Review: Elita Restaurant, Galle, Sri Lanka

On the very first full day of our time in Sri Lanka, it became clear that the humidity was going to be the downfall for many of the members in our family party. While K, my brother, my father and I were able to persevere in the humidity, thanks in large part to our initial stay in Singapore, many of my aunts and uncles wilted in the humidity.

After just an hour of exploring Galle Fort’s walls and the town, many of my aunts and uncles decided to head into the air-conditioned comfort of a restaurant for lunch before heading back to the hotel. My group of four people persevered for a few more hours walking along the fort walls before heading into Elita Restaurant for an early lunch.  

While it’s still located within the fort, Elita is slightly off the beaten track and isn’t on one of the main streets with the other restaurants and cafes. Instead, it’s located in a more residential area. As I mentioned, we were early for lunch, and were in fact the first group to arrive in the restaurant – clearly, midday is too early for lunch in Sri Lanka!

This did mean that we got good service though, as the waiter was able to concentrate on the needs of our table. In ordering freshly-caught fish off the hand-written whiteboard menu, I wasn’t able to decide what type of fish we wanted. Naturally, the waiter brought out both fish – snapper and garupa – out to the table for us to inspect and choose from!

Fresh Steamed Full Fish (Garupa) in Curry Sauce with Garlic Butter Rice, Market Rates (about 1300 LKR)

We ended up choosing the garupa, Fresh Steamed Full Fish in Curry Sauce for the ridiculously low price of about $11 AUD. With those prices, why not eat fresh fish every day?! This curry sauce was quite light and aromatic, which complemented the delicious garupa. The fresh chopped chillies, herbs and spring onion really finished off the fish perfectly. 

Fresh Octopus Salad with Mango Dressing Salad, 2250 LKR

We ordered a Fresh Octopus Salad with Mango Dressing – deliciously marinated octopus served with freshly diced tomato and Spanish onion which gave it that extra lift. The sweet and fruity mango dressing was a winner as well. Is this dish for everyone? No – not everyone is a fan of the texture of octopus. But even my brother who is quite a picky eater was very happy to eat this dish, so I think that says something about how tender the octopus was, and how well the dressing went with it!

Fresh Tuna Steak with Lime Cream Sauce, Fries and Salad, 1750 LKR

The last main we ordered was the Fresh Tuna Steak with Lime Cream Sauce, fries and salad on the side. This wasn’t anything special – not when compared to the garupa. In fact, the tuna was actually a little bit dry, so the lime cream sauce was much needed to make it a bit more palatable. This is definitely not a winning dish, and we would have done better to order another garupa cooked in another sauce. Lesson learned – freshly caught local fish is a better choice!

The steamed fish (first dish) came with Garlic Butter Rice, and they put some Stir-fried Kangkong on top for us as well. The rich buttery rice helped to fill the corners of our stomachs and I was able to kid myself into thinking that it was vaguely healthy because of the greens on top…wishful thinking!

Elita Restaurant was a great find in the seaside town of Galle in Sri Lanka. It’s just far enough from the touristy centre that only those truly dedicated to great food will make the effort to find it, but close enough that it’s not a hassle to get there.

The food is cooked well and while definitely Sri Lankan in nature, has a slight East Asian or European touch which may come from the years spent training in Europe by the head chef. A great place to visit for those who find street food challenging, but don’t want to eat at tourist traps either. Fresh seafood at a reasonable price (just skip the tuna) – you can’t beat it.

Elita Restaurant is located at 34 Middle Street in Galle, Sri Lanka.

Eating in Singapore, December 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

Most travellers who have visited Singapore will cringe when I say this, but one of Dad’s favourite places to eat during our stay was the Food Opera food centre in the ION Orchard mall. I know, it’s not a legitimate hawker centre and you won’t walk out smelling like satay or prawn mee. But importantly, you do walk out feeling cool and refreshed after enjoying a meal in air-conditioned comfort, and that feeling is worth a million dollars in the overwhelming heat and humidity of Singapore.

We visited Food Opera a number of times during our visit, and never ate the same thing once. From chicken rice to bak kuh teh, yong tau foo to beef noodles, there’s enough variety at Food Opera to ensure that you can try something new with every meal. And while prices are slightly higher than what you would find in most outdoor hawker centres, you get your money’s worth in hygiene and comfort. The food isn’t bad either, and consistently reminded Dad of the kind of food he used to eat in the sixties in Hong Kong – truly traditional Cantonese cooking, without fancy modern embellishments. 

We did eat in outdoor hawker centres of course. We had Satay by the Bay after a stroll through the Gardens by the Bay, and cooled off with 2-for-1 weekday cendol from the same hawker centre. We made our way to Little India where we had murtabak and biryani. Kaya toast and roti breakfasts at random kopitiams along the road were not uncommon. 

The Chinatown markets were a hit as well, where we tried popiah, kueh pie tee, and what was literally THE freshest and most delicious wife cake I’ve ever had in my whole life- and I’ve eaten my fair share of wife cake! Shout out to Mini Toast House in Chinatown Markets (Shop #02-105) for their awesome wife cake. The other highlight of Chinatown was of course, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. The meals themselves may be simple, but the execution is brilliant – well worth a visit.

We’re lucky enough to also have the opportunity to catch up with family and friends in Singapore…expats / locals who can take us to fantastic places for dinner like No Signboard Seafood for amazing Singaporean chilli crab, salted egg yolk prawns, and chilli and garlic pippies, before finishing off the meal with some durian from a roadside stall. Or who can take us for delicious steamed buns (bao in Chinese, or strangely, pao in Singaporean) at Tiong Bahru markets before finishing off with matcha and almond croissants from the fancy pants hipster Tiong Bahru bakery.

In the few days we had in Singapore, I can honestly say that we never once had a bad meal. We didn’t plan ahead and book for fancy places, we really just stumbled across places and ate where we saw locals congregating. Our main goal was to always try something new at each meal, so that we could introduce my dad and brother to new dishes and flavours – and I think we succeeded in that as my dad absolutely loved Singapore’s food (though not the humidity!).

Singapore really is a foodie’s paradise, and I just know that the next time we go back, we’ll have just as good a time as we did this time. 

Review: Hawker Chan, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, Singapore

The Michelin Guide launched in Singapore in mid-2016. The one big revelation in the guide that got everyone talking was the awarding of a Michelin star to an unassuming little hawker stall in Chinatown markets, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. Costing mere dollars for a plate of their signature soya sauce chicken, it’s quite possibly the cheapest Michelin-starred eatery in the world.

Since it won the Michelin star, its fame has spread far and wide. The small hawker stall in Chinatown markets can no longer handle the amount of traffic it receives, and sells out by 2pm in the afternoon.

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That’s why we found ourselves heading to the brand-new sit-down restaurant opened as a larger branch of the hawker stall for a very late lunch one afternoon during our stay in Singapore. It’s still located in Chinatown, and is just opposite the markets so not too far from the original hawker stall.

The line is still long, but manageable. With sufficient seating and more than a dozen staff bussing tables, manning the till and preparing food in the kitchen, you’ll wait less than half an hour for a seat. Not bad!

Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle, $4.50SGD
Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle, $4.50SGD

The Soya Sauce Chicken is obviously the star of the show, and I can see why. The meat is ridiculously soft and tender, with the slightest hint of the soy braising. Where the soy is really highlighted is in the sauce which comes with the chicken no matter if you decide to have it served with rice, noodles or hor fun. It’s a fantastically rich, dark soy which tastes beautiful mixed through the noodles.

Char Siew Hor Fun, $4.80SGD
Char Siew Hor Fun, $4.80SGD

I don’t know if the Char Siew is on the menu at the original hawker stall, but I do recommend it for those who dine at the sit-down restaurant. While I think the char siew was better at Tasty BBQ in Bentleigh because of the sliver-thin slicing, the smokiness of this char siew was quite remarkable. Again, the soy sauce was fantastic mixed through the fresh slippery hor fun.

Soya Beansprouts, $3SGD
Soya Beansprouts, $3SGD

I find it difficult to have a meal without vegetables and so ordered the Soya Beansprouts. Very barely stir-fried, these beansprouts were still fresh and crunchy, enhanced by the crushed nuts on top. There’s no need to rely on heavy sauces in a dish like this when the produce is still so fresh and delightful eaten as is.

2 Combination Platter (Roasted Pork and Char Siew), $6SGD
2 Combination Platter (Roasted Pork and Char Siew), $6SGD

Despite having already had about four meals each prior to arriving at the restaurant, I decided that our group of four needed one more dish in order to complete our meal. I ordered the Two Combination Platter with Roasted Pork and Char Siew – unfortunately they were out of the Pork Ribs (the fourth type of meat they serve), so I had to opt for a second serving of the char siew. Worth it! 

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There are some who will argue that visiting the new sit-down restaurant isn’t as authentic as lining up for hours at the hawker stall. In most instances, I would probably agree with that statement. However considering the general heat and humidity of Singapore, I really don’t mind the occasional interlude in an air-conditioned restaurant when it means you don’t have to queue and wait for as long! 

Michelin-starred food at a bargain price. Surprisingly it’s not to everyone’s tastes – some German tourists sitting next to us actually ended up leaving the majority of their chicken on their plate when they left! I guess it really depends on your tastebuds and what you’re used to. For someone who’s grown up on this food though, Hawker Chan’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle not only tastes like the best of Singapore, but also like home.

The original Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, is located in the Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre in Singapore. Their first sit-down restaurant is located at 78 Smith Street in Singapore.