Review: Eggs & Things
Much Ado About Eggs 'n (No)thing
Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Rd,
#03-79/83, Singapore 238839
There is a palpable air of expectation lingering about the recently opened Eggs 'n Things, located at the new wing of Plaza Singapura at level 3. Eggs 'n Things originally hails from the sunny island of Hawaii with its first outlet opened at Ena Road by brothers, Jerry and Jan Fukunaga. At present, they have four outlets in Hawaii and a sizeable operation in Japan with nineteen stores stretched across the country. Tales of lines forming and snaking around the block at their Tokyo outfits run rampant probably because it’s mostly true. Given the number of stores, it must also stand true that the Japanese have a penchant for all-day breakfast food such as pancakes, toast, and of course eggs.
You will be hard-pressed to miss their first outlet outside of Japan and Hawaii located right here at Plaza Singapura. Lined against the low wall of the outlet are tall, congratulatory flower stands left-over from their launch on Christmas week of 2017. What it hides is a spacious, bright, and wood-based interior, a marked difference from the previous tenant, Skinny Pizza, where dark woods and equally dim lighting is the order of the day. I visited the outlet at four p.m on a weekday; hardly a peak period for any restaurant, good repute or otherwise. The servers milled around the almost empty restaurant, dressed in a floral monstrosity of both an apron and a shirt. It felt more like a throwback to the nineties than a dedication to the tropical island of Hawaii. But, I digress.
The Grand menu is probably grand in as far as the prices are concerned. But if it were to reflect the prices more veraciously, it should be called exorbitant.
Perhaps it is food well worth the price they’re charging. Perhaps it’s the unavoidable overheads that are reflective of its prime location at this new wing. Perhaps it’s the cost of specialised ingredients that go into making the well-loved dishes on the Grand Menu.
There is a dichotomy between the simple pleasure of egg and its elevation to fine cuisine. But to justify its price here as an omelette (they use three grand ole’ eggs in every omelette) or poached would require a huge stretch of the imagination. Imagination to convince oneself that these prices are perfectly acceptable for something as pedestrian as eggs and vegetables.
I stifle my initial misgivings. This is after all, food many would stand in line for. There must be something I’m missing.
The first dish to arrive is the Ahi Poke Bowl. A classic Hawaiian staple of rice and raw fish at its purest, this version came with tuna, cucumber, onion, seaweed, sesame seeds and a bright yellow egg yolk perched prettily on top. There was a pervading sharp taste of onion throughout the dish that detracts from the overall objective of the Poke Bowl: the raw fish. This is probably one of the most colourful and vibrant dishes of this late lunch, as we would soon discover. But that onion. That onion stays around long after its overstayed welcome.
Potatoes are a big thing here at Eggs 'n Things. It’s served as an option to almost every dish we had. Chopped into big chunks, it is apparently prepared in-house with special spices which no one bothered knowing (including the servers) but I reckon it's seasoned liberally with a pinch of disinterest and a sprinkling of blandness. The Universe asks of many things, chief of which is why were these potatoes ferociously baked till it's void of moisture and the spirit to exist?
To be fair, I thought of cutting into the omelette to revel in its content; hopefully green with the freshness of a summer's day, the cheese lusciously gooey, rich, and cloying. I desperately wanted this dish to burst with flavours unknown just to justify its price. At SGD19.90, for a combination of eggs, spinach and cheese (mozzarella, pepper jack or cheddar) it needs to be an elevated version of convenient food, but sadly it is merely a lazy attempt at cooking and pushing things around in a pan.
The next dish to arrive is 'Surf & Turf'. Its moniker is inspired by the combination of meat (turf, as in on the grass) and seafood (surf, as in water). The meat of choice here is a thin, sad slab of beef served medium done but rather unevenly. The seafood is three marinated prawns pan-fried and served alongside salad and eggs (done according to personal preference). This is Eggs 'n Things' version of Surf and Turf, but I wouldn't fault anyone for thinking this resembles more closely to the one served at a Western stall of a hawker center.
Where did Eggs 'n Things gets the audacity of selling something this prosaic at a price point that is, at its best ambitious, at its worse, daylight robbery?
The chef explained that the prawns were marinated in-house (with their special woo-woo marinate), refrigerated and cooked upon order. Sadly this meant that the prawns are not fresh.
I daren’t expect seafood that is ‘leap out of the sea’ fresh, but these prawns are audaciously dull. It lacks a bounce to the bite, with a texture resembling closer to rubber than the open sea. Overcooked prawns have a shell that sticks to flesh for dear life and here on this plate is a fine example of prawns that exist only as a mere concept.
The beef fared no better. It was thin as if pounded from a striploin cut and cooked medium, at least on one side. What, I wondered, has this cow done in its past pasturing life to deserve a fate as uninspiring and unimaginative as this.
As a restaurant dedicated to eggs, I would expect poached eggs cooked to heavenly perfection. And thankfully, they were. The eggs, drenched in hollandaise, sit on top of Kalua Pork and cabbage, served on a muffin-esque bun. Kalua means shredded, which we eventually found out after asking two servers and a chef. The pork is smoked, while the cabbage is mixed with the same seasoning as the pork.
And that is where it all went downhill. Eggs Benedict on its own is unspectacular. Alone, it's minimalistic; cooked in vinegar water till the whites firm up slightly, leaving the yolk runny and creamy like fresh, fiery lava. Eggs Benedict craves meaningful companion in the form of a complementary ingredient that elevates its flat flavour. Often, smoked salmon is employed for its heady mix of saltiness and rich flavour. Sometimes bacon is used for its similarly sharp taste profile that cuts through the richness of the hollandaise sauce.
Unfortunately, smoked shredded pork with cabbage does nothing for the beauty of a brilliantly cooked Eggs Benedict. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the pork and cabbage was a distraction to the dish. Instead of indulging in the eggs, I find myself trying to figure out what the pork is cooked in. Is it brined? Is it barbecue sauce? Is it mirin? And why do I keep seeing these dry potatoes on every plate?
Look, just because you can Benedict eggs, doesn't mean you should. And yes, I did just use Benedict as a verb.
It comes as a welcome relief when the pancakes arrived. Like their snaking lines in Japan, I've only heard good things about the pancakes at Eggs 'n Things from Singaporean food luminaries.
But first, let's address the big, towering white elephant in the room. That whipped cream. When it arrived at the table, we were told to consume it quickly as it will melt. So, we did. My dining partner said to cut into the cream pyramid, ‘There might be something inside’. There isn't. All that it is, is cream. What is this tower of whiteness made of? Milk? A combination of milk and cream? The servers, stalwarts of any fine food establishments, seem to have no clue either.
The six pancakes (if I counted correctly) were served alongside fresh strawberries. Except that it's not. Or at least it doesn't taste fresh. For me, freshness denotes a farm-to-plate routine and can easily be vouched by taste. These tastes like strawberries bought from NTUC (a local supermarket chain), not that there is anything grievous or egregious about using NTUC strawberries but there really is no need to use such quixotic terms to dress your dish up into something it is not.
Fortunately, their pancakes were an absolute delight; the pièce de résistance of Eggs 'n Things. My friend and I had a lot to say throughout the meal, about the shortfalls and missteps of each dish, but the pancakes were in a class of their own. It is light, fluffy, and balanced and really do remind me of how McDonald's pancakes used to taste when it was made in-situ.
You can choose to drizzle your pancakes with one of the three syrups on the table. There's coconut (white and tasted quite rich like coconut flesh), guava (give this a hard pass), and maple (best maple I've ever tasted). As a testament to its amazingness, we finished all of the pancakes, the whipped cream, and of course the NTUC-esque strawberries.
Can things get better at Eggs & Things? It's hard to tell. It's unrealistic to expect the food they serve to change especially when it's clearly the same in terms of menu, preparation, and presentation from country to country. If anything, one cannot fault Eggs & Things for their dedication to consistency.
But, to adopt a franchise wholesale without understanding the food culture of the adopting country would be foolhardy. Singapore is a rich tapestry of food and culinary experiences. One cannot simply be lazy in execution and bank on fame and proverbial queues.
To liberally bastardize Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43:
‘How do you screw up eggs? Let me count the ways.’