Last Updated: January 19, 2018
In a bid to join the ranks of hawker stalls-turned-hipster joints serving fusion Western fare, Rice Bowl Hero is attempting to make its presence known in the quiet neighbourhood of Bukit Batok as the place to go for affordable rice bowls.
The stall serves rice bowls as well as ‘cup noodles’, a decent serving of pasta dishes presented in old-school tin mugs. We had three different types from Rice Bowl Hero: the Chilli Crab, Sambal Squid Ink and Carbonara ($7.90 each).
I’m usually a lil’ hesitant to order a cream-based pasta dish when eating out because so many places just make it too rich, thick and heavy. So when we saw the addition of an onsen egg thrown in with Rice Bowl Hero’s Carbonara, we were sceptical it would work.
Much to our surprise, the cream sauce wasn’t too rich; in fact, it had a good garlicky aroma that permeated every bite. We wish they had used real bacon instead of sausages for a more authentic recipe, but we reckon its usage was more to set itself apart from the rest.
Next up was our favourite of all three. The Sambal Squid Ink pasta confused us at first: how would something salty stand up against something spicy? Would they clash or complement?
The verdict turned to be one of delight, as the sambal was savoury and aromatic, while the squid ink gave the dish a nice salty finish. This combination was addictive, and the only one we completely polished off.
The last one was a take on a local favourite, the Chilli Crab. We were informed that this particular version had gone through several revisions, from having to tone down the spiciness, then using shredded crab meat, to adding in a whole soft shell crab (this last version is still undergoing testing).
Sadly, the sauce lacked depth and body, as the only prominent flavour we could detect was sweetness. The spiciness, however, was satisfactory, and for those who can’t handle the heat, there’s always the onsen egg to help put out the fire.
Moving on to the rice bowls, we had the Charsiew Pork Cheek ($8.80) and the signature Grilled Lobster ($17.80). The pork cheek is cooked sous vide style, something that was a challenge to overcome for the chef who has a zi char background.
An interesting fact to note is that charcoal-infused rice was first served in the rice bowls. However, feedback from patrons soon made them realise that it didn’t go down well and tended to dry out the entire dish altogether.
Instead, the rice bowls are now served with garlic butter rice.
We had high hopes that the garlic butter rice would be moist and aromatic, and the rice here was anything but. Instead, it was rather bland and dry.
Perhaps, Japanese rice or even regular white rice would pair better with the proteins it offers. As for the pork cheek, it was well-seasoned but could have been tenderer.
It was time for the star of the show, the Grilled Lobster, to knock us off our feet. Just as the rice bowl before, the carb wasn’t much to write home about, and so, we went straight for the jackpot.
The blanket of cheese was exceptionally tasty, with a peppery nuance that infused with the lobster meat. The flesh tore off its shell easily and was springy and sweet.
It’s a pity the portion only came with half a lobster; we could’ve devoured the other half effortlessly. We totally understand why this dish is the Rice Bowl Hero’s main draw.
It’s tough to make it big in the F&B scene, even more, when you’re trying your luck among the big boys. But with patience and a few tweaks to its current menu, we can see Rice Bowl Hero potentially hit a home run with the community. In the meantime, we’ll just continue to lust after that lobster.
Expected damage: $7.90 – $17.80 per pax