Away from the retail hotbeds and hipster arts and cultural districts is Turf City, within the area of Bukit Timah. At the end of Turf Club Road is The Grandstand. After undergoing a face-lift some four to five years back, the former horse racing track looked like it was about to be the next big thing.
However, its niche location is perhaps its greatest weakness. But, take the time to explore the area and you’ll find some truly hidden gems — like CHOW FUN Restaurant & Bar.
Due to the clear lack of a hype train busting its way over to The Grandstand, the neighbourhood that CHOW FUN takes residence in makes for a nice change of scenery.
CHOW FUN isn’t a fusion or mod-sin joint. CHOW FUN wants you to be able to try everything on their menu, even if you aren’t as fortunate to live in the Bukit Timah area. Offering smaller tasting portions for some of their noodle dishes, it’s perfect for the fickle minded or the downright greedy — me.
The ambiance and concept of CHOW FUN Bar & Restaurant is a recreation of Asian, and in particular, Chinese eateries in the USA. This is by no means supposed to be an authentic Chinese restaurant. For the fastidious, the name is a play on a Cantonese term and not to be confused with fried rice.
The decor is slightly eclectic and, the aesthetics are overemphasise the culture it draws from. But all in the name of fun, as the restaurant lives up to their motto of “tian tian wan” which translates to playing every day.
A rather large collection of fortune cats and vintage Asian posters adorn the walls and shelves. With red lanterns illuminating the space, must-have red tassels and a playlist full of hits from a golden era of American music such as the Jackson 5, don’t come expecting what your grandmother would cooked.
The name of the game at CHOW FUN? Noodles. Think those delightfully convenient and easy to slurp down little bowls of “boat noodles” from Thailand but, elevated and given twists every-which-way. With six choices available in tasting portions ($3.90), that’s easily a whole meal in six bowls should you choose to try them all.
Besides that, there are 12 more noodle dishes that come in regular portions ($15.90 or $18.80). Unaccompanied, I opting for tasting portions made the most sense, however this was to the protest of my inner glutton — go big or go home it screamed.
Fried mac & cheese will be one of those food items that’ll be hard to hate on. No, there isn’t some refined nuance of some spectacularly aged cheese. It’s literally a good ball of mac and cheese that’s been crumbed and fried. Crisp on the outside but, warm, moist and comforting on the inside. If you’re not one that digs strong cheeses, fear not! This is as mild as cheese will get.
The smell of mushrooms and, yes, truffle wafting from another petite bowl from the wild mushroom & truffle will set any truffle fiend off. Personally, I’m not a sucker for truffle over anything, but with a bowl of penne coated in a rich cream sauce with meaty shitake mushrooms? You couldn’t really hate on it.
Simple, comforting flavours seemed to be the theme with most of the dishes I had. The roasted garlic, bacon & parmesan is a humble looking bowl of pasta. No fancy sauce but, big on punchy flavours like garlic and that salty caramalised bacon.
However, one of the highlights of CHOW FUN Bar & Restaurant is the bone marrow, lemon & parmesan, well it was for me at least. The bone marrow is just as bone marrow should be — beefy flavoured butter that melts in your mouth. With lemon to cut through the richness of the savoury parmesan reggiano and bone marrow, I craved for more. A pity that there wasn’t more of the lightly torched bone marrow to savour.
So I had a starter at the end and a sharing platter ($23-$32)… alone. But all in the name of dedication to work right? I’d suggest a sharing platter for those in search of more protein. While I didn’t find everything on it worth raving over or mentioning, there were some highlights.
The curry cereal prawn & spicy lime mayo is a nice twist on the zi char classic. Fried whole till it’s crispy to be eaten shell and all, the curry twist wasn’t out of place. In fact I’d prefer this rendition over regular cereal prawns any day.
The fish roe fish ball is quite something else. Ever had a cheese fish ball? Think of this an elevated version, filled with salmon roe instead. Don’t even try biting it in half to get that oozing shot. The filling pops out and as you chew, the savoury roe pops as well. Sweet, savoury and an all round textural delight.
For an even more extensive sampling of the menu than what I had, head down every Wednesday evening when they run a buffet. While the The Grandstand and Turf Club Road might be a little out of the way for most of us, and not a spot that I’d rave about, the concept and location of CHOW FUN provides a nice change of scenery for a weekend outing.
Expected damage: $20-$40
CHOW FUN Bar & Restaurant is on the The Entertainer App, which offers 1-for-1 main courses when you dine at CHOW FUN Bar & Restaurant as well as many other restaurants in Singapore!