Stuart Anderson's Black Angus, Singapore
We used to go to Black Angus restaurants every so often for special family occasions back home (birthdays, etc.). Certainly I've seen and tasted a much better part of the world since then, but when I was growing up and surrounded by chain restaurants in suburbia, this was one of those places that I looked forward to (embarrased as I am now to admit it). These days I try to avoid chain restaurants like the plague, but once in a while, I subconsciously get a bit nostalgic for the days of yore. Indeed, from time to time (maybe once a year or so?), I specifically get cravings not for Lawry's ethereal prime rib (which would otherwise be my preference by far), but something a little cheaper, downscale, and mass-produced: Black Angus. They have a couple locations in Singapore (Orchard Parade Hotel #01-08, 6734-1181, with another location at One Fullerton). We somehow made our way over there tonight.
And what a fitting way to kick off an experience at a chain restaurant with a classic plasticky appetizer with an "oooh" factor: the Wild Wild West Onion, an onion cut into a gimmicky "blooming" shape, deep-fried with spices and served with a creamy yet vibrant sauce for dipping. Sure, what wouldn't appeal to grease- and sodium-craving taste buds when done this way? (And yes, this one is crispier and tastier than the one at Handle Bar.) But not long after eating a few pieces, the nostalgia quickly gave way to nausea, as reality reminded me of not only how pre-fabricated and tacky this was, but also how unhealthy it was too (not to mention the dragon breath from the fact that this was still partially raw).
Well, fortunately the service was lightning-fast tonight. We barely even got through half of the onion before our main courses arrived, thus saving me from eating more of that stuff. I ordered the smallest 8 oz prime rib (the sad thing is that - in all my greed - I really wanted the potato skins for a starter too, and thus ordered the smallest prime rib in the hopes that I might be hungry enough later to order the potato skins afterwards...I didn't in the end). I was a bit taken aback by how lifeless the prime rib appeared on my plate (even at a "medium," I would have expected some bloodiness), but the taste was more or less just as I had remembered: fairly tender and moist, with a saltier outside due to the seasonings and a cup of savory au jus for dipping other pieces into (I had to proactively ask them to bring me horseradish though). It certainly wasn't Lawry's, but I wasn't expecting it to be either (their leaner and hence less tasty BBQ ribs were also unremarkable - a bit like suburban chain peer Tony Roma's - although this place's coleslaw was mere shredded lettuce with dressing sadly poured on top). Normally I'd shun the crudely cut and boiled veggies on the side too, but I still ate them, perhaps partially due to guilt for eating that fried onion earlier and hoping that some greens might offset any of that artery-clogging that I was responsible for.
And to think that we originally set out tonight to try to eat something healthy. Well, one of the things that I fondly remembered from my childhood was the simple yet refreshing green salad that was included with the prime rib. But the blue cheese dressing I got tonight probably didn't help my efforts too much (and I seem to remember that these guys used to make it all-you-can-eat salad, right?). In the end, I left feeling a bit nauseous and regretful for coming here. And it wasn't that much cheaper than Lawry's either: we cleared the triple-digit mark with two people (and to think I also wanted to get their Alaskan king crab legs but was only stopped by the fact that they were unavailable tonight...I'm such a pig!). I guess I always seem to go through the same process: I crave Black Angus, and yet after eating it, I immediately regret having gone there, and then start to crave it again one year later. If I'm still writing in this blog for another year or two, I guess we'll be able to see if I submitted again to what I assume to be some form of mental conditioning from my youth that still continues to draw me back here again despite knowing better.