Will you pay $25 (++) for Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice?
When it is comes Chatterbox, then that answer may be different. You see, that name has become synonymous with branded, hotel, atas, THE Chicken Rice.
By the way, judging by the response of “full reservations” for several days, regulars are anticipating for the iconic restaurant to be back.
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Depending on the decade you are born, Chatterbox which opened in 1971 at the former Mandarin Singapore could mean something – more than just another restaurant.
During the 80s, it was the name that came to mind for one of the top Chicken Rice in Singapore, and the hefty price tag back then has always been contentious and much talked-about.
A friend told me his parents promised a Chatterbox treat on the birthday should he score extremely good results for the examinations – a dangle; I did not get to try their Chicken Rice after hearing about it for a decade – also during my birthday.
Dining there was almost an ‘event’ itself. Of course in 2022, things are very much different.
Several Hainanese Chicken Rice eateries and restaurants have upped their game; stalls such as Tian Tian, Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, Sin Kee Famous have earned Michelin recognition; while several ex-hotel chefs have set up their own Chicken Rice stalls of varying success.
Returning on Level 5 of the newly-minted Hilton Orchard Singapore, this was a much-more inviting space that what I remembered it to be.
I went early dinner time to experience that natural daylight, with soothing and inviting palette of woody browns, pastel green and creamy hues.
The revamped restaurant was chic and cosy, seemed great for intimate family meals, corporate meetings, small group gatherings, or somewhere to bring a foreign friend who would need that air-con comfort with local favourites.
I suppose the signature Mandarin Chicken Rice ($25 for individual set, $38 for Half Chicken, $72 for Whole Chicken) is the must-order here.
Using only chickens that weigh around 2kg each, Executive Chef Liew Tien Heong incorporates a different method of ‘steam-cooking’ (instead of poaching) so as to render consistently succulent chicken.
A drizzle of a lightly-seasoned jus helped enhance the sweetness and flavour.
To be honest, the chicken meat itself wasn’t as spectacular as what I remembered it to be, and a regular Chicken Rice eater could probably possibly rattle off a few places that may serve ‘better-tasting’ renditions.
While the skin was smooth with meat tender (had a combination of thigh and breast – which to be fair was juicy enough), it tasted somewhat bland and lacking of some sort of flavours.
The combination of punchy proprietary chilli sauce, grated ginger, dark soy sauce helped, but the chicken itself should also be a standout.
My favourite component was the rice, being fluffy and moderately fragrant. Some customers would like that the grains were not that greasy – compared to some versions which would result in oily, overly-glossy lips.
Minor difference: they used to serve cherry tomatoes, but these have been replaced with sliced ones.
Other than the Chicken Rice, highlights included Chatterbox Rojak ($15), Crispy Salted Egg Chicken Wings ($12), Lobster Laksa ($34), Beef Hor Fun ($25), Seafood Hokkien Mee ($25), Hokkien Style Bak Kut Teh ($28), and Signature Coconut Ice Cream ($15).
One of the earliest dishes on Chatterbox’s menu, the Lobster Laksa ($34) was a not bad choice.
The luxuriously-priced bowl was included with a whole Boston lobster claw, tau pok, fish cake slices, bean sprouts, quails’ eggs and a sprinkling of finely-chopped laksa leaves.
While I thought the gravy would fare better if it was less oily, the gravy was considered robust and rich.
What I liked much happened to be the thick rice vermicelli which was deliciously-smooth and glided down the throat effortlessly.
Friends recommended the Mackerel & Crab Otah-Otah ($18), a hefty parcel of fresh mackerel fish paste with snow crab claw meat seasoned with a homemade spice mix.
They were not wrong, as the Otah was chunky, juicy and tasty all at the same time, with touch of spiciness and sweetness from the seafood. I would order this again.
I enjoyed half of the Grilled Satay ($14 for 6 sticks) very much. Wait, why half?
Customers would be given a choice of chicken, beef or mixed which are grilled over charcoal.
The chicken which was meaty yet tender, brought back all sorts of nostalgic feelings when dipped into the peanut sauce with pineapple puree. The grilled beef through aromatic, was a tad on the dryer side.
So $25 is not just for Chicken Rice, but for the nostalgic value, memories, vibes, comfortable environment, and perhaps some bragging rights.
333 Orchard Road, #05-03, Singapore 238887
Tel: +65 6831 6291
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)
Other Related Entries
10 Hainanese CHICKEN RICE In Singapore
Ji De Lai Hainanese Chicken Rice (Chong Pang)
Tian Tian Chicken Rice (Maxwell Food Centre)
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice (Holland Drive)