Sometimes, it's a good thing to give second chances (caveat: this advisory shall be inapplicable to cases of cheating slimebags).
Our first visit to Chopsuey Cafe at Dempsey was middling; an unmemorable affair that we wrote off. But, at a friend's insistence, we recently tried their prawn noodles, and have been hooked ever since. The key to Chopsuey Cafe is to stick to a few dishes, as there are a good number of duds in the extensive menu. The local fusion fare, in particular the prawn noodles and laksa, are standouts, as Chopsuey's forte appears to be elevating rustic hawker foods to heights of refined gastronomy.
Service was cordial but inept: our dishes all arrived laced and garnished with parsley/coriander leaves, despite precise instructions to hold off parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves in all dishes. We sent back the soupy ones, but they returned, sans garnish but still laced with the same herbs. I geddit:- someone in the kitchen is seriously crazy about these herbs.
The Numbing Pork Ribs ($29) wasn't the least bit spicy, and I'm quite a moderate chilli eater so to most spice fans, this would be considered not spicy AT ALL. Slow-braised then wok-fried, the meaty pork ribs were coated in a crushed Szechuan peppercorns and chilli sauce for a sweet-smoky-spicy contrast, and topped with a refreshingly piquant green mango, carrot, and Thai basil salad. A lovely fall-off-the-bone texture, and wonderful balance of flavours here.
A must-try, the Crispy Crackly Organic Eggs ($12), laced with fresh basil, mint, and drizzled with dark soy, was fantastic. Every bit as good as the Thai-styled omelette, Khai Jiao.
A seasonal highlight, the Sticky Spicy Melty Beef Shortrib ($42), a ginormous hunk of red meat, was slow-roasted, rolled in kecap manis and tossed with fresh cut chilli and fried shallots. Bold, unabashed, and well-rounded, the ribs were beautifully fork-tender. Chopsuey does a much better version of Bali's Naughty Nuri's than its branch at Capitol Piazza.
Another daily special, the Char-Grilled King Prawns ($36 for 3), sparkling fresh and imbued with an aromatic char, were showered with fried garlic nubbins and sesame seeds, sided by a bright yuzu and soya pickled chilli dipping sauce. Scrumptious.
The Singapore Chilli Soft Shell Crabs ($36), a modern twist to a local favourite, was great for lazybums who prefer not to get their fingers dirty. A trio of soft-shell crabs, lightly battered and fried, coupled with fried buns, made excellent fodder to an egg-drop chilli gravy flecked with mud crab chunks. The chilli was mild, the dip almost sweet, so hardcore fans of the local fiery rendition will be disappointed. Surprisingly, the chilli padi-loving Hubs likes this, whereas I'm just so-so about it.
Another must-try, the Jade Fried Rice ($16) was about as healthy fried rice will ever get. Chopped spinach, fresh basil, and mint, lent a refreshingly herbaceous finish to this.
Another must-try, the Poached Crab & Prawn Laksa ($25), was burnished generously with shredded lump crab, prawn halves, fish cake, silver sprouts, quails eggs, laksa leaf pesto, and crispy fried beancurd puffs. I loved that Chopsuey's version was a mix of thin rice vermicelli and thick white laksa noodles, so textures were contrasting. Robust and hearty, was absolutely smashing.
My favourite must-try here, and the best thing about Chopsuey, was the PS Prawn Noodle Soup ($23). Ingredients: fresh prawns, meltingly tender slivers of pork belly, crunchy morning glory, silver sprouts, and quails eggs, were plentiful, and the broth, a rich stew of pork bones and shrimp shells, had a compelling depth but managed an exquisite balance. Like the laksa, the noodles were a mix of thin rice vermicelli and thick white laksa noodles.
Another superb fusion dish, Suzi's Spaghetti Crab Mee Goreng ($26) was as potent blend of fiery and sweet. Topped with freshly shredded crabmeat, springy king prawns, silver sprouts, al dente spaghetti was slicked in a spicy tomato sauce.
The Chopsuey Beef Pho ($28) was lackluster; the slivers of ribeye were chewy and broth stodgy. The homemade beef balls were the saving grace of this forgettable dish, bouncy and beautifully textured.
A kitschy petit fours of sorts, the Fortune Cookies had the cheesiest quotes/sayings ever. "Someone on this table has a secret crush on you"...erm, I'm with the Hubs and we're double dating with our married friends...?!
38A Martin Road #01-02
Tel: 8188 6177
Open daily from 6pm to 11pm