Sep 052012

I am sometimes a little critical. Sometimes,  more than a little. So I will try to keep this balanced.

A menu sets a promise. There is a description that tempts the diner to try this dish or that. It’s like a contract between diner and chef – I will give you money, and in exchange, you will give me what I ordered.

There seems to be a tendency, and it is almost universal, for places selling hawker stand food at restaurant prices to not put a lot into presentation. Some times, like the Thai place I will never return to, they go a step further, and three people ordering the same dish at the same price will get wildly differing portion sizes. But anyhow, this post is about presentation differences between what is promised in the menu and what is served.

Without naming the place, I ate at a nearby restaurant here today that promises to bring a little bit of Penang to Singapore. Having been the victim of misrepresented hotel accommodation in Penang in the past, I have to say with regret that perhaps they have succeeded a little too well.

Please forgive the cameraphone quality images that follow. This is the kway teow as promised in the menu:

This is what was served:

Honestly, if I hadn’t seen the photo in the menu, and I’d paid hawker centre price for it, it would have been OK.

What prompted me to write this article, though, was the dessert. This is the King Chendol (ice chendol with durian) in the menu:

And this was the same dish as presented:

Honestly, the taste was acceptable if not entirely wonderful. But it looks like something you might find in a field of very unwell cattle. A little care in presentation would go a long way to justifying the restaurant premium for this street food dish. It’s been said that we eat first with our eyes, then with our nose, well before the food reaches the mouth. If this is the case, then presentation is important.

So where does that leave me? Am I unenthusiastic about returning to this place? Very much so. Would I ever recommend it to a friend – or a blog reader? Absolutely not. Will I go out of my way to name and shame them? No… because to be fair I’d need to name the other establishments that do the same kind of thing here. And that would take more time than I have. There is so much good food in Singapore, and it is a pity to waste time on the mediocre.

I will leave you with this advice though – if you eat regularly at “hawker food, restaurant price” places, please go and seek out the authentic hawker version and try it for yourself. Makansutra produces an excellent food guide that will tell you the best places to go in Singapore – and you can pick up a copy of this excellent little book at most good book stores.

  One Response to “Presentation and Misrepresentation”

  1. [...] there is a difference between representation and presentation. I’ve seen some bad cases of it. This one, this evening, takes the [...]

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