Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shin Yeh Bistro: Taiwanese by word, not by heart

By Arthur

Shin Yeh is a well-known chain of restaurants in Taiwan which serves highly praised innovative Taiwanese dishes. In Singapore, the franchise is partnered under the respectable TongLok group which has operated a Shin Yeh restaurant at Liang court since 2008. Though not perfectly emulated, the outlet at Liang Court serves up replicas of good quality, giving its diners a good reflection of authentic Taiwanese dining. TongLok's latest outlet at Square 2, dubbed Shin Yeh Bistro however, fails to adequately match both its original outlet and their counterparts in Taiwan.

Shin Yeh Bistro manages to pull off a sleekly modern yet oriental design, matching a very Asian dull lime green and orange colour scheme with abstract curves and lines of European inspiration. Its sufficiently bright lighting scheme also adds to the casual dining experience. The service however takes a few points off. The staff are generally inattentive and tend to take a bit too long before providing basic services such as refilling water despite the small number of customers. It should be noted that I went on Sunday when it had only recently opened and service should improve as the staff gain more experience. 

Taste and Value:
We ordered a total of 5 dishes. They were the following:

1-French bean with minced meat ($9.90)
The French beans used in this dish were evidently of good quality. They had a good crunch to them and tasted especially fresh. Sadly, they were put to a waste as they were a little undercooked and began to taste raw after some time in my mouth, resulting in a salad like feeling which could have
been masked with more sauce and minced meat. In the end, the stingy use of minced meat made the dish feel a little cheap. Portion is not very good, making it's $9.90 price tag a little inappropriate.

Fresh ingredients ruined by the cooking
2-Pan fried fish in black beans ($12.90)
This dish was especially good compared to the rest. The fish was fresh, showing no signs of fishy stench. It was lightly flavoured which pairs off well with the saltiness of the black-bean sauce and the juicy taste offered by generously cut leeks. The three primary ingredients mix well in your mouth to create a unique but also reminiscent taste of standard Chinese styled pan-fried fish. Again however, portion was bad.

Colourful and tasty
3-Crispy Chicken ($15.90-half)
This was another good dish. The chicken was dry and some parts were a little tough but it was surprisingly flavourful. The softer parts like the back and thigh were very succulent and its skin was fried to a golden crisp, brimming with a layer of natural chicken oil, making it especially fragrant to the bite.

Look closely at the skin,
It screams yummy!

4-Fried noodles with seafood ($13.90)
This dish was not at all pleasing. The noodles are made in a broad-cut style (dao xiao) which is a common way of preparing dry noodles in Taiwan. It is supposed to give the noodles more thickness and strength to provide a chewy texture. Although in this case, the noodles had the texture of Hor-Fun instead of La-mian. Furthermore, the noodles were very bland, and was close to the taste of plain water. The ingredients were also extremely rationed. The single piece of oyster made me think that it had accidentally fallen into the dish did not originally belong in the dish, until I saw the menu picture-which was topped with oysters. This was a very disappointing dish which is not worth your money. If you do visit the restaurant, try another selection of noodles instead.

Yes, there's an oyster in there...somewhere
5-Sausage wrapped in glutinous rice ($7.90)
I take personal offense to the restaurant's downright terrible preparation of this particular dish. Called (Da Chang Bao Xiao Chang) in Taiwan, this is a common and popular street snack made using glutinous rice to wrap around a Taiwanese sausage and an assortment of ingredients including peanuts, preserved vegetables, ketchup, special sauces and sometimes lettuce depending on the vendors personal recipe and served in a plastic bag tightly wrapped in paper. Shin Yeh Bistro's own version is laid out on a plate Ala gourmet style and topped with the standard ingredients. That is where the difference ends. The sausage used in the dish has neither the aroma nor sweet juiciness that Taiwanese sausages are known for and the glutinous rice was overly sticky and lazily prepared with little ingredients like krill to add to it's flavour. The sauce was an infant's attempt at recreating the authentic flavour. It is demeaning to borrow the name of the actual street snack as it lacks any form of authenticity beyond it's superficial look. (And yes, I know how the real thing tastes. I go there yearly and had lived there for more then six years)

The sauce is a mess...literally too.
Inconsistency is the best term used to describe Shin Yeh Bistro. Whilst it offers some delicious dishes, others are nasty and not worth their weight in price; quite literally, considering the stingy portions. Ultimately, it is a decent dining experience more so for families than other groups. Be careful of what you order though as some are lackluster and others are well worth a try. I would urge our readers to do more research on exactly what dishes to avoid and which ones to order before giving the restaurant a try. Better yet, avoid it altogether and head over to the Shin Yeh outlet at Liang Court for a more authentic and overall more satisfying experience. 

Have you eaten here before? What was your experience like? We're interested -do share with us in the comments below!

Quality & Taste(75%)
Nothing leaves an impression in a good way. 
Value (15%)
Not very good value considering high prices and stingy portions
Ambience & others (10%)
Presentable as expected of established restaurant chains. 
A somewhat plausible choice for a family Restaurant although there are many better family restaurants around.
#01-73, Square 2, Sinaran Drive

Operating Hours:
11:30-22:00 daily
Looks plain but really quite good

Fancy menu...

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