Friday, 13 September 2013

Bento at Design Hub Tuas

Food choices are extremely limited in Tuas. Apart from one hot and crowded canteen within walking distance, your only other options are ordering in or driving out to civilization. Design Hub Tuas has attempted to establish itself as an affordable, convenient and most importantly air-conditioned option for those seeking to dine out in relative comfort in Tuas, with three restaurant choices - The Wok, Greenhouse Café and Bento. 

We'd visited Greenhouse Café previously, where the food had been a mixed bag, but decent enough overall to warrant another visit. On that trip, we saw a sign saying that Bento was opening the first week of September, so when ST said she was craving unagi, we hopped into the car and drove over, because it was effectively the closest Japanese place around. When we reached Design Hub, we initially walked into The Wok by mistake, and were told to take the lift up. Ever since the heavy rains ceased, it's been almost unbearably hot, so when we stepped into the Astro Turf-ed lift, the strong blast of air-conditioning was very, very welcome. 

Yeah, fancy air-conditioned lifts with fake grass
The carpet of green continued out the lift right to the doorstep of Bento, and when we stepped in it seemed quite promising. Whoever had done the interior did a decent enough job. There were more people here than at Greenhouse Café, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. 

There was even this lush looking bonsai. We made a beeline for the sofa seats near the entrance (Pictured behind the bonsai), and plonked ourselves down. So far, so good. 

And then, we heard the door close behind us, and it made a rather unattractive "WHUMPH! Whumphwhumpwhump!" noise as it slammed and settled in. It would continue to make the same noise every time people came in or out and closed it behind them. For a Design Hub, this was quite an embarrassingly glaring flaw in the overall layout. 

Soon after we sat down, someone bustled out of the kitchen and placed a bowl of edamame (Soy beans) on our table. It didn't appear on our bill, and we still don't know if the edamame was actually complimentary, or if the kitchen had accidentally given us someone else's order. At the beginning of the meal we'd gone with it being a nice touch, but after they mixed up our orders and gave other people our food we weren't too sure. 

Mystery Edamame
There only seemed to be one waitress in the entire restaurant, and after we were seated we lost sight of her entirely. While waiting for her to reappear, I had a short wander about the place. It's fairly big, in a way that places can afford to be on the outskirts. They also had a hot sake dispenser behind the counter, which was interesting. 

Eventually I came back to the table and took pictures of what I could lay my hands on, like the soy sauce bottle:

Our orders were finally taken after a while, but thus began the wait for our food. Here's a picture of the cups our green tea came in. There was a free flow of tea, and if service was patchy everywhere else, they were very good at refilling our cups. At one point, one of the chefs came around with the pot and told us that the slow service was due to the fact that they couldn't find people to hire. The sad state of the F&B industry in Singapore, writ large. 

SS's salmon sashimi arrived first. It tasted alright, but the bits of skin that had been left on the salmon just looked a bit unsightly. His bento set didn't arrive until I'd finished all my food. They gave his order to someone else who'd arrive 10 minutes after we did. The restaurant is so new they apparently hadn't even assigned table numbers, so they kept coming over with food that wasn't ours. One table to our right was given stuff, only for it to be snatched away moments later because it was for another table. 

ST enjoyed her tamago (Egg) sushi, but my Hamachi (Yellowtail) wasn't well made and tasted a bit old, and the tobiko (Flying fish roe) gunkan smelled distressingly like rubber bands. 


I ordered the tempura udon, and asked that they place the tempura on the side so it would remain crispy. The waitress stopped paying attention after I said "And one tempura udon please.", so I ended up repeating "I'm sorry, could you please put the tempura pieces on a plate by the side?" four times until she finally looked up from jotting '1' next to where tempura udon was printed on the order form and said "Oh you want the tempura on the side is it?". 

I don't think she even noted it down, because when it finally arrived (Carried out by a rather harried looking chef who all but threw the bowl on the table and ran back to the kitchen) I had to fish the soggy pieces out of the soup. They seemed so utterly harassed I didn't have the heart to ask them to change it. The udon was soggy too. 

I wound up scraping the batter off the prawns and vegetable slices because it was a doughy mess that tasted under-cooked on the inside. Apparently their head chef won some award for his California Maki, which none of us were interested in trying, but it's obvious he hasn't yet mastered tempura or udon. So unimpressed. 

Hot mess.
We requested for mayonnaise with our soft shell crab, which never materialized. The crab was alright, but the portion was vaguely depressing. 

In the end, ST was completely underwhelmed by her unagi. 

It's not a cheap place to eat, and with the quality of food we experienced, it's very unlikely we'll ever go again. Hopefully they'll get over their teething problems soon. It would be sad if the air-conditioned glass lift were the only draw. 

2nd Floor, 30 Tuas Bay Drive, 637548 

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