2090 Mountain St. (de la Montagne)
Tel. 288-1585. M-F 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.; Sat 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Major cards. Dinner for 2 $40 -$70 with beer, taxes and tip.
Chinese, Malay, and Indian make up Singapore's population and the city-state is renowned for its street food. In the best of all possible worlds, Montreal too would have stands selling pan fried noodles, steamed dumplings, and soft shell crab on the street.
Until then, Le Singapour will do. This is a lovely downtown restaurant with a windowed terrace at sidewalk level and a larger room down a small flight of stairs. There is an attention to detail that is striking. The comfortable seating, the white and dark blue napery, the arrangement of food and dishes, the service, the subdued jazz in the background and flowers, and the free evening parking around the corner at 2000 Drummond (after 5 pm, good for 90 minutes with a $30 dinner tab).
Ideally, Singapore cooking strikes a balance with the best of Asian. Familiar Chinese dishes such as General Tao's chicken exist comfortably on the menu with Thai soups and a few curries. The range is neither extensive nor bizarre. The flavour range is comfortable for those who like Chinese or Indian cooking.
Most main dishes, and all of the dinners for one, are priced between $10 and $20. The set meals are excellent value and there is a Sunday brunch, from noon to 3 pm, with about two dozen freshly prepared dishes. It is a good all-you-can-eat deal. Adults pay $11.95. Children under 12 pay $4.95.
We sampled several dishes. There is potential for great eating, but what we sampled showed inconsistencies in the kitchen.
The won ton soup was weak, with scant chicken flavour, but the sweet and sour soup won us over with mushrooms, tofu and shredded dried vegetables and a balance of pepper with the vinegar and sugar. The Tom Yum Thai seafood soup was tasty with perfectly cooked shrimp, plus scallops and fish. Egg rolls were crisp but not greasy, although the filling could have used more variety.
The surprises of the evening were an excellent seafood pan-fried noodle, a very good Yu Hsiang eggplant riddled with small chilies and a great sauce. There was also an excellent chicken and potato curry. We requested this very spicy. It was good but, once again, those of us who crave extra spicy food did not get the respect or Scoville units we crave. An appetizer of soft shell crab was tasty and crunchy. However, soft shell crabs are now available frozen and are on menus all year round. This is no longer a seasonal dish, which is disappointing. Frozen does not compare with fresh.
On the down side of the ledger was a chicken Sambal, similar to a curry but with a coconut sauce. However, this one was bland, with little coconut or meat flavour. The dinner for one was good value, but included an uninspired shrimp and Hunan dumpling appetizer.
The true measure of a restaurant is the "Would we go again" test. Le Singapour gets high marks here. The hundred or so dishes on the menu are worth sifting through to find favourites. The Sunday Brunch may be a superb deal and I want to try more dishes from the East Asian range of the menu, maybe a large bowl of seafood and noodle soup. Reviewed by Barry Lazar