Thursday, April 22, 2010

Saltwater Cafe

Note: Don't miss out on the new Kampong Lunch buffet available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

To most, travelling to Changi Village Hotel can be a chore. For those who don't drive, here are some directions to Changi Village,
- From Tanah Merah MRT, take 2
- From Tampines MRT, take 29
- From Pasir Ris MRT, take 109

I have my reasons for including directions to come by this hotel. Having situated away from town, the rustic location offers a idyllic alternative for a nice weekend dinner. Upon entering saltwater Cafe, the mood changes despite braving through the rain and hassle to come. The effect of high celling with glass panels does provide a calming effect as opposed to the busy restaurants in town.


If one is expecting the usual suspects on a buffet bar, you will be disappointed. Given the pricing of the buffet and its patrons, this buffet focus more on local fare with a personal touch of Executive Chef William Soh.

As Changi Village Hotel is located very near to Changi Airport, the hotel patrons are mainly delayed flight guests and regulars. The main highlight of this cafe is floor-to-ceiling glass panels to allow diners to feel close to nature while the stylish interiors and comtemporary lighting provides a minimalist yet comfy ambience for both couples and families.


A quick glance of the buffet bar presents a few D.I.Y. counters for diners to prepare the local Rojak, Kuih Pie Tee and Laksa.

Executive Chef William Soh explains that Singaporeans prefers customising their food and likes the idea of self-service, thereby introducing a few of these stations. Having worked in Copthorne King’s Penang buffet, it is interesting to learn from Chef William that the Penang rojak he adored is not mixed in with the rojak sauce but rather drizzled on it so that the water will not be extracted out from the vegetables and fruits. Moreover, Penang rojak focus alot on fruits and that You tiao (fried bread stick) and Beansprouts are not found in this variation.

Anyway, back to D.I.Y rojak we had in the buffet. While I like my rojak to be thinly coated with sauce, Yuan prefers it thickly coated with the prawn paste. The verdict? This pleased me more with me finishing the entire plate of rojak as the sauce concocted by Saltwater Cafe is milder and less viscous.


It is a known fact that Singaporean cannot opt out sashimi in a buffet and seafood lovers will feel something lacking since oysters and crayfish are not found in the buffet line. Chef William is one that is particular with the quality of food and since this buffet is priced less than $40 on a weekend dinner, it is hard to balance a continuous flow of good quality oysters with an affordable price tag.

However, unlike the regular salmon and tuna sashimi, the sashimi served are cuts from snowfish and salmon trout (a hybrid of salmon and trout). While snowfish having defined flakes with a less fishy smell (which Yuan define it being a good alternative to tuna), salmon trout sashimi is amazingly sweet and tender.


Hot food sections focus on a selection of local dishes and hot favourites such as Tumeric Dory fish where hand-chopped spices such as lemongrass brings a maximal flavour to the succulent fish. Apart from that, one can expect comfort food such as porridge, South Indian favourites and a selection of Stewed Chicken, Braised Duck and Prawns Fritters.


There are a couple of signatures in this buffet which the regulars come back for and one of them is the Penang Char Kway Teow. I am no local-styled Fried Kway Tiao fan, those oily rice noodles with sweet sauce just don't work me but Penang style is different. Instead of using the thick rice noodles, this is fried using the thinner Ipoh Kway Teow noodles that is soft and smooth. Although Yuan felt that it was ordinary, we both agree in sync that the Kway Teow was not oily and does not clump to each other. What I like about it is the slight crispy exterior, the soft and springy interior Kway Teow that is light and wok seared with lard.

The other more sought-after dish is the peppered pig stomach soup. The soup is so rich and has no traces of dreadful "porky" smell. Chef William emphasized on the importance in blanching the pig stomach well and it is no surprise why this dish is requested when regulars make their buffet bookings at Saltwater Cafe.


Next to the gardo gardo section is a live pasta section whereby you can get the chef to prepare a plate for pasta for you.


In my opinion, the main highlight of the buffet is probably the outdoor grill section next to the poolside which is available on Friday and Weekend buffet dinner.


Cooked using stone grills, the live grill station offers a selection of Sirloin Beef, Chicken Chop, Chicken Sausage, Squid and Prawn to choose from. Sirloin Beef was done medium well, though thin but not tough. Chicken Chop and Chicken Sausage were tender while the Squid is slightly thick to our liking (prefer squid rings). Overall, the meats are well-seasoned and I liked the slight smoky aftertaste.

A point to note, this station left a very deep impression as we have opt for a poolside BBQ for our soleminization held last month at Traders Hotel. Since some of the items served at our soleminization event were chicken thigh and ribeye, we can comfortably say that the standard Saltwater Cafe offers is on par with what was served during our soleminization event at Traders Hotel.


Laksa, another Singaporean favourite. Although Chef Willam has experience in making Penang Laksa, he choose to serve the local version in this buffet as Singaporeans prefer to have their laksa served in the lemak style with Hay Bee Hiam (Spicy Dried Shrimps). Apart from the regular prawns and fish cakes, diners have the option of incorporating roast duck and char siew into their laksa. Indeed a virgin experience of eating roasted duck and char siew with laksa.

Laksa gravy was alittle spicy for me, considering my threshold for spiciness is close to zero. Although the laksa gravy is not exceptionally rich with coconut milk and Hay Bee Hiam, it is flavourful enough to coat the bee hoon in every mouthful.


Dessert section is something we often used to benchmark a buffet but note that Saltwater Cafe does not have an in-house pastry chef, thereby the desserts are mainly outsourced, apart from the shooters, Pear and Chocolate Pudding, Apple Crumble, Barley water and Chin Chow with Aloe Vera. Since the desserts are mainly outsourced, it will not be appropriate to comment much here. As for the Apple Crumble, it is tad too sweet with sugar visible on the crumble. However, we must give the credits for the crumble served warm and crisp.


Yuan's opinion
My overall impression of Saltwater Cafe is that it is a good weekend getaway to bring your family for dinner. However, if you are expecting an extensive spread of lobsters, crayfish, oysters etc. you will be sorely disappointed.

Fen's opinion...
Personally, it has been awhile since I feast in a buffet and I was indeed surprised by how much I have ate for this dinner. There are some buffets which I stopped short at just 2 rounds and headed straight for the desserts. Although the spread may not be extensive to frequent buffet-goers, my personal take is that this place is good for unwinding after a hard day of work. Moreover, the variety this buffet offers is decent for its price tag, given its selection of grilled western food, locals favourites, Indian food and pasta. The most important factor that makes this dinner memorable was to have Executive Chef William Soh chatting with us. Indeed an honour and an enriching evening to hear him talk about his gastronomic experience.

The cafe seems to be pretty short-handed and hence some of the utensils (e.g. dessert spoons and sauce dish) are not available at the buffet bar. The staff needs to be prompt for refill of water but apart from that, they are generally pleasant and polite.


Many thanks to Executive Chef William Soh for the complimentary meal; his time to chat with us and introduce the food on the buffet spread. Also, this photoshoot would not have been possible without the help of Ms Julie Lock, Marketing Communications Manager of Far East Hospitality.

Pricing of the buffet is as follows,
For Weekdays, lunch is priced at $32++, dinner at $36++
For weekends, lunch is priced at $22++ (local cuisine & high tea menu), dinner at $40++
Children below 12 years old are entitled to 50% discount while kids below 6 years old dine for free.
There is a 20% discount for UOB and DBS cardholders.

Saltwater Cafe
Changi Village Hotel
1 Netheravon Road
Singapore 508502
Tel: 6379 7018

Operating hours:
6:30am to 11pm (Sun to Thu),
6:30am to Midnight (Fri and Sat)


foodaholic said...

i was surprised to see a buffet entry after so long!! :) changi village salt water cafe impressed me when I was there, for value in particular.

Daniel said...

Wah.. a rare non-dessert post! haha.. I have been to saltwater for set dinner last year and i rather like the ambience there.

Took a walk around its buffet selection and judging from ur pics, seems that they are still serving the things that I wanted to try!

Fen said...

We intend to have a buffet entry every month but the solemnization and work have kept us very busy so there were no buffet entries for Feb and March.

Actually we intend to blog about the buffet served during my solemnization but we were too busy entertaining our guests and oops, didn't take a single shot of the food.

Yea, was surprised by the pricing, reasonable for a hotel.

Daniel, go try after your exams, nice place to unwind...

I have a confession to make, this buffet cost me 18 mozzie bites on my legs and fingers... scary but Yuan didn't get a single one... Extra dining partners :(

Blog Widget by LinkWithin