Day 26: Singapore
Singapore is one of the great food destinations in the world and their best stuff is served in hawker centres. The food is an astoundingly diverse cultural explosion, coming together in these massive food courts where it is made extremely well and served cheap. I really, really want to go. So when I heard that the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market— maybe the closest thing we have to a hawker centre— has a well regarded stall called “Singapore’s Banana Leaf”, I wanted to check it out. Well I don’t know if I just had terrible luck by arriving on a Monday night, but it was, to put it rather plainly, bad.
GirlfriendBites, Bosque, “Danielle” and I sit down to a wide array of dishes. Laksa, a curry noodle soup, tastes like watered down coconut milk and the noodles may as well have been made of Play-Doh that had been sitting in the Arizona sun for six weeks and then dropped into a pot of lukewarm water. The nasi goreng, a kind of Indonesian fried rice had a impressive arrangement of flat and disappointing flavors, saved only slightly by the crispy, fried aromatics chucked haphazardly on top. Their “must try” dish, as explained on the menu, is a curry dish called rendang beef. The flavor of the curry is arguably passable, but when served with dry chunks of beef and rice that crumbles when touched, it is a disaster. The otak-otak, “minced sole grilled in a banana leaf” tastes only vaguely of fish and is merely a vessel with which to ingest the peanut sauce on the side. They may as well have given me a stalk of celery, which would at least have had a texture worth ingesting. The passable dishes were the roti paratha, a sort of thin crispy pancake served with a dipping sauce that made Bosque remark “Ooh that’s salty!” and the mee goreng with tofu. Mee goreng is a pan fried noodle dish, but while it was fairly enjoyable, it had a remarkably flavorless spiciness which was a waste of my tongue’s energy. I washed the meal down with a brow-furrowingly sweet chrysanthemum tea which, due to the remarkably poor flavors of the meal, actually became enjoyable by the end.
So maybe I’m spoiled. I’ve been eating some tremendously delicious Asian foods from all over lately, usually served at half the price and packing in four times the flavor. But sitting at Banana Leaf, I couldn’t help but wonder if my adventures in eating have only gone on to make me miserable at most of the restaurants in the world. Like a film connoisseur who can no longer enjoy a bad piece of fluff, am I just making my life worse? There is the slight hope that when I do eat truly great food, I can appreciate it more than someone with less discerning tastes, but that feels, at least right now, like the vain hopes of a sad elitist. However in the end, I really just wish that the sad purveyors of this Singapore schlock would bother to put the time into making good food, rather than just convincing their many patrons who wait in line to slurp their banana leaf-wrapped gruel, that the food they’re eating is good enough for them. I would write more about my experiences with their food, but to be perfectly honest, I’d rather be eating something more satisfying like, say, a bowl of Raisin Bran.
Singapore’s Banana Leaf
6333 W 3rd St # 122
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Food Breakdown: 2 non-alcoholic beverages, 2 appetizers, 4 entrees
Distance From My House: 4.8 miles