The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Singaporean food @ Hainan Chifan, Tokyo

Last month, after our lunch at Ramsay's, we took a look around the Shiodome/Shimbashi area, in particular the Shiodome City building which is the location of Rob's company's new office. On one of the restaurant levels in this building, we came across a rare find in Japan: a restaurant offering Singaporean cuisine, Hainan Chifan. By the way, for those that are not aware, Singaporean food and Malaysian cuisine are very similar due to the fact that both countries have strong geographical, historical and cultural ties, however, I believe there are more types of dishes and regional variations in Malaysian cuisine due to Malaysia's bigger size and population. If you are a regular reader, you will already be familiar with our favourite Malaysian food.

As the restaurant's name suggests, the specialty dish is Hainanese chicken rice, and they offer many other dishes like bak kut teh, charkueyteow and even roti pratha. We'd already had our lunch that day, but it wasn't long before we were back to try the food. As well as the hawker-style one-dish meals such as the noodles and rice dishes, you can order a-la-carte vegetable, meat and seafood dishes. Most of the menu items are under 1000yen, with the seafood dishes having higher price tags on them. Since our visit was during lunch, we wanted something suitably light, so we ordered noodles, but I would love to try the Hainanese chicken rice, chilli crab and bak kut teh in the future perhaps with a larger group for a banquet-style meal. I wanted horfun, but I couldn't see it anywhere on the menu so Rob suggested we try asking if they served it. I didn't like our chances of trying to explain to our Japanese waiter what horfun is, but I discovered that it really doesn't hurt to ask because the waiter went and got this Singaporean guy (the manager perhaps?) to come to our table and help us with our orders. Fortunately for me, they do indeed serve horfun, but it was on a special menu under an unrecognisable name in Japanese. So we placed orders for hofun (1500yen) and laksa (950yen).

Horfun (after stirring for a more photogenic shot); Laksa

The verdict? The horfun was yummy with plenty of large prawns and fresh (not dried) kuey teow noodles (which I have yet to find on the shelves in Japan). The laksa was pretty mild but it was very coconut-y which pleased Rob's tastebuds very much. The laksa had fried tofu, boiled quail's eggs and prawns. Compared to Mahathir Malaysian restaurant, the menu at Hainan Chifan was smaller but also a bit cheaper, and I thought the flavours were not as robust as Mahathir's but would suit the typical Japanese tastebuds just fine. We'll definitely be back here to try the other dishes.

While the food at both Hainan Chifan and Mahathir cannot compare to the real McCoy available in Malaysia (or even in Perth!), at least we now know of a couple of good places in Tokyo to go to whenever we have a hankering for this kind of food!

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