Feng Bo Zhuang Jiu Jia, Singapore
For some reason, I was craving something spicy and greasy for lunch today. So I was on my way over to Hometown (which incidentally has moved a few doors down to 25 Smith Street) when I passed by the Whispering Man's former digs just to see if anything had cropped up in its place. To my surprise, a rather nicely decorated restaurant was sitting there, with hardly a resemblance to the spartan place that Xiao Ping Steam Pot had held.
Just two weeks old, this place (57 Temple Street, 6223-3588) apparently is a chain from mainland China. And if I understood it correctly, it's actually a theme restaurant, where all of the bamboo-covered walls and such are supposed to evoke thoughts of a martial arts film. The menu offered both spicy and non-spicy dishes, but I had no idea what to order, so the guy recommended some kind of beef and string beans.
The string beans were very encouraging. While just a tad soggier than I'd like, the salty/greasy/spicy taste was right up my alley, and I wolfed this thing down in seconds. This excitement completely vaporized when the beef arrived though. Drenched in a sweet sauce and mixed with crudely cut onions, the meat was nearly beef jerky-like (ugh!). The guy told me afterwards that it was intentional in order to get the flavor into the beef, but I'll opt for something else next time.
Yup, despite these shortcomings, I'm encouraged enough to come back and explore the menu further...there must be something else in here that I'll enjoy. Sure, the prices are a bit higher than I would have thought for a little place like this too (S$15 or US$10 for that plate of beef), but I guess a good part of the money goes into the decor. You can come here to pretend that you're Jet Li for the day.