Updated: 6th Jan 2011: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.
We met up with Angie and her kids for lunch over a weekend … oh … more than a month ago. You can see how behind I am in my dining out blog posts.
Angie is to us a really good cook. You should check out her food blog which mainly focuses on recipes with a bit of dining outs. Her site is called Sea Salt With Food.
We decided to meet in a Malaysian restaurant. We hem’d and haw’d between Chili Padi and Prima Taste and finally forced to decide on Prima Taste because Chili Padi was closed for the Muslim holiday. Prima Taste is located in downtown Vancouver (specifically 570 Robson Street). Locating this place is easy but, whew, parking is expensive in downtown isn’t it? We managed to get a spot on the street parking which is much cheaper.
Prima Taste is very much more a Singaporean restaurant than a Malaysian one. For all intents and purposes, Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines are not only similar, they are one and the same. Did you know that Singapore was a state in Malaysia in the 1960’s? Anyway, Prima Taste refects every bit of Singapore … from huge posters of the Singapore city to the modern and clean decor and lines. It is definitely a very comfortable restaurant for sure and certainly one of the best looking Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant in Metro Vancouver by far.
Prima Taste’s origin started off as manufacturer of Ready-to-cook mixes and is based in Singapore. The Prima Taste brand is popular around the world when it comes to these mixes. Suanne tried using their Singapore Chilli Crab mixes before and had blogged about it here. We like Prima Taste’s mixes.
But before I continue, can I ask permission from you readers that I be honest here? I get lambasted sometimes for expressing my personal opinions especially in areas which is deemed as negative. It is just my opinion and yours may differ … and I accept that. So here goes …
We ordered mainly from their single servings section of the menu — you know, noodles and rice dishes. All their dishes looked OK to good. On the taste department, I know I am measuring this to authentic Malaysian and Singapore food, I am sorry to say that they are pretty bland to just OK.
I think they might have tried too hard to tone down the flavor to cater for the downtown crowd. If so, I understand why.
The Laksa Fried Rice above looked yummy.
The Char Koay Teow is simply too wet. It was so wet that it was almost like a KL Hokkien Mee already. Maybe Singaporeans makes Char Koay Teow like this but Malaysian ones are certainly not like this. What is really missing is the fried pork lard bits and cockles … LOL! Tough luck finding these here in Vancouver. I am sorry to say it is just disappointing to me.
The above is the Seafood Mee Goreng (mee goreng means fried noodles in Malay). It looked pretty amd colorful especially with the reddish tomato and green peas. But … tomatoes and green peas in a Malaysian dish? If they had called this something else, like Seafood fried noodles with peas and tomatoes, it would have been OK. My puny brain just does not connect “Seafood Mee Goreng” with peas and tomatoes.
The Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodle (which we assumed is Hokkien Mee) was ordered by Suanne. When it came all of us looked at each other and collectively said … “What? Is this Hokkien Mee?” Where we came from Hokkien Mee is supposed to be black or brown but never white. LOL! And the noodles too, they where the thin types and all cut up.
I think they cut it up because it makes it easier for the people to eat this with a spoon. Sorry (again) to say this but I think cutting up noodles is a bad idea … just like cutting up a burger to spoon sizes to make it easier to eat with a spoon is a bad idea.
Angie and us debated this whole issue about the WHITE Fried Hokkien Mee for days. LOL! We just can’t understand this. We finally settled on “maybe Singaporean’s Fried Hokkien Mee are white”. Any Singaporeans out there who can give us guidance?
I say that the Prawn Noodle Soup looked bland because I expected it to be like a Penang Prawn Noodle Soup which is reddish and spicy. Technically, this is correctly termed as prawn noodle soup because it has prawns.
The Laksa Prawns looked creamy enough with a good amount of coconut milk. Again, this was not a dish I tried and does not know how it was. It sure looked respectable … raw cockles would have made it better, right?
The (Fried) Chicken Rice looked very good and tasted real good too. They could do with giving a few more pieces of chicken meat though.
The Fried Chicken Rice came with Yow Fan (translated as Oily Rice?). Again, this one is good and full of flavour … and good enough even eaten on its own.
Angie’s kids ordered Cendol as dessert. We miss cendol here.
So … we all were quite disappointed with the meal. It is because we might have unfairly measured this meal with the type of Malaysian food we are accustomed to. They are not bad food, far from it but we are just commenting from the standpoint of authenticity. We also fully understand that because of the location of Prima Taste right smack in the middle of downtown, perhaps they thought it wise to cater more to the tastes of their main customer.
Despite the comments above by me, I must say that we had a great time meeting up for lunch. Prima Taste is a good place and has the right kind of setting for chatting (they don’t rush you off even when you had finished your meal).
The bill came up to $95 in all. We find it on the high side and again understandable because Prima Taste is in downtown.
One thing for sure, we love Prima Taste mixes … as for the restaurant … well … YOU should go and try and let me know your thoughts.
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Originally Malaysian here but lived and travelled to Singapore a bit. Singapore’s Hokkien mee is indeed white and looks like what you got. There should be some seafood in there and the sauce is a thick seafood broth based one. And it’s usually quite delicious too! (As is the black Hokkien mee!)
I am a believer that not all post ought to be positive. If you find something negative you should mention it and we will make an judgement based on what you wrote. Hey, who knows, you might be taking the bullet for us! Of course, you should tell us why you did not like it. If you went to a steakhouse but you hated it because you are a vegetarian, well, that’s not a fair assessment…
I have been to Prima Taste in the past and went with Jessica a couple of weeks ago (blog post pending!). My dining companion was great but the food has some opportunities for improvement.
Prima Taste is a Singapore restaurant, so many of their dishes are more similar to Singapore style, not Malaysian style. Their Chay koay Teow, prawn noodle soup, hokkien mee, laksa etc.. are pretty authentic Singapore style. They cook from the prima taste packages so the taste is almost always the same.
Singaporean & Malaysian food are similar but not the exact same.
First off, I must say thank you for the GREAT REVIEWS, I often come here to find restaurants to check out. I been a silent reader for a while now, but I must say I truly enjoy prima taste. However I neither Singaporian or Malaysian. Therefore, I am judging purely base on taste. In fact, I recently did a review on Prima Taste (btw, you guys inspired me to do my own reviews since I love to eat.).
Anyways, I am glad you did a negative review, because it fun to read about different opinions. Once again thanks for doing detailed reviews, you guys are by far the best reviewers around, and I read at least 4 food blogs.
I totally agree with Kim Ho! I’m going to move up our post on Prima Taste to Today so check it out at 2:17PM!
It’s always good to be honest and say you didn’t like a place because it’s your honest opinion and that way we know how you really felt.
Hi Ben, Suanne,
Singapore Hokkien Mee is indeed white, but the noodles are not “supposed” to be cut up. The laksa is also quite authentic even though fresh cockles would have made it even nicer.
My husband and I have noticed that the quality (taste and portion) of the food at Prima Taste has dropped somewhat from a year ago – we’ve stopped going as frequently as before..
Are some of these dishes similar to Indonesian food too? There used to be an Indonesian restaurant in Honolulu that had a dish with the word “Goreng” in it. That’s all I know but that’s why I think it seems similar…
“But before I continue, can I ask permission from you readers that I be honest here? I get lambasted sometimes for expressing my personal opinions especially in areas which is deemed as negative. It is just my opinion …”
I actually love to read your criticism about the restaurants because it’s more honest less diplomatic/neutral. Because there’s very few restaurants that are nearly perfect. How can a review only have pros no cons, right?
Over here in S’pore, there are 2 types of hokkien mee. The white type is usually cooked with prawns, squid and egg and we usually eat it with sambal chilli, v yummy. The other kind is cooked with flat noodles and is black or brown. They are also cooked with prawns, squid and usually with fish cake as well. No eggs are added though. The black type goes well with green cut chilli. Hope this clarifies.
LOL! When I ate Hokkien Mee in Singapore, I had exactly your same reaction! Yes, they are white. But not cut up lah!
Btw, this is really costly ler. Compared to your visit to the Imperier Court, I’d rather dine there!
I was taken to Prima by a Singaporean friend who said it was the absolute best in Van – another mutual Singaporean friend agreed. I had never had Singaporean food prior, so I don’t know what to judge it by.
I agree – I found that the flavours weren’t very strong. I thought perhaps it was just the way Singapore toned down the dishes. My favourite one was the chicken with yao fan as well.
The other dishes weren’t particularly memorable, but nor were they bad. I found the flavours at least worked quite well. The presentation style I found a bit dubious/amusing – a mound of fried rice on a plate that evidently wanted to be presentable/flashy.
For East/South Asian food it’s definitely expensive compared to other places, but I liked it overall.
What do you think of Tropika?
Hey Ben, very informative review! By and large, Singaporean and Malaysian food are very similar, albeit with regional differences in particular dishes. Speaking in generalities, it is safe to say that any particular Singaporean dish would be more similar to its equivalent in Johor Bahru than say Penang.
I gotta say the char kuay teow looks very wet to me as well – certainly nothing like the version you would find in SGP. If you would like a reasonable facsimile of char kuay teow in Richmond, try the one @ the curry stall in Yaohan Centre.
As for the hokkien mee, the Singaporean version doesn’t have dark soy added to it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “dark” version of this dish, but I would sure like to give the it a taste test though…
The chendol looks good – does it have real gula melaka? 🙂
i’d been using prima taste mixes to satisfy cravings for singaporean foods here in melbourne. while the price are pretty high compared to other brands of premix, they are by far the most complete and maybe, authentic ones.
i agree, cockles and pork lard are the hardest to find in overseas version of char kway teow, but then again, we are overseas. even in malaysia/singapore, it is not every time you get pork lard either.
i am malaysian, but i grew up (childhood and most of teenagehood) in singapore, and even though both country’s foods are pretty similar, they are indeed different, maybe subtle way.
singapore has the best chicken rice, malaysia has better char kway teow. two versions of prawn mee in singapore (one known as hokkien mee as you already tried)
From what I know, there’s actually 3 versions of Hokkien Mee. Hokkien Mee in Singapore is the white version kinda like above. Hokkien Mee in KL is the black version with cockles & pork lard. If you go to Perak or Penang, the Hokkien Mee is actually Prawn Noodle Soup. So confusing, ya?
I’ve been to the Prima Taste Restaurant in San Jose, California and didn’t like the food there either.
Singapore’s Hokkien mee is indeed white with a lovely broth normally. Things like cockles and lard you will find in the country itself but it’s probably more difficult to find them in Canada. You’ll also find many Singaporeans refusing lard and cockles in their food nowadays because they are getting very health conscious. A pity.
I prefer my Prawn Noodle Soup with just a rich prawn and pork rib broth, leaving me to add my own ground or fresh chilli. This way I can taste the quality of the broth better.
I was in Penang last summer and had an eating binge. Penang’s hawker food is very different from Singapore’s and has its own charm. However, at the end of the day, I still prefer Singapore’s – because I’m used to it. I find Singapore’s food less oily and more subtil in taste and once again, it’s personal
You should indeed be honest about your opinions and people would have to respect that and then learn to judge for themselves. Personally I do not use all of Prima Taste’s mixes – some of them are very good, many I didn’t like at all.
Thanks a lot for the comments Beaulotus. I enjoyed reading them. 🙂 Like me, I see that you think about food in Singapore/Malaysia a lot. LOL!