Putting the worst-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor to the test
Is it really that bad?
We all check online reviews before going to a new restaurant, a new bar, and even a new movie. But just how much can you trust these crowd-sourced ratings, really? Like the hard-hitting journalists we are, the CLEO team members put our guts on the line to find out.
A ‘doner’ is a Turkish kebab that’s made of meat cooked on a skewer, so this eatery scores bonus points for its hilarious McDonald’s-inspired name.
Upon arrival, Adora and I were unsure whether we had gone to the right restaurant, as the sign read “Mak Doner Lebanese Restaurant”. Turns out it changed its name for some reason.
We initially sat near the roadside, but the seat cushions had a musty smell so we moved inside. We found another seat, but the music and noise from the fan would have gotten in the way of our video recording, so Adora requested for the staff to switch them off. To our surprise, they obliged both requests. Now, this was a far cry from the terrible service we read about on TripAdvisor. Then again, the restaurant wasn’t crowded – there were only two other groups of diners.
When the Hummus and Pita Bread were served, I was taken aback. Pita bread is usually my highlight at any Mediterranean restaurant, but this wasn’t the real deal – to me, it looked like a tortilla wrap you’d get when you buy a wrap from a salad bar. Not cool. I begrudgingly dipped it into the hummus and thankfully, the dip saved us from a bad experience. It was nutty and flavourful, with the right amount of tahini. The lemonade with mint was refreshing, but it wasn’t extraordinary, and to me, didn’t justify the $7.50 price tag.
Our main course, the Baked Salmon, took some time to be served. But this was reasonable, assuming it wasn’t pre-cooked. The salmon was fresh, and it was served with Mediterranean rice, which was super yummy and not oily, and a side salad. The portion was good enough for two, which made the $23.90 price tag not too bad.
After we paid the bill – the cashier gave me the change in coins, but apologised for not having notes – he even gave us the full address when we told him we were going to call a Grab.
Verdict: “Both Adora and I thought our experience was ‘very good’. It could have been because we were expecting the worst.” 4.5/5
When you Google ‘Forum Seafood’, the results on the first page include two articles titled Tourist Family of 4 Paid $1,186.20 for Seafood at Forum Seafood” and Enjoy Seafood? Then You Definitely Should Avoid Singapore’s 3 Most Complained-about Seafood Restaurants.
The reviews on TripAdvisor and HungryGoWhere aren’t any better. I don’t know who would still willingly step into this restaurant along Boat Quay after all that bad press, but when we popped by on a Thursday afternoon, two small tables were occupied.
The hustler out front (you know how all these restaurants always have one?) pointed out the lunch set menu to us, which seemed pretty reasonable. It was $10.80++ per person, with a minimum requirement of two diners, and it included a soup, a Canadian cod fillet (deep-fried or steamed), a vegetable dish, rice, and one side dish for sharing. But we came for the bad seafood, so we sat down and asked the waitress how much the chilli crab would cost for two people.
I was scandalised. Bear in mind that I enquired about the Sri Lankan crab, which is the cheapest of the lot. And a small crab weighs about 1.3kg, according to the waitress, so our bill for the chilli crab alone would come close to $100. For comparison, I went to Jumbo down the street and made the same inquiry. The same thing would cost about $80 there.
We then asked about the sea bass – it would set us back by about $70.
I wasn’t about to waste CLEO’s dime on seafood, so Karen and I settled for the set lunch instead.
In my opinion, it was… average. My deep-fried cod fish had more batter than fish. I didn’t mind, but Karen did.
The service was less than decent. Considering there were only two occupied tables, you would think the staff would be more attentive. But our canned drinks weren’t served with ice (to me, this is a basic service you’d expect at a restaurant) and we had to wave repeatedly at multiple people to get our bill.
It only had three reviews on TripAdvisor, so I can excuse the bad rating. I mean, we’re more likely to angrily smash out a scathing review of a less-than-stellar place than write about a restaurant we thoroughly enjoyed, right?
The only cause for alarm I spotted was this TripAdvisor reviewer who complained about stray hairs in the noodles. But the way I see it, it’s just hair.
We ordered a Sliced Fish Hor Fun, the signature Sliced Beehoon, and a Stir-fried Sliced Yam. The Beehoon had a good wok hei to it, and was crammed full of good stuff like prawns, clams, beancurd slices and vegetables. The Stir-fried Sliced Yam was deliciously sticky with sweet sauce, yet still had a slightly crispy exterior that gave way to soft, fluffy yam once you bite into it. Karen “didn’t mind” her Hor Fun, but it probably wasn’t the best dish there.
As for the service and hygiene levels of the place – well, it’s a neighbourhood eatery in Yishun. The ambience is the same as every other non-airconditioned tze char place in Singapore. You’d have to swat a few flies here and there.
Verdict: “It’s not a place we’d travel at length or queue up for, but hey, we’d definitely pop by if we’d ever in the neighbourhood again (but we highly doubt it – come on, it’s Yishun).” 4/5
When I received this assignment, I braced myself for the worst… and was relieved to find that the restaurant we had to visit had closed down. But my respite was short-lived – turns out ihad moved from Plaza Singapura to Bugis Junction!
First up, service. I found the ordering process more convoluted than it had to be. First, you’ve got to wade through a plethora of menus to pick your dishes, then you’ve got to hunt for the dishes on an iPad app. I’m no tech idiot, but it took me about 10 minutes to get my order through. Fortunately, the food arrived promptly.
I ordered the signature Chicken Wappa Set, which is basically Japanese-style fried rice. I’m a huge fan of fried rice of all kinds, and this was by far the blandest I’ve ever tasted. It came with karaage (fried chicken) pieces, which were oily and similarly bereft of flavour.
I also ordered the Red Miso Tantan Nabe Udon. I was pleased with this dish. The noodles had just the right amount of bite, and the soup was bursting with umami flavours.
Adora had the Pork Cutlet Omu Rice. The dish was decent – the omelette was fluffy, the pork cutlet was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and the curry was tasty. She also ordered Prawn Tempura, which she said was oily but otherwise edible.
Verdict: “Kazukotei’s a mixed bag, with some good dishes and some bad.” 2.5/5
The funniest thing about the bad reviews is that they both applaud the service of the waitress who was welcoming people into the eatery. So I was on the lookout for her when we arrived. She was friendly, ushered us to an empty table and instructed us to order at the counter.
It was kind of downhill from there. Firstly, they forgot our order of fishcakes. When the A-star waitress realised we had a problem, she quickly came over and helped us re-order. That was impressive.
I had the Wanton Noodle Set, which came with fried tofu and mango sago, while Sophie had the Basil Chicken With Rice. Overall, I’d say the food was perfectly mediocre. It wasn’t bad (I rate bad as terrible tasting, uncooked and diarrhoea-inducing) but it was’t exciting either.
The wanton noodles were soggy, though the fried pork skin was good. The fish cake was actually quite good but the mango sago looked like soup – I didn’t eat it.
If I was working in the area and needed a quick lunch, I wouldn’t be opposed to going back to Thai Bowl. It wasn’t fantastic but it gets the job done.
Verdict: “There are lots of places in Singapore to get good Thai food, but if you’re limited to one place over your lunch hour, at least this one won’t give you food poisoning (I know, standards are low, but that’s the point of this assignment right?!).” 2.5/5
We weren’t sure what to expect from this eatery since the parent company is the lauded Tanuki Raw, but some reviews mentioned that their pizza was undercooked, and that the place is “very warm”.
We ordered two pizzas (Fat Samurai and Garden State), a Trendy Chicken Sandwich and Truffle Sweet Potato Fries. The wait time was about 15 minutes. Our favourite was the sweet potato fries but found everything else to be as satisfying. The prices are also really reasonable – a pizza averages $7.