack place.

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                Litz Restaurant
                201 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755

              2. Hainanese chicken and rice is the de facto national dish in Singapore. This is probably the most commonly consumed meal/snack in this tiny island city-state. Everyone has their own favorite place, and each place claims to have their own secret recipe. The sourcing of chicken, the seasonings, the preparation techniques, the most tender flavorful rice, and of course the requisite sauces all play into near-mythic showdowns as to who has the best bird dish in Singapore.

                Savoy Kitchen has a pretty good Hainan chicken rice - I think the number of Singaporean- accented conversations one hears is a testament to its favor. Although they do a pretty good job, almost any Singaporean or Malaysian (Malaysians are one of the more common expats in the Singapore) will tell you that this dish is leagues better in Singapore. And this is probably true for just about any of the recs you will get here on Singaporean food in general.

                Dong Nguyen By the 168 Supermarket does a tasty chicken and rice as well, but it in my eyes is not the dish you will typically find in Singapore or Malaysia.

                I think at least with the chicken, the reason might be differences in the sourcing of the chicken, how long the chicken is poached, and at what temperature. The chicken in SE Asia just seems more chicken-y, and the flesh will seem a bit undercooked to the average American eater. The pinkish bones are a testament to this when one is nibbling around them in Singapore. This latter point can probably be an issue here related to the Health Department.

                Singapore Express is a mere shell of what they used to be back in the 80s and early 90s. The Malay family that opened the place is long gone. The patron was a master at imparting the hei from his wok. The ownership is now Thai as far as I can tell. And while they try to keep parts of the old menu intact, it is not the same.

                While Banana Leaf in the Farmer's Market off Fairfax is a good introduction to Singaporean dishes for those falling upon it, I think most Singaporeans would not consider this place to be a regular stop for them. The family that owns and runs the place have roots in Singapore and try to expose you to the dishes most familiar to Singapore, but critical ingredients like chilli (sic) and belacan are toned down (I'd suspect) to be more tourist-friendly - hey, it's the Farmer's Market. The setting though is about as authentic is one will get to that feel of a hawker center.

                Singaporean food and Malaysian food have a lot of similarities and crossovers. Singapore used to be part of Malaysia, is separated only by a strait off penninsular Malaysia. You might also want to try seeking out Malaysian eateries as well. A few that come to mind are Yazmin in Alhambra, Little Malaysia in El Monte, and Belacan Grill in Redondo Beach/Torrance. Yasmin tends to have the broader menu and the most Malaysians, Little Malaysia has flashes of brilliance but tends to be inconsistent, and Belecan Grill has the nicest dining room and is consistently good. We live closer to Belacan, but for some reason, we gravitate toward Yazmin more often. The dishes are more homey and the owner reminds me of so many Malaysians that I've met - nice, warm and very welcoming.

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                Belacan Grill
                2701 190th St Ste 100, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                Savoy Kitchen
                138 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                Singapore Express
                4248 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Dl Rey, CA 90292

                Dong Nguyen Restaurant
                1433 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                Little Malaysia Restaurant
                3944 Peck Rd Ste 8, El Monte, CA 91732

                13 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  I was disappointed with Savoy's version of Hainanese chicken rice; not compelled to return.

                  1. re: Sgee

                    Was there a specific component of the dish you were disappointed with? We found the sauces to be pretty much on the nose, and the rice to be good as well. As I mentioned above, the chicken just wasn't as I remembered it in Singapore.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      The accompanying chili sauce had an off taste, rice was overcooked, chicken was pretty tasteless.. and don't remember any of that sweetish light soy sauce drizzled over the chicken.

                      Now I basically resort to take out 'princess chicken (kwai fei kai)' to accompany my own rice and chili sauce prepared at home as a substitute when I have cravings... sigh..

                      1. re: Sgee

                        We normally go right at the open on Saturdays. Sounds like your (one?) experience was sorrowful. The chilli sauce was pretty good in our opinion, and the rice was supple in our case. But the chicken to us was the weak link, and should be the star. It's like going to a concert where the backup band is fine but the headliner ends up lip-synching the whole show. I wanted Aretha but Kanye showed up instead. :)

                        1. re: Sgee

                          don't forget, chicken in the u.s. tastes different than elsewhere bc it's raised purposely to be bland. so there's only so much you can hope for. :)

                      2. re: Sgee

                        On its own, the chicken rice at Savoy isn't all that bad - the chicken's fairly tender, the sauces are passable, and the rice has a good amount of chicken flavor without being too oily. But for some reason (and I still can't quite put my finger on it), the flavors don't even come close to what you find at the famous places in Singapore, and once you get critical about how tender the chicken really is or how fragrant the rice ought to be, then you might as well do yourself a favor and pass on Savoy since you're bound to be hugely disappointed.

                        Also, I think the fact that a good number of Singaporeans go to Savoy is more of a reflection that this is the best they can find in LA, and less of a statement that this is actually that good compared to what they find at home.

                        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                          it's not traditional by any means but for a fun night out and atmosphere with eye candy, there's always Rock Sugar in Century City. They have Lassi which my kids love and a Laksa there. rather americanized but works in a pinch!

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                          Rock Sugar
                          10250 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 654, Los Angeles, CA 90067

                      3. re: bulavinaka

                        Wow...that's a really comprehensive review. Good job!

                        I concur with you on Banana Leaf , Savoy, Singapore Express as well. Didn't try Little Malaysia or Belacan Grill though. At some pt years ago, we tried another place called Kuala Lumpur in Pasadena. Horrible place. They did close down some years ago.

                        Bottom line is we find comfort by preparing the dishes ourselves in our own kitchen instead. From Hainanese chicken rice to Char Kway Teow, Teochew duck, and Roti prata. Lately, I have been experimenting with Chui Kueh. And if time permits, we might start on Nasi Lemak soon.

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                        Belacan Grill
                        2701 190th St Ste 100, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                        Singapore Express
                        4248 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Dl Rey, CA 90292

                        Little Malaysia Restaurant
                        3944 Peck Rd Ste 8, El Monte, CA 91732

                        1. re: Vince S

                          Wow - Nasi Lemak at home? I kowtow to you!

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            I also make nasi lemak at home. It's not too difficult if you plan it out. We normally go to Little Malaysia for our Malaysian fix, but there are some dishes there that my mom and/or I make better at home. I don't care for their chicken rice, and their nasi lemak is so-so. I make much better versions at home. I do love their Penang Pork Rib Soup with noodles, and their mee goreng is lovely. My mom loves their laksa with mee hoon. I prefer it with the egg noodles.

                            Haven't been to Belachan Grill yet but I've heard their food is good. Didn't care for the food at Banana Leaf -- it didn't have the right flavors, although the mee goreng was pretty good (mee goreng is one of my favorites, and I always like to order it as a "test" dish, so to speak).

                            -----
                            Little Malaysia Restaurant
                            3944 Peck Rd Ste 8, El Monte, CA 91732

                            1. re: boogiebaby

                              >>I also make nasi lemak at home. It's not too difficult if you plan it out. <<

                              A deep kowtow to you too. :)

                              Our experience has been that Little Malaysia can be very inconsistent, particularly with curries. Sometimes it's like "popo" made it, other times it reminds me of something out of a can or mix. We haven't been since summer '08 so I think we need to try them again.

                              Give Belacan Grill a shot if you get the chance. It's definitely the nicest setting of the few Malaysian restaurants, and the food is very good IMHO.

                              Agree on Banana Leaf - I think for approachability by those unfamiliar or those who like things tame, it scores high. For those who are used to the real thing,
                              it's probably a pass on many of their dishes.

                              -----
                              Belacan Grill
                              2701 190th St Ste 100, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                              Little Malaysia Restaurant
                              3944 Peck Rd Ste 8, El Monte, CA 91732

                          2. re: Vince S

                            Please let us know if you make some good Hokkien mee!!!

                          3. re: bulavinaka

                            I am quite happy with Singapore's Banana Leaf. I have ordered the tuna sambal spicy several times and it has never been too mild.

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                            Singapore's Banana Leaf
                            6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                          4. Everyone thank you so much for your recommendations.....we will be trying ALL OF THEM and report back to you all, our Singaporean foodie SWOT team.

                            EAT EXPERIENCE ENJOY

                            1. you cannot find good singaporean food in the united states. even good malaysian food is hard to find.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: aventinus

                                I agree. And Savoy's hainan chicken is not even close to the real thing in SG.

                                1. re: dreamcast18

                                  Not sure if you have tried all the places mentioned above already. There is a place called Ruben's Kitchen in Rosemead that you can try their Char Kway Teow and the Curry noodle mee.

                                  Personally I prefer the Chicken rice at Litz, the chilli sauce is fab. Other than that I usually cook at home too like Bak kut teh, etc.

                              2. whatever you do AVOID the street hawker truck! by far the worst truck experience i've ever had and i've eaten at so many of them, i lost track. the wait was very long and i was the only one there, the portions were big, but the price was around 9 bucks and my noodles were so greasy (in a cooked in cheap oil kind of way) and the shrimps were few and tiny, and not even de-vained. they looked dirty. AVOID!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Clyde

                                  Thanks Clyde, I was just thinking of trying that. LOL! Has anyone seen this? I wonder if its opened yet?

                                  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily...

                                  1. re: micden

                                    ok --what im craving now is Singaporean crab curry--
                                    anyone find that in a 100 mile radius?

                                    1. re: dreamprfct

                                      You might check the menu at Belacan Grill (locations in Redondo Beach and Tustin). I know they do a chili crab (either Malay style or Singapore style).

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                                      Belacan Grill
                                      2701 190th St Ste 100, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                                      Belacan Grill
                                      17460 17th Street, Tustin, CA 92780

                                2. has anyone mentioned singapore's banana leaf in the farmers market on third/fairfax? i actually really love that place though people have complained it's too americanized. it may help with the craving.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I know they don't get a lot of love from CHers, but I really love Singapore's Banana Leaf in the Farmers Market. When I am in the mood for a quick, spicy, tasty dinner without too much fuss (not a trip to Singapore for dinner, or even a trip to another part of Los Angeles to explore authentic cuisine) I am always pleased with dinner there. I usually I get the tuna sambal, spicy, and an order of paratha. Last night my son had the nasi goreng and admittedly, added some chili sauce to it for complexity. Perhaps i am missing something by not knowing how it would taste in Singapore--but maybe i am better off not knowing....

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                                    Singapore's Banana Leaf
                                    6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: coffeebrownies

                                      same here! love that place but i don't know the difference...

                                      1. re: coffeebrownies

                                        Yup, Singapore's Banana Leaf at Farmers' Market is still ok lah... at least it is considered a decent attempt.
                                        The prata is quite similar to one of the generic indian coffeeshops in Singapore, but doesn't come quite close to the famous ones (like in Thomson).

                                        The worst place is Savoy Kitchen. Its OMG. The Hainan Chix Rice is meh (from the bland, mushy rice to the "non-breast" chicken to the weak sauces) and don't ever ever order the Chicken Curry. I could only manage a few spoonfuls.

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                                        Savoy Kitchen
                                        138 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                                        1. re: Katatonia

                                          If Savoy is "OMG" the worst, please let us know where you like Hainan Chicken Rice in LA. Responses culled from Singapore/Malaysia will be considered BS. (Reference Das Ubergeek's reply above).

                                          Only asking because I've had nearly every iteration of this dish along Valley Blvd, and in Thai Town. Can't wait to hear your answers especially because, IMO, if Savoy's rice packed more toothiness, it'd chip your toothies.

                                          1. re: TonyC

                                            There seems to be a unwarranted hate toward Savoy but then again it's probably due to many saying it's the best and the vocal foodies who know it's not. Not saying Savoy is the best but I find their chicken and sauces to be quite good.

                                      2. I was in Singapore with some friends last year on Top Chef and acquired a taste for Hainan chicken. After we all got home I brought some Tiger beer too Wat Dang Moon Lek in Silver Lake because they serve a great Hainan chicken and we had a little reunion.

                                        http://www.watdongmoonlek.com/

                                        6 Replies
                                          1. re: Momotoro

                                            Hainan chicken is an adopted dish in Singapore with cult-like allegiance. But it doesn't mean other eateries of other cuisines can't attempt it. Please look over Linda's review that was posted in the LA Times:

                                            http://www.watdongmoonlek.com/latimes...

                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                              Word...

                                              I had it last week at the Spice Table and it came as dark meat on the bone. I never saw it that way in Singapore. Soooo Wat Dang Moon Lek while Thai was more authentic.

                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                  Spice Table's HNC is ungodly poor: http://sinosoul.com/2011/09/hainan-ch...

                                                  Haven't had WDML's version, but from the various bowls of noodle soups there, I've come to conclude the only thing edible @ WDML is the hoy tawt/hoy tod. Beautifully done hoy tod, very close to streets of BKK.

                                                2. re: Hershey Bomar

                                                  Interesting -- most places in Singapore serve it on the bone. Depending on what/how you order, you can get white meat only, dark meat only, for both. If you don't specify, you usually get both.

                                                  Like bulavinaka said, Hainan Chicken Rice is prevalent in other cultures too. I know many people here like Savoy's version. I haven't tried it, as I make it at home myself, but for those who don't make it, it's nice to be able to have the option to go out and eat it at other restaurants too.

                                          2. We're in Indonesia/Singapore several times a year and the Belacan Grill on 17th St , Tustin is about the best you'll find around LA.

                                            -----
                                            17th St Cafe
                                            1610 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                            Belacan Grill
                                            17460 17th Street, Tustin, CA 92780

                                            1. Yeah, I just finally started watching The Layover and I started getting the same hankering after seeing the Singapore episode.

                                              1. As homesick Singaporean I have to agree with bulavinaka about restaurant recs in general. I am extremely appalled by SBL-and that people are forming their views on SG/MY cuisine because of it. I think the key to finding SG/MY cuisine in LA is to know which dishes are good at which places. E.g. I largely go to Yazmin to fix my craving for yong tau foo, but their rojak sauce is missing 1-2 key ingredients (unless this is a MY/SG stylistic difference that I don't know about).

                                                Still haven't seen a comprehensive review for Litz, which I've seen pop up in a couple of mentions. I am craving nonya laksa again so I might venture out this weekend. Will report back.

                                                Also, what else have people tried at Spice Table? It looks expensive, so I am holding off.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: woceht

                                                  >>Also, what else have people tried at Spice Table? It looks expensive, so I am holding off.<<

                                                  IMHO, this statement about price gives you a lot of Singaporean pedigree. The QPR in Singapore (and Malaysia for the most part, though the quality here has become far less reliable) is impossible to match - don't even factor in the exchange rate. Spice Table is an earnest effort in bringing the soul of SE Asian food to LA, but the cost of doing business here is a tough hurdle to overcome, and being a generalist in cuisines which are dominated by specialists is a really hard do. Also include the unwillingness of the general eating community to do things like sit on sticky plastic stools so low that it will make your knees cry and bringing your own tissue for napkins (don't even mention aircon), and one can see that the cost of doing business here is a totally different model from that back in the homeland. I think the real missing factor though, is the lack of more - many more - eateries that offer this cuisine. I think most of these Singaporean/Malaysian places have the skills, but lack the impetus to raise the bar higher or narrow their focus on to fewer and exceptional dishes. Not enough of these places close enough in proximity to each other makes for a lack of exposure to the cuisine. Lack of exposure makes for less familiarity of what heights this food can reach on one's palate. So a place like Banana Leaf sets one's taste buds to accept that this is what is eaten in and around the Straits, not what would be considered as an unknowing tourist's timid intro to what is but a subtle hint of much more exotic and breathtaking culinary experiences.

                                                  1. re: woceht

                                                    I think it's worth a visit but it definitely is pricey for Asian food.

                                                    1. re: woceht

                                                      I used to go to Litz several years ago, but somehow it got dropped on my radar.

                                                      Yazmin used to be in a different location several years ago - in the same mini-mall where Vietnam House is (Mission and Las Tunas) - before it moved to its current location. One of the best things I had was their rojak - but then in the new location we went thrice and had not so great experiences - an expanded menu and none of the dishes we ordered were very good.

                                                      We had a rather negative experience recently (December 2011) at Spice Table - see the last post on http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771328

                                                      1. re: woceht

                                                        Following up on Litz: I went today and had the "Singapore style laksa". It was very good (and humongous portion for $7), but more Malaysian style than Singaporean. The version I like is sweeter, has stronger flavours of galangal and lemongrass, maybe more coconut milk, and none of coriander/cumin/other spices commonly found in curry powder. I guess I'm still more or less stuck with my stash of Asian Home Gourmet packs when I want that particular flavour profile in a hurry.

                                                        On a side note, does anyone know where I might be able to find laksa leaf (fresh, dried, or ideally in living plant form that I can cultivate)?

                                                        1. re: woceht

                                                          The Spice Table's Laksa is really, really good. It's the kind that I used to have in singapore, with the thick noodles (not the rice vermicelli style that they have at most other places here). The otah (which you can't really find anywhere else in the area) is also very good. Kon Loh Mee is fine. Much of the rest of the food is singapore-inspired, but they have their own upscale take on satays, etc.
                                                          the Hainan Chicken Rice is actually sort of fusiony. The chicken is confited, which gives it a unique flavor/texture, different from the typical boiled/steamed and hacked chicken. the rice and sauces are very good, though. For my money, I would go and share apps, satays, a bowl of laksa, and maybe a special.

                                                          1. re: Bert

                                                            is the laksa with chicken at spice table? it's on my list of places to try. i don't eat chicken and the one thing singapores banana leaf would do for me was to make it vegetarian.

                                                        2. I was pleasantly suprised at what it calls the Singaporean noodles at the chain restaurant Chin Chin's. It really reminded me of the noodles at this Singaporean hole-in-the-wall in the Kensington neighborhood of London. I used to eat those noodles in London maybe 3 times a week during the summer I was there. And when I had the noodles at Chin Chin's, it reminded me a lot of the noodles in London.