The Place A pop-up store by the famous Hong Kong’s Mui Kee Congee is now at Botanic Garden’s Casa Verde – the casual dining concept by the Les Amis Group, which manages various restaurants including the Two-Michelin starred Les Amis (read our full review here). Hailing from Hong Kong. Mui Kee Congee is a hawker stall based in Mong Kok, serving both breakfast and supper at the incessantly busy district. The Les Amis Group has collaborated and brought this popular congee concept since late June this year to serve up at Casa Verde for the next 6 months.
Casa Verde is located at the visitor’s centre of Singapore Botanic Gardens at Nassim Gate, a good 15 minutes brisk walk away from the Botanic Garden’s MRT Station located at the Bukit Timah Gate. The majority of the seats at Casa Verde are outdoor amidst the greenery here, subject to the merciless Singapore weather.
The Food The highlight of our visit was for the Congee, no surprise there. And just be warned, many Hong Kongers and fans of this Congee are flocking here too, so be prepared for a long wait during peak dining hours and on weekends. We waited for a good 90 minutes before we could savour the popular Congee. Meanwhile, you can chill amongst the greeneries while waiting with instant coffee (not something I usually associate with the refined Les Amis Group) and some pastries (again, rather sub-standard Danish pastries which disappointed us badly). Yes, Casa Verde does serve up other mains including Italian options (Pasta and Pizza) and local delights (Nasi Lemak and Laksa).
Back to the highlight, there are 8 choices of Mui Kee Congee to choose from with 5 Classics (S$12.50) and 3 Premiums (S$14.50). Each congee takes about five hours to be prepared in order to achieve that consistent creamy texture, with no artificial flavouring or MSG added. The sweetness of the congee comes naturally from the ingredients added, with the wok-hei on point during our visit. All orders come in a set, which includes fried dough fritters (aka ‘You Tiao’) and century eggs.
The 5 Classics are Sliced Fish, Homemade Meatballs, Pig’s Inmates, Sliced Beef and the Pork with Century Egg, whereas the Premium options include the Fish Belly, Scallop and a Combination option (Classic + Premium). Unfortunately, the highly recommended Fish Belly Congee was sold out during our visit, hence we settled for the Classic Sliced Fish and Pork with Century Egg instead.
Both the congee turned out quite underwhelming, perhaps due to the high expectations that came along with our 90 minutes wait. It was admittedly a very satisfying breakfast, with a well executed congee, crispy dough fritters and fresh ingredients added to the piping hot congee, but there was nothing particular that stood out. In fact, there are many other local congee establishments which serve equally (if not more) comforting versions, such as Sin Heng Kee Porridge at Hougang and Yishun.
The original Hong Kong branch has a couple more favourites to offer though, including their Dough Fritters wrapped in Rice Noodle Roll, and the Steamed Carrot Cake. Hopefully these classics will make their way to Singapore eventually.
Rants The wait was definitely too long to render any meal satisfying, and the prices are astronomical for a bowl of congee, a small serving no less. That said, the service was warm despite the crowd.
Will I Return Again? Perhaps a no from us. But if you have not tasted this Hong Kong congee and have been curious about it, our recommendation is to wait for the initial craze to die off or visit during weekdays, and you might just return with a shorter waiting time.
Taste bud: 3.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 3/5
1 Cluny Road
Singapore Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre
Tel: +65 6467 7326
Daily 730am to 11pm
Ranted by The Rantee