TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie 團團小館, SM Mega Fashion Hall
When a restaurant opens in the metro, the scene that plays before your eyes is like the Pied Piper. The Pied Pipers (plural, if I may) nab private invitations to the event, seed out the best as they can, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the delicious dishes presented before them. And the public awaits until the opening day to be the best judge. If the restaurant survives, so do the Pied Pipers.
I’m not saying that’s totally a bad thing. But I sometimes don’t do the Pied Piper. Sometimes, we refused to be hypnotised by the Pied Piper. I prefer to relax, wait it out for a couple of weeks and fall next in line, to the queue summoned by the Pied Piper followers, like a regular customer. Only then I can have real experiences to share. Like my fever, for instance.
People who love to eat are always the best people – Julia Child
Something feels out of place. It sounds very American with that quote.
TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie isn’t new to the world, or its ambience of being a Hong Kong slash Parisienne brasserie.
Original Fish Soup
TuanTuan owes the better half of its equation to Deer Garden Restaurant from Ontario, Canada. Without its signature Halibut fish soup, strip TuanTuan and you’ve got a coffee shop, which Lugang Cafe technically has nothing to do with, except cleverly sneak in Xiao Long Bao dumplings as side dishes to their DIY Noodle Soup. And their DIY Noodle Soup isn’t entirely new either. Deer Garden at Canada sells these sets for $8.95.
The Original fish soup was quite something for someone who was sick – me. I had been nursing a fever and upset stomach for three days in a row and I still manage to drag my lazy bum to TuanTuan because I’m in dire need of a hot broth. It’s pleasant with the coriander and spring onion, but I found the Hofun flat rice noodles too slippery and hard to eat. Had some pork charsiu and enoki mushrooms for toppings, and it was a pretty decent bowl of noodle soup. Or should I call it soup only? It was overflowing with soup. I could fill a car running on empty with this.
Hong Kong Style Coffee
Perhaps what stood out from the rest was the Hong Kong style coffee, made with the famous Black and White Milk that only you can get at TuanTuan. Not really. I had milk tea back in Tuen Mun Roasts, and they also serve it with Black and White Milk. It was a good cup, probably since there’s always Third District Coffee Shop’s leading men to coach them on the basics of coffee. And I know how the public was overflowing with negative comments about Third District Coffee’s failed attempts, while still relying on celebrity popularity, but couldn’t keep up with the quality of their coffee. Right.
I didn’t mind the two sides, except I couldn’t tell the difference between the Fish Fillet and the Pork Chop. I almost forgot about them. They look so much alike. And the Fish Fillet was huge in girth, the weirdest shape ever for Fish “Fillet”. How about you tell me which is which?
Snow Barbecued Pork Buns
I was about to applaud TuanTuan for stepping up the game and veering away from fad food when I suddenly saw pork buns. Perhaps that was the very reason why I hesitated to dine at TuanTuan. Not another pork bun restaurant, please! If Joan Rivers was still alive, she’ll say, MAKE IT STOP. Bless her.
Everyone is now well acquainted with pork buns. From Tim Ho Wan to Choi Garden to Boon Tong Kee to Shi Lin to Crystal Jade, did I miss anyone? And I think we’re way past the “who has the better Pork Buns” phase and should be on our way moving forward to accepting as it is. And whether you call it Pineapple Buns or Barbecue Pork Buns or in TuanTuan’s case, Snow Barbecue Pork Buns, they’re all basically made of the same anatomy – crunchy outside, sweet exterior, sweet interior, yada, yada. And TuanTuan’s pork buns, though cheaper at P128 for three pieces, are probably Caucasian in ethnicity, not Chinese.
I did find it less sweet, a bit salty on the barbecued pork, but the crusty top a bit thinner than what it should be. Yes, those are the operative words: what it should be. It’s a matter of personal preference. I cannot say this one is better than Tim Ho Wan’s, like everyone’s been saying, just to follow Pied Pipers around. Well, didn’t I say I refuse to follow for once, even in comparisons?
Pork Meatballs Congee with Fried Crullers
Since I was sick, there’s nothing better to feed me than congee. Pork Meatballs congee was surprisingly good, very palatable. And the fried You Tiao or to make it slang, crullers, which I’m supposed to love — it was so tough to chew after a few minutes, I thought I was going to break my jaw. Lord help us. (On another note, if you like eating You Tiao and happen to be in Macao, Ocean Empire at Venetian Macao serves one of the best. It won’t become a jawbreaker after 5 minutes and can still dip in hot soy milk!)
Fried Black and White Milk Buns
Needless to say, I was left with my last hope to save my TuanTuan experience: the Fried Black and White Milk Buns. Soft, pillowy, topped with grinded peanuts that looked confectionary and accompanied with condensed milk. Now, this is what I would go back for. I can imagine myself on one afternoon drinking Hong Kong style coffee and these buns in relaxation. It wasn’t stressful to eat. That’s the right word.
Perhaps I made wrong choices, not getting the famed Ox Tongue which would have blended well with the look of that breaded Fish Fillet (kidding if you’re catching my drift), or their Curry dishes that is also Deer Garden’s specialty. On one note, I would head back to TuanTuan to try these out for the second time for dinner, and head back only in afternoons when TuanTuan’s concept fits perfectly in the ritzy, circular marble furnitures that felt like a cafe along Champs Elysees — sans Edith Piaf. I feel so misplaced.
Oh and make sure to double check your bill. Don’t just nod there and hand over your card. If you ordered the DIY noodle soup, make sure the cashier doesn’t punch the sides together with the Soup Base and have it charged to you separately. Or your receipt is going to look like this:
Original Fish Soup – P634 (P388 + P98 + P148)
Deep Fried Fish Fillet – P98
Breaded Pork Chop – P148
Total = P880
Original Fish Soup. Pork Buns. Malay Laksa. Beef Curry. Congee, Black and White milk. TuanTuan, what are you really? #identitycrisis
Updated: November 17, 2014 and November 20, 2014 Visits
I decided to get to know TuanTuan better since I want to believe TuanTuan has the potential. My second visit at TuanTuan was better. I skipped the Noodles combo set and opted for simple curry, Halibut and a few sweets worthy of writing.
Chicken Fillet Curry – P368
Not too spicy and strong in curry taste, but TuanTuan’s Chicken Fillet Curry fits the bill of lusciousness that’s deserves the rice served along with it. I was right to return for this dish and eager to try out the US Premium Beef and Tendon Curry on my next visit.
Steamed Halibut in Light Soy Sauce – P388
Killer. The fish is clean, no mustiness, the soy delicately balanced. I was tad disappointed their Halibut in Chili Garlic was unavailable, but this serves a good replacement. This reminded me of the fish I used to order in Hong Kong groceries and marketplaces.
Pan Fried Halibut – P388
TuanTuan’s Halibut isn’t that good when it’s pan fried, primarily because it has a lot of fish bones. It is loads better when it’s steamed. But the flavor is tangy and salty.
House Special Trio – P398
It’s like Lasagna on steroids – except underneath the creamy seafood, tomato-based pork chop and wild mushrooms, there’s the fried rice good for two people to share. I like it because it’s different and it’s the epitome of Macanese cuisine.
French Toast in Maple Syrup and Peanut Butter – P168
I love their French Toast. This is one I’d like to pair with Yin Yang.
Hot Naicha – P98
And probably my favorite drink that is reminiscent of the complimentary hot Milk Tea in Venetian Macao, is TuanTuan’s Naicha. I love this drink. You can’t go wrong with this.
Oh and it didn’t hurt that I get to finally hear Charles Trenet’s La Mer in the background. If only the crowd would lower their voice. It’s too noisy in this restaurant.
Yin Yang – P98
TuanTuan’s Yin Yang offers the best of both worlds. Here’s to the coffee and tea that’s really delicious. (But I still prefer the Naicha)
The Verdict: A Hit and Miss
I think I can now conclude that there are some dishes at TuanTuan that are a hit and miss. You might want to stick to their curry, pork buns, french toast and any drink that they have and you’ll do just fine at TuanTuan.
TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie Rating:
|Taste and Originality:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Customer Experience:||(3.0 / 5)|
|Value for Money:||(2.5 / 5)|
|Brick and Mortar:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Average:||(3.1 / 5)|