Taiwan Railway Bento and their Braised Minced Pork Rice

** Update from Railway Bento as at March 15 at 8.09am – The Railway Bento team is currently having some internal shuffling with exciting menu coming up! Both outlets in CT Hub and International Plaza will not be operating at this moment until further notice.**

Taiwan Railway Bento (台湾鐵路便當) and their Braised Minced Pork Rice

Address 1: CT Hub 2 Kallang Avenue #02-16 Singapore 339407

Opening hours 1: Mon – Sat  11.00am to 8.00pm, closed on PH

Address 2: International Plaza 10 Anson Road #02-85A

Opening hours 2: Mon – Fri 11.00am to 3.00pm, closed on PH

Introduction

Railway Bento was originated from Taiwan and they currently have two outlets in Singapore. These rice boxes form a great part of Taiwan’s rich food culture and are widely popular in Taiwan till date. In the older days, their people have to travel long distance on train and have to rely on these lunch boxes for their meals. These lunch boxes have a well balanced food spread like meat, vegetable, egg, bean curd and rice.

These lunch boxes come in at traditional and pretty looking wooden box packaging and also come in a variety of choices. I visited their branch at the CT Hub with the invitation of Glen, the boss of Railway Bento. Thank you Glen for the kind invitation and for hosting me.

Menu: click to enlarge

Braised Minced Pork Rice ($4.80)

Generally I have two complains on the braised minced pork rice (卤肉饭) that i had in Singapore. Firstly it’s the pricing. Typically in Taiwan, a good bowl of braised minced pork rice cost something like S$3 to S$4 but in Singapore, it cost about $8 to $12 in a Taiwan-style Cafe. Secondly, I personally prefer the minced meat to be really fine, and well mixed into a thick gravy but many sold them in thicker chunks.

Therefore I thought Railway Bento did well in this two aspects, keeping the price at an affordable $4.80 (even at their Tanjong Pagar branch), and there is a good mix of fatty and leaner meat in the finely-minced meat sauce.

I thought braised minced pork rice (卤肉饭) is suppose to be a little greasy to be enjoyable and Railway Bento’s version has just the right amount of it. The sauce has a very thick texture that coats the rice perfectly. This meat sauce is actually less salty than it looks which i think it can be readily accepted by Singaporeans.

Fried Chicken Cutlet Bento ($6.80)

As for their chicken cutlet bento, i thought it’s rather decent. There nothing exactly fantastic about it but also nothing bad about it. It’s freshly fried, crispy and served piping hot. The chicken cutlet taste like those from a typical Taiwan Snack Stall in Singapore. At $6.80, the portion is quite decent for it’s price and this bento also comes with half an egg, salted vegetable, a slice of Taiwan sausage and it also comes with a small portion of braised minced pork.

Century Beancurd ($3.50)
I thought the sauce is very heavy and salty in taste but I like it. This sauce has a complicated mix of chopped coriander, garlic, soy sauce and chilli and is for sure too salty if consume on its own. However I thought it goes pretty well with the cold tofu. I also like the century egg that comes with a soft yolk center.

Fried King Oyster Mushroom ($3.50)

The king oyster mushroom is coated with a tempura-style breading, deep fried to crisp, and sprinkled with chilli powder. Having this dish is more for the texture than that the taste as this mushroom doesn’t has a very distinctive taste to begin one and it’s more like munching on the breading and texture of the Oyster Mushroom.

Conclusion

Taiwan cuisine used to be very popular in Singapore but it’s craze had significantly reduced after the cafe culture kicks in. The Railway Bento made a good decision to market it’s food as a eat-and-go model, rather than a Taiwan-style Cafe, therefore keeping the cost low.

As one of the members of the working class, I thought Railway Bento offers a hassle free lunch takeaway option with a variety of food items in a box. Not only the price is reasonable, it also offer a rather decent food quality and choices. I enjoyed the meal, especially the braised minced pork rice.

CT Hub at Kallang Ave

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Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar

Address: 150 Tyrwhitt Road Singapore 207563

Opening hours: Tue to Fri: 9.00am – 7:00pm, Sat & Sun: 9.00am – 10.00pm, Mon Closed

Introduction

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Store, or simply CSHH, is currently one of the most hip cafes in Singapore that is very well known for their coffee. It is one of the three cafes owned by the Papa Palheta. Papa Palheta is a independent coffee boutique that specialise in roasting specialty coffee in Singapore and Malaysia. They also conduct Barista training course and coffee appreciation classes.

CSHH – The Interior

From the outside, CSHH looks like an old hardware store, but it’s totally another haven on the inside. It is divided into a few areas – the indoor and outdoor dining area, the roastery, the coffee tasting room and a small area that sells their own merchandise like their blend of coffee beans and equipments for hand-brewed coffee.

CHSS, Chye Seng Huat Coffee

The Outdoor Dining Area

Apart from the food, their drinks are mostly self-service. There is no restaurant treatment here as you need to look for your own seat and place your order and make payment at their counter.

CHSS, Chye Seng Huat Coffee

The Roastery

Large group seating is difficult to get in this crowded cafe as there is only one big table at the indoor area. Visit this cafe in smaller groups if you can.

CHSS, Chye Seng Huat Coffee

The Merchandise Area

Updated Menu as of Oct 2014. Click to enlarge.

Old Menu: Click to Enlarge

Caffe Latte 

CSHH serves their Caffè Latte in regular and small size that cost $4.00 and $5.50. The Barista at CSHH effortlessly pulled a latte art and it’s served to you right away. I thought their caffe latte is nice but dont really differs a lot from the rest. The more interesting coffee are in fact the hand pressed coffee with a different range of coffee beans to choose from.

Hand-Pressed Coffee

If you are sitting near to the counter, you can see their Barista in action and i was quite entertained by seeing how their Barista prepares a seemingly simple coffee that involves numerous sophisticated steps.

I can’t say which brew is better as coffee taste is very subjective. We ordered their Bright and Bold which one is more acidic while the other is fuller bodied but i love the deep, rich aroma roast of both cups.  It’s rather interesting to be able to try out different kinds of coffee beans rather than a typical espresso bean.

There are also a variety of muffins available for food pairing at their counter if you are not in the mood for their main course. I give my vote to this buttery sweet Chocolate Almond muffin.

The Huat Breakfast ($17.00)

At a net price of $17, it’s rather decent. Although the taste does not differ much from a typical “big breakfast” platter, and as a meat lover, i am quite pleased for the inclusion of a whole sausage. The baked potato is also a healthier choice compared to hash brown.

Scrambled Egg is smooth and runny but I wish that it can be more flavourful though. The portion is also quite decent for this price. Overall an “OK” dish.

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich S$13.00

Among the three main courses, i like this Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich the most. The bread is well toasted, the steak slices is well flavored that is topped with melted cheese and served fresh from the oven. And how bad can a serving of nachos be? Ordering this should be a decent and safe option.

Cod Fillet S$19.00

Their cod fish is rather disappointing. The portion is small. Appearance wise is not appealing and the cod fish is rather dry and tough and doesn’t come cheap. I’m sorry but this is a big thumbs down.

Can a piece of Cod Fish looks any sadder?

Conclusion

I thought sitting indoor is a much better experience as you chill out and just sit around, watching how the Barista enthusiastically prepares every cup of beverage so as to appreciate the effort behind a cup of hand crafted coffee.

As for their food, i am not particularly impress and CSHH’s food is probably not my first choice at the area. While i love the Aero-Pressed Coffee more than their Caffe Latte, their food didn’t exactly score well here. It’s a pity that the food does not excite me as much as their beverages.

Therefore my conclusion is Chye Seng Huat Coffee Bar is a great place to chill out and to grab a cup of coffee after a meal, and maybe plus a cup cake, provided that the crowd is not crazy.