Review: Does This Singaporean Hawker Centre Classic Live Up To Its Hype?
Bringing foreign imported food concepts may not always be a guaranteed success. While doughnut giant Krispy Kreme has failed, Shake Shack (currently) manages to sustain its queue even during the hottest days of summer. Tian Tian Plus, a branch of Singapore’s hawker centre favourite Tian Tian Chicken Rice, reached Hong Kong last month with a huge following. The lines snaked around the block, filled with hopefuls looking for a taste of the popular chicken rice.
In contrast to the original in Singapore, Tian Tian Plus has landed in Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay, occupying a large shop space divided into a bar at the front and a spacious dining room at the back. Despite the abundance of windows set along the sides or the establishment, the dining room seemed dimly lit even in the daytime.
There may be a hint in its name, but Tian Tian Plus is not only about chicken rice; it also includes three other concepts local to Singapore. A Noodle Story and Lao Jie Fang serve Chinese inspired noodles, while The 50s pay homage to the country’s coffee culture. While the concepts all exist under the same roof, it is worth noting that the noodles are only available at lunch, while the restaurant turns to Cantonese-inspired a la carte dishes during dinner service.
We began our meal with a proper chicken rice, prepared and presented in the same fashion as Singapore’s original recipe. While our chicken was deboned and cut into even slices, the meat was a bit tough and was coated in what may have been a glaze resembling the Cantonese abalone sauce, an overseasoned topping that we deemed unnecessary. The rice, however, was impressive. The fluffy rice brought inviting aroma of chicken fat and refreshing notes of lemongrass.
We ordered half a roasted chicken, served at room temperature with the same salty sauce on top of the over-seasoned meat. The texture of the bird, however, was tenderer but the flavour just wasn’t there. Noodles with deep-fried shrimp wonton and Japanese barbecue pork is a popular item in the Hong Kong branch. The noodles are cooked perfectly with just enough bite and well-dressed with a splash of dark soy sauce. It would have been a treat on its own. The shrimp wontons were rather mealy and the Japanese barbecue pork was bland. We do however recommend adding the hot sambal sauce to the noodles—the fiery condiment packs a punch and it can add complexity from the sweet soy sauce dressing for the noodles.
The beverage menu is rather standard with wine and spirits offerings, and the restaurant does not offer wines by the glass. Some of its cocktails feature Asian influence, but when inquired we were told ‘not many people order them’. The most popular beverages of choice are non-alcoholic offerings from The 50s. The local favourite of lemon tea was rather thin with little resemblance to the classic. The barley water, however, has the right level of sweetness and, despite being served at room temperature, is our preferred choice.
While Tian Tian Plus is run like a restaurant, the service offered is closer to that of fast food establishments. Service is messy at times, and at full capacity waiting time can be long for orders to arrive. Staff were keen on offering suggestions on food but not on beverages.
Tian Tian Plus is no-doubt one of the most anticipated foreign food imports this year, yet it will require major improvements on its food and drinks, as well as service to make it worth a return visit. We’re not sure it’s worth the extended queue for a taste of Singapore in Hong Kong either, when it is much more desirable to fly out to enjoy it at the source.
Tian Tian Plus, Shop H2, G/F Fashion Walk, 9 Kingston Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; +852 3108 2181
A meal for two with one beverage and service: around HK$400
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.