Conveniently located, affordably priced good food. Shiok!
Shiok is a Malay-Singaporean word describing utter bliss – i.e. “This char kway teow is shiok!” I imagine it’s a colloquial used with the same fervor of the Western equivalent: “This noodle dish rocks!” Semantics aside, I say that Shiok aptly describes its quality of food and the restaurant experience.
It’s just my little family of three tonight but I estimate that I alone order a quarter of the menu. I’m greedy like that, which is why a dear friend of mine describes me as “… why I love you so much – you’re a girl after my own gluttonous heart!” It’s easy to order a lot here, the menu’s compact. The fishball noodle soup (P140) has a light coconut-base, a broth in which swim egg noodles and fish balls, the latter being sufficiently bouncy and not overly floury. It’s hot and settles my stomach on this wet evening. There’s a surfeit of soup though and I want more noodles. I wonder if I can order more?
But then the char kway teow arrives (P140), darkly smoldering and shining. Flat rice noodles stir-fried with chili paste and errant bits of seafood – some say this is Singapore’s national dish – adequately sates appetite and glosses lips. It lacks that flavor I look for in more satisfactory versions of this dish but for now, this works.
Like its menu, Shiok is a small place. It’s shaped like a backwards ‘L’ with an open kitchen off to the side. The space has been utilized well however. There’s enough space between the tables, barring any exaggerated perceptions of personal space one might have, and the serving staff are models of efficiency and courtesy, changing plates, refilling water glasses.
This is the curry katsu rice (P190) that Boo orders. It looks naked because it is. Hunger has put my daughter in a monstrous mood so I offer her whatever familiarity I can; right now, it’s this dish, a pseudo “tonkatsu. ” The staff is kind enough to serve it with the curry sauce on the side; it’s slightly salty but goes well with the crunchy pork cutlet, judging from the tiny bit that Boo offers to me. (Yes, she’s really my daughter: greedy when it comes to food.) I want to come back and have this dish in its entirety. I think I’ll like it very much.
My favorite dish tonight is the nonya spiced pork belly (P160) a pork cut I consider more pleasure than peril. Gleaming in its porky perfection, it’s meat, fat, meat, fat, ooh, crunchy! skin – every bite gushing oil and rendering flavors steeped deep in spice and long marinating. This dish gets its uniqueness from a key ingredient in Nonya (also Nyonya) cooking: belacan, a dried shrimp paste that imbues dishes with a fascinating, indecipherable I-want-more flavor. The pork belly works well with the stir fried long beans (P95) that also possess hints of belacan and make successive orders of rice necessary.
Speaking of rice, there are lots of choices here: belacan, coconut, jasmine (all P40), and of course, Hainanese chicken rice (P245), just one of the rice dish sets available at Shiok. The chicken rice initially looks like a serving of paltry poultry; but it’s a fact quickly forgotten upon first taste of the impossibly moist meat sitting in its sauce of chicken fat and light soy sauce. My Bin makes quick work cobbling together a sauce of sambal, ginger, and thick soy sauce. How delighted he is when I tell him that another bowl of just the rice is available for only P40. So he hails the waiter and orders another bowl of rice plus another order of the Hainanese chicken rice. (!)
I’ll grant that Shiok isn’t truly authentic Singaporean-slash-Malay, a complaint of some people I’ve talked to. But consider that removing a food from its home country and spawning it in a new place does tend to change more than just a few things, authenticity being only one of them. I’m just glad this type of food is available in Manila, and at such affordable prices, too.
Bonifacio Stop Over
31st and 2nd St, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig