Weets Eats: Revamped menu steers The Sampan in right direction
Although the food available at Boat Quay is quite diverse, in my mind, it is a tourist trap. Perhaps it's the location.
And when you're selling local food at a place like that, it is very easy to fall into kitsch - especially when the restaurant is named The Sampan.
To be honest, no amount of eye-rolling can compensate for that.
It opened last September and within half a year, it has revamped its menu. Cue more eye-rolling.
So it was with trepidation that I decided to eat at The Sampan. It could be so bad that it will be worth an amusing anecdote for the future.
I couldn't have been more mistaken.
The food here spans the range of cuisine found in Singapore. And when it comes to the dishes that do not click, at least it was a case of "better in theory". Making an effort is better than not.
Effortlessly good is the South Indian Fish Head Curry (from $19 for 500gm), my favourite item on the updated menu.
It is not too spicy, which makes it palatable for most, and is as comforting and traditional as a Good Morning Towel. The best bit is the tinge of bitterness from the mustard seeds coursing through the curry, giving it amazing dimensions.
I enjoyed the dish so much because of the curry, to the point that I barely touched the fish.
Also satisfying is the Thai Style Fried Rice ($18). The name may be simple but the flavours are complex. The restaurant reckons it to be like a tom yum fried rice, so expect the flavours of lemongrass and lime leaves.
But not everything works. Some dishes suffer from having too many ideas, such as the Charred Chicken, Mango Sambal, Steamed Rice Cake ($19). I had to message a couple of people to confirm if this was indeed the dish. That is how forgettable it is.
While the Cantonese Barbecued Duck ($18) is memorable, it may not be for the right reasons.
The Sampan tries to give the usual char siew a twist by making the meat duck, but that results in a strangely sweet and dry bird. Perhaps it could have worked if the sauce is on a fish.
The desserts deserve a special mention though.
The Coconut Creme Brulee ($13) is a visual treat, with the creamy coconut custard demanding you eat more of it.
But I recommend you try the Local Coconut Pudding, Coffee Tuille, Charred Bread Ice Cream ($13) if only for the charred bread ice cream. The novelty is a draw but it is really quite delicious.
I've begged the restaurant to consider selling it by the cone. Fingers crossed that it happens one day.
63 Boat Quay
Weekdays 11.30am to 2.30pm, Mondays
to Saturdays 5pm to midnight