Are you all “Shiok” up over the latest Singaporean restaurant in Vancouver?
The latest in a series of Asian restaurants that have recently sprouted up along Kingsway, Shiok offers Singaporean cuisine in a casual dining experience similar to a hawkers centre in the land of Crazy Rich Asians. I’ve been to Singapore before and loved the casual atmosphere of hawker food courts – rows of small stalls of eateries selling satays, laksa noodles, bone broth soups, curries and more. You go up to the stall, pay, order, and get the food delivered to you at your table. Shiok offers a similar format, but within a small 20-30 seat restaurant.
After being influenced by all the Instagram-worthy coverage of this new restaurant, and being excited for the promise of roti prata (Indian flatbread with a chicken curry to dip it into), satay skewers of chicken and beef, laksa noodle soup, and Hainan chicken rice, I decided to check it out for myself with my family for an early birthday celebration.
The menu is quite simplistic. Snack items such as roti prata, crispy fried chicken wings, satay skewers, and more are $5 each order. Main entree items such as Hainanese chicken & rice, Laksa noodles, chicken curry, beef rendang curry, Mee Siem noodle dish, and more are all $10 each. Drinks such as Singapore condensed milk coffee or tea, barley water, chrysanthemum tea, and more are $2 for hot and $2.50 for cold drinks. They also offer a few dessert dishes. Prices we considered reasonable, so we decided to order several snacks and entrees to order and share for 6 people.
We ordered the roti prata (1 big piece of flatbread to tear up and dip in curry), crispy fried chicken wings (6 pieces per order), satay beef skewers (4 per order), satay chicken skewers (4 per order), Hainanese boneless chicken rice, two orders of laksa (one with yellow noodles, one with white noodles, but you can also order it mixed within the same bowl if you want), Mee Siem (Sweet, sour, and mildly spicy rice vermicelli topped with shrimp, tofu puffs, and egg served in a tamarind-base gravy), beef rendang (spicy curried coconut beef served with rice), and chili squid & shrimp (cooked in a spicy tomato sauce served with rice).
Verdict? I really enjoyed the snack items (so good that we were too busy to take photos of these dishes!) – the crispy fried chicken wings have a prawn-spiced coated batter and was crisp and great value for the order. Stick to the satay chicken skewers – felt the beef ones were overcooked a bit, but the chicken skewers were nice and tender and had a nice peanut sauce to accompany it. The roti prata was standard – not as fluffy as expected compared to some of the other local Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in town. Overall – I’d definitely order the chicken wings again!
For the entrees, I found most of the dishes lacking – whether it was taste or presentation. The laksa noodles’ soup base wasn’t as rich as we had hoped it would be – could use more coconut milk and stewing of the spices.
The chili squid & shrimp was flavorful but was expecting larger shrimp and squid pieces. The plating for that dish was even more disappointing as it looked like minimal effort was taken into consideration.
The beef rendang was too tough, dry and chewy – signs of overcooking or using a cheaper cut of beef that doesn’t stew well – would have much preferred a beef brisket or shank to be braised long enough so it’s tender and soft.
The Hainanese chicken was also not as good compared to other restaurants who offer a larger plate of chicken accompanied with the rice. The only saving grace for the entree dishes was the Mee Siem, as the sweet, sour and spicy rice vermicelli was tasty, however was drowning in the tamarind-base gravy.
Overall, I was quite disappointed on my visit (was hoping it would the first of many). I had my hopes up that Vancouver finally got a reasonably priced Singaporean/Malaysian restaurant that didn’t require me to go all the way downtown, Richmond and/or Vancouver west-side. As this restaurant is brand new, hopefully they continue to improve their menu and quality of their food offered. Vancouver needs more Singaporean / Malaysian cuisine that’s reasonably priced and in convenient locations with free parking, so I’m hoping this restaurant will improve on its flavours and presentation so it becomes a staple in the community.
Arriving around 5:30PM on a Thursday evening, the restaurant was just starting up for the evening with only a couple of tables of people, but by 6:30PM we noticed it full! For those wanting to try this out, get here early or order to go. Restaurant is only open for dinner 4:30PM – 7:30PM Tuesday through Saturday, and also lunch service from 11:30AM-2:30PM. Limited free parking available on the side streets.
Shiok is located at 1716 Kingsway, between Victoria and King Edward.