I had recently gone for 2 set menus at 2 very different restaurants. For those who are acquainted with me know that I am one who is adventurous with food, and often explore the realms of the ala carte world with gusto (and thick wallets). However difficult times call for prudent measures, and opulence is not really the word on the street.
The first set menu was partaken during the Chinese New Year at a restaurant that I went earlier and loved – Jing @ One Fullerton (old review found here). This is a $898+++ set menu for 6 created specially for the Chinese New Year. The second was a more traditional Chinese dinner set menu at $338+++ offered by Ban Heng Restaurant at RELC.It’s not about the price, Ban Heng beat Jing hands-down.
Jing – Jing’s Chinese New Year menu featured auspicious sounding dishes, but the menu featured dishes are not unfamiliar – they are traditional favourites of the festivity, like Prosperity Lohei, 好市發財 (Dried Mussels with Hair Fungus), etc. . Having tried at Jing’s before, I have high hopes of the chef to return with a fusion menu based on the exotic sounding names he has given these dishes. So that’s Disappointment #1.
When the food was served, the hot dishes were as cold as the Lohei, Disappointment #2.
Taste of the food was pretty sub-standard. The waiter explained that the kitchen was short-handed to handle so “many” CNY orders – there were only 8 tables served in the 20 tables restaurant. Disappointment #3.
At this price, we assumed that the ingredients should be at least quit good. The fish was stale, the hair moss tasted funny, the portion of the chicken was so pathetic. Disappoint #4
Ban Heng – The Roast Suckling Pig Special Set Lunch/Dinner does not try to pretend what they are serving – the names are straight forward and right to the point. They are nothing to shout for – the shark fin was watery and mixed with tung-hoon, the soon-hock was deep-fried with batter and too sweet for our taste. The saving grace was the Suckling Pig, which we tuck in with gusto, hands and all. The rest are standard fare, nothing outstanding, but the serving was generous.
But neither would win, because both were quite bad.
In this department, Ban Heng beat Jing hands-down. Strangely, both restaurants misplaced our reservations – Jing placed in at a different time-slot, and Ban Heng got my name wrong.
Jing started the evening well, setting an auspicious mood with the Lohei. But as the evening wore on, the service staff was obviously rushing to get everyone out so that they can serve the second set. When we complained about the standard of the food, the waiter “extraordinaire” had the cheek to answer back to say that it’s CNY, they were short-handed and therefore we should not ask for too much (in a polite tone nevertheless). And when we said that the menu was not value-for-money, he retorted to say that we should let it go because it was CNY and (in verbatim) that we should “let them earn a bit more”.
Ban Heng on the other hand, knowing that it was for a special occasion, served us with impeccable service. The waitress in-charged of our table was new, but at the end of the lunch, she came over and “apologised’ for not doing more as she was new. They changed our plates (which we have to prompt in Jing) after each dish, cleared the mess before serving our own birthday cake. In a nutshell, service with a smile and nothing to complain about.
Value for Money
At $338+++ Ban Heng beat Jing but a whole mile. Although Jing charged a premium and we understand that it was warranted as it was CNY, but the premium did not translate to extra service or maintaining the food standard. In fact, in both department, Jing allowed them to slip below par of similarly priced restaurants like Peach Garden, Cherry Blossom or other better known Chinese restaurants during this period. Cherry Blosson employed a Fortune Teller to predict our fortunes during CNY dinner (in 2008) and it served great food. Because of this bad experience, I would never entrust Jing with any important dinners or functions for my esteemed guests or business associates.
Ban Heng did not try to pretend what they were offering, the portions were generous, and the standard was what you would get at Tzechar stores. But you pay Tzechar price as well. However the food was really not up to scratch for proper functions and dinners, and the ambience was not good (imagine HDB restaurants).
I don’t recommended either but Ban Heng showed Jing what to do – do not take your customers for a ride, always offer value-for-money.