American Interpretation of Chinese Food From The West.
I was greeted with uplifting Shanghainese pop music when I stepped into Lokkee, a new American-Chinese concept restaurant in Plaza Singapura by Tung Lok Group.
This new concept brings typical ‘Chinese’ food served in America, back to Singapore in an interpretation most Asians won’t be very familiar with unless you’ve stayed in America.
Designed with beautiful modern art decor, graphite sketches lined Lokkee’s walls, showing that the group has taken much care to provide its diners with an interesting and comforting experience.
The interior of the restaurant is themed with an auspicious red interior and boasted several private VIP rooms as well, each with a centrepiece artwork that reflects pop-art culture combined with a Chinese drawing style.
Throughout the restaurant, you will see a myriad fusion of pop-culture done in the style of Chinese paintings and its amazing what movie characters you can spot if you look hard enough. See the Star Wars reference?
The creativity and showmanship that is put into the dishes are amazing; for instance, it’s not every day you see any restaurant serving a drink that changes colour or a pineapple that goes up in flames when served:
The Ultraviolet Oolong Tea (S$4.50) which was slightly sour and fruity in taste changed from a layered blue to violet purple when lime juice is poured into it. This was the restaurant’s signature drink. What smart and fruit-driven infusions; kids will love it, dates will be impressed and friends will “Instagram” it.
The Poke Salad (S$16) had marinated raw tuna chunks, avocado, flying fish roe all served in a little tortilla chip bowl. A savoury snack to start off the meal with this Asian-American fusion prelude.
We watched in awe as the Awesome Flaming Pineapple Beef (S$28) that was served to us lit up in flames. When the flames died down, the top of the pineapple was then removed and chunks of juicy braised beef were served to us.
Gimmicky no doubt as I don’t think the fire really does anything much to enhance the taste, but the pineapple curry beef was very tender with a nice blend of sweet and spicy.
Our agreed favourite dish of the day was this Sichuan Mala Grilled Fish (S$58), a barramundi fish that was char-coaled grilled and then embedded in a nicely still heated bubbling broth where the fish was laid on Chinese lettuce and tofu skin.
The fish is then topped with a Sichuan pepper and sambal sauce to give that numbing spiciness distinct of Sichuan cuisine. The fish was fresh and sweet and what I must highlight is the clear broth which can be savoured on its own, something that I would never do with other Sichuan fish stew as it is normally way too oily and spicy.
In comparison, this dish is not oily at all, and with a delicious, light broth, I think Lokkee has taken the Sichuan fish stew (水煮鱼) to a whole different direction. I would definitely bring my family and friends there to enjoy this dish.
I rather like the Firecracker Chicken Nest (S$24) as well and kudos to the person who thought of this catchy name, this dish will definitely linger in my head for some time.
If you’re familiar with Sichuan cuisine, you’ll notice that this dish is based off the stir-fried Chongqing chicken with dried chillies, 重庆辣子鸡 (Chong Qing La Zi Ji).
The Sichuan deep-fried diced chicken is spicy, crunchy on the outside, and juicy in the inside. The “egg yolks” on the side which is something you don’t see in the original Chongqing chicken, were actually mango puree spheres held by alginate which bursts upon biting—a slight play on molecular gastronomy by the chef to quench the flames in your mouth from the aftertaste of these bite-sized delights.
We also tried a sweet Orange Chicken (S$16) that children will probably love for its sour saccharine taste, but I am no kid, so it’s didn’t appeal to me that much in terms of creativity and is average at best. Tasted pretty similar to the sweet-sour pork actually.
Mapo Tofu (S$16) is another distinct Sichuan tofu dish, though nothing really stood out from this dish.
The Mongolian Beef (S$32) is cooked live tableside in a hot stone pot that released all the fragrance of ginger, onion and scallions that most will be familiar with at zi char restaurants. No one knows exactly why it’s called Mongolian beef, because the dish doesn’t even exist in Mongolia, but it’s wildly adapted as such in America.
Thank God for these Chow Mein (S$14) in Lokkee that tasted nothing like what I had back in London. We would recommend that if you are in a rush hour and want something nice and simple to eat, to go for this yakisoba noodles topped with shredded chicken, chopped carrots, celery, stir-fried with chef’s special seasoning—they are most willing to pack into these takeaway boxes below.
Keeping to the style of American-Chinese takeouts joints, Lokkee has also prepared take-out boxes called ‘Oyster Pails’ for when you want to dabao your food.
The last time that I saw and ate out of these boxes was when I was an exchange student at a music college in London and they had this really pricey fried “Chinese” noodles near the school that really tasted starchy and terrible. Now you too can get your chow mein packed in these nifty paper takeout containers too.
Pork Cracklins Bao (S$13) is pretty much roasted pork wrapped in mantou with hoisin sauce. Nice crackling skin, but a bit dry on the meat department.
Dessert with a twist! Wait a minute, is that not fried spring rolls? Okay, if you want to surprise your friends, order these Custard Egg Rolls (S$10) which is, in fact, a custard dessert. The “chilli sauce” on the side is actually sweet raspberry with carrot puree, which was the finale of our lunch service. Don’t mix up the sauce with the spicy sriracha sauce in the restaurant!
Seeing how American-Chinese restaurants are pretty rare in Singapore, Lokkee proves to be a novelty here. The owners of the restaurant grew up with these dishes in America, and they decided to bring a part of their childhood back to the motherland with these innovative dishes.
Lokkee’s dishes are not too foreign to understand but yet interesting enough to attract diners. With funky interiors that both old and young can relate to, Seth and I give our thumbs-up to Lokkee.
Expected Damage: S$25 – S$40 per pax
Price: $ $
68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura, #03-01, Singapore 238839
68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura, #03-01, Singapore 238839