71 George St
Parramatta, NSW 2150
Malaysian food is the name of the game today, and apparently Temasek is where people have been going since 1992 for the good stuff.
Temasek is non-descript in the best way possible. It’s an unceremonious hole-in-the-wall type restaurant where you can be sure that the food is good, because people certainly don’t keep coming back for the location or décor. And indeed, although the interior looks like every Chinese restaurant from the 90s, the giveaway is in the front window, which is plastered full of awards and press cuttings from over the decades.
Chris finds it hard not to order laksa when he sees it on the menu, and frankly I’m not much better, so it was just as well that the Laksa Singapura with Fish Cake ($18.8) was very much worth our time. Unlike your usual laksa, the soup here is so thick with aromatics it was almost the consistency of a sauce, which meant that each mouthful of noodle is absolutely saturated with flavour. Every slurp was fragrant, creamy goodness, with just enough spice thrown in to keep things exciting. In fact, the only thing to complain about would be the stinginess of the toppings, which consist of nothing more than a few slices of fish cake, and a couple of tofu puffs. I’d expect a bit more for the price, but all-up it’s delicious enough for me not to mind at all.
Believe it or not, the last time I had Hainanese Chicken Rice ($16.5) was in Thailand, though I didn’t pay quite so much for it that time. However, the chicken this time around was much better – seductively silky and tender without a single dry spot, though I did wish it had a dash more salt and ginger. The accompanying soup was light and umami, but although the rice glistened with aromatic oils, it once again just needed a smidge more salt to really bring out the richness of the flavours.
And let’s not even talk about how long it’s been since I’ve had Ice Kacang ($7) – it must’ve been a whole 5 years ago. Luckily this was no dud of a comeback; the tall mound of shaved ice was drizzled with good quality palm sugar, rose syrup, and condensed milk, and underneath was a veritable treasure trove of all the good things you find in Asian desserts – grass jelly, red bean, sweet corn, and my absolute favourite palm seeds.
True to pretty much what everyone has said, the food at Temasek is no slouch. The service was also much better than I had expected – efficient and upbeat. But the real question is this: is the food good enough to justify the small-ish portions at frankly exorbitant prices? And if you ask me, the answer is sometimes. I’d happily pay the premium for the laksa, as it’s one of the best I’ve had, but I’d probably think twice about the Hainanese chicken even if it were half the price. The impression I get with Temasek and its large menu is that, whilst you could end up paying way too much for what amounts to an average meal, if you know what you’re doing, then you’re bound for a really great time.
Rating: 13/20 – choose wisely.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.