Previously located at Guillemard Road, Char has now moved to a new space at 363 Jalan Besar, a few doors away from the Punggol Nasi Lemak branch there.
Taking a larger shophouse space now, Char now boasts two levels of dining spaces, with the second level only opened if the first level is filled. We have previously visited Char when they were still situated at Guillemard Road, and this new outlet despite its somewhat similar decor is slightly less colourful is also dimmer. The menu has not really changed ever since the Guillemard Road days, still offering a couple of Zi Char staples such as fried rice and other sides alongside the signature roast meats.
One can never leave Char saying that they have tried Char if they did not order their Special Char Siew. Being their signature ever since they have opened their doors, the Special Char Siew is the only Char Siew available on the menu, and it is recommended that one should call in to reserve the Char Siew a few days in advance if you are intending to dine-in. Described as using traditional methods with modern cooking techniques, the Char Siew here is pretty unlike those you would get in traditional hawker stalls; instead, the meat is cooked through the sous-vide method, which gives it a soft texture where the meat literally melts on the tongue. Coated with a sweet, dark-coloured honey sauce atop, the Char Siew bore a strong hint of sweetness. Due to its cooking method, the Special Char Siew can be pretty controversial for some people as their version despite being pretty pleasant, can be less attractive to purists who love their Char Siew done traditionally for it lacks the bite that traditional roasting would provide. Still one of the dishes you should try at least once in your life.
Their Roast Pork is also one of the dishes that one should not miss here. Being on the slightly leaner side, the roast pork carried a hint of Thyme from its marination and carries the meaty flavour pretty well. One thing we particularly liked about the Roast Pork here is how biscuity-crisp the skin is, even after being left for quite some time.
Trying their other Zi Char dishes, we have also ordered the Beef Hor Fun to share. Most of the Zi Char menu items are offered in a single size here at Char. While it was well-executed and tasted pretty consistent throughout the entire plate with the sweet yet savoury sauce going round the entire dish coming with chunks of beef, it was lacking the wok hei that would make it really perfect.
Yet another Zi Char classic would be the Salted Egg Yolk Pork. This was actually pretty satisfying considered that they use real salted egg here for the dish, for you could fish out bits and pieces of salted egg yolk lying around. Pork chunks were pretty well-sized and chunky that carries just enough bite, and that the sauce carried an evident flavour of salted egg that was not too overpowering. Liked how they included shreds of cabbage underneath which gives it a sweet and savoury touch with the salted egg yolk sauce.
The Shrimp Paste Chicken was also done pretty well. Plated neatly with the joints separated, the wings were crisp and juicy, carrying a distinct umami flavour from the shrimp paste that made it pretty satisfying even as a bar bite to order along with the wide range of alcohol/tap beer available here.
Char has been one of the few places that are known to have incorporated traditional Chinese recipes with modern cooking techniques, and this is exactly what makes it unique in the casual dining scene in Singapore. The prices here may not be exactly affordable, but the food here is well-executed in the mid-tier price range although with some misses. This is one of those places that does not give a gastronomical experience (perhaps the Special Char Siew might, but it really boils down to individual taste), but most of the dishes served are indeed classics done well. A restaurant that is good for small family gatherings over not-so-conventional Chinese fare that is yet suitable for both the young and old.
363 Jalan Besar
Web Page: http://www.char.com.sg/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/charrestaurant