NEX, Serangoon. Don’t bother asking me what NEX stands for or who came up with it. So elusive. Terribly bizarre.
That’s where we were heading. I crossed my fingers for decent finds, considering the fact that I had no idea what to expect and how I hadn’t stepped into any other part of Singapore other than around the bustling lights of Orchard Road for a painfully long time.
Yesterday was the official first session of the Culinary Appreciation Society, so we were put into a few groups to visit a myriad of different places. This society has the words ‘culinary’ and ‘appreciation’, so that was good reason enough to join. Mind you, savoury over gorging, as goes my motto. I highlight right here to all food chums: Japanese food can throw my control right out the window sometimes.
And here I present to you banana fritters with vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream, slivered almonds and a gruesome maraschino cherry (if it’s one thing I’ll never be able to tolerate, it’s maraschino cherries).
On a partially full stomach, I was only willing to share little edible trinkets here and there, whilst gobbling down everyone’s available (and hopelessly neglected) caramelised onions. Onion Chomper is destined to be my middle name, both in this life and the next. I swear on my life. Those banana fritters were fried to a crisp, lava-hot texture and consistency, which went wonderfully with the frigid vanilla accompaniment. Not real vanilla bean ice cream or anything similar, of course. One mustn’t expect too much in order to be pacified or satisfie. Those after-school munchies got the better of me though, so I sacrificed some ordinary pleasure.
Two choices here: heavily ‘breaded’ or ‘crispy’. The crispy ones turned out like mini sweet spring rolls, whilst the breaded resembled dessert-like frozen orange fish fingers waiting to be drenched in some white chorus of a sauce. Almost incongruous, but yet fit in reluctantly. A little boy wearing a pink hat, I should say. Most unfortunately, Ruru and I agreed on how they went soft, cold and soggy after a while, failing to uphold a sustainable crisp factor. The beauty never lasted, but the slivered almonds were an appropriate accessory. And to be perfectly honest, they should have served it with a knife and fork, to cater to the common motion of the common human hand.
You can see the second picture right there, a golden halo praising the wonders of the almighty Japanese ramen. Not my choice, but I picked at it with high hopes. The bowl hid a dozen treasures locked within a thick, sodium-choked translucent broth. The meatball I tried was lacklustre and seemed to have lost all its flavour in the heat of the noodle-themed excitement. Broth was salty but almost addictive. I found more satisfaction in its brown-mirror like visual appeal, poking around just to see the appealing ripples. I’ve had more round tasting, chewier strands before, though perhaps I’m not the one to propose a full-blown review on this dish, since I’m not the biggest fan of noodles in the first place. Let’s not stubbornly claim the superiority of a single personality!
Now what I do love are the extended features of this gargantuan menu.
Sorry, my mistake.
Three menus. Or was it four? Someone correct me. I felt like a helpless baby seal standing amongst schools of fish, scared of picking the wrong one, yet at the same time half-ready to pounce on each choice out there. Frustration tingled and the displayed visuals were magnanimous. Too much and annoyingly kind. I watched on as one member wolfed down an entire pizza whilst another savoured some smoked salmon aglio olio. This was the food community I have come to know of in one unpretentious evening; just one group with a gluttonous inclination and adventurous spirit. Other groups hopped down to Prata Wala, a famous and apparently extremely brilliant prata place, Carl’s Junior for some puzzling reason and many other little stops.
Good company is a plus point, elevating the entire scene, whilst juxtaposed with multiple dishes. I looked sadly at all the ordered glasses of water. 30 cents for such orders? Dear.
May I also quietly add that some people had to wait quite a long while just to get simple (and mediocre) dishes such as soft-shell crab. On the whole, it was a decent introduction to what I may expect to come in the following weeks, and I’m so pleased to be part of a group which shares the same passion for noshing. To really just enjoy having our heads buried in menus or in a bowl or plate of some delicacy or another. We shall unite in appreciation, and gastronomic absurdity.
A pleasure and privilege indeed.
Ministry of Food (MOF)
23 Serangoon Central