A Strawberry Mango Smoothie was also obtained from Starbucks as breakfast. This was actually my first time in the mall immediately after opening, and I was honestly so surprised at how pleasant and welcoming all members of the staff were. And I'm not just talking about Starbucks - I received the same cheerful response from a smiley The Face Shop employee named Rowena!
Near the entrance of the plaza, a little black and yellow square-shaped logo caught my eye - "Chef Papa - Tea & Noodle Bar". I had been craving ramen all week, and it appeared as if this place was worth a try.
We walked into the restaurant a little after 11:30 AM and were immediately greeted, and then seated at a booth. Perhaps it looked as if we seemed surprised that it was near empty at that point, as the waitress informed us that they had just recently opened earlier in the week. The booth seat had great lighting, and was pretty roomy as well. While the dining area wasn't too large, it did manage to fit at least 25 tables and booths.
The "cheaper" soup bases ranged from $8.99 to $9.50, but did not include "Japanese-style" ramen noodles unless an extra $0.75 charge was applied. The base price would include instant noodles, udon, vermicelli, and a few other selections, but others would have been an additional fee. This is especially strange considering that the restaurant serves ramen bowls - I mean, what is ramen without the ramen noodles?!
The Chasiu, on the other hand, was quite a disappointment. In no ways shall I declare myself a ramen connoisseur, but from past experiences, I've only ever tasted Japanese chasiu where fat and meat were of equal ratios and uniformly blended together in thin slices. Needless to say, I was appalled to bite into one of these and discover that the fat and meat were distinctly separated on the same slice, and that the meat was far from being tender. It was so tough that a small piece even stuck between my teeth. What a disappointment!
The quality of the "Japanese-style" ramen noodles that the restaurant apparently had bountiful amounts of confidence in were on a similar scale as the chasiu, though they didn't prove as disheartening of a gustatory encounter. These noodles had the taste and consistency of typical ramen, but were oddly wavy in texture (very instant noodle-like, in my opinion) and thus caused quite a number of splashes while eating.
Being the priciest soup base on the menu, I anticipated the Hokkaido Pork Bone Soup to provide a bit more of a kick (though I'm not referring to the spicy variety). It wasn't bland, nor overly salty, though it definitely contained flavour enhancers - I could sense the need to quench my thirst only after a few spoonfuls.
The soft-boiled egg was probably the only other highlight of the dish: the white was perfectly cooked and retained a slight saltiness from the soup, and the yolk was cooked to just the ideal degree of runny.
View the full album HERE .
We opted for the Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken; it was, unfortunately, another disappointment. It was evident that the frying batter contained an excess of flour, making the meat to breading ratio a solid 1:1 instead of 2:1 (or even 3:1 if the chefs are skilled). The resulting product were chicken bites that were neither crispy nor well-seasoned. We both agreed that Green Grotto had done a much better job.
As the sticker on the door had indicated, Chef Papa is in a partnership with Presotea. For an additional charge of $2.50, a regular iced drink from the fifteen Presotea concoctions offered on the menu could be added to the combo. (Do you see the pattern?)
The combo included one hot drink, where as cold drinks would cost a dollar extra, and not-so-popular drinks such as a cappuccino would be $0.75 extra. Presotea's regular-sized drinks were listed at $4.99 originally, so it was concluded that it would be the best deal to go with. A Wintermelon Tea with Grass Jelly and a sweet-salty chewy substance (presumably chunks of candied plum) was ordered. As with the rest of the items, the drink didn't prove to be anything worth detailing. On the bright side, I should be relieved that it wasn't a complete flop like the ones I've had at Square One.
By the time we finished our meal, a significant line had already formed at the entrance. I fail to understand how such a rigged order form, unpleasant food, and mediocre customer service managed to attract so many customers. Water refills and the standard "How is everything going?" were essentially non-existent as soon as we had ordered.
After a decently miserable lunch, we headed back into New Kennedy Square. My watch now read 12:33 pm, and I could only hope that Wooffles & Cream had opened, as I had nowhere else to go. Much to our delight, the gate had been lifted, allowing the subtly sweet smell of egg waffles to wander into the food court.
We chose their Lap Cheong 'n' Seaweed Specialty Wooffles and proceeded to pair it with a Vanilla and Green Tea swirl soft serve.
The counter on which transactions were made yielded a pretty nice wooden background, however the lighting clashed harshly with the dessert, leaving me with the only option of moving to one of the unoccupied tables in the food court to continue a snapping a long stream of photos. When the task at hand was finally complete, we gracefully dug into our order. By this time, I had expected the soft serve to have become a partially-melted, shapeless mess, and for the egg waffles to have gotten soggy.
After our first bite, we were astounded that neither of these were the case(s). Not only was the soft serve still completely intact, the "Wooffle" didn't show even the tiniest signs of mushiness! In contrast to the ultra-crispy hollow ones you may have had the opportunity of tasting on the upper level of Pacific Mall, the shells of these were just crisp enough to provide a satisfying crunch, while the inside was completely fluffy - almost cake-like. Both of these properties complimented the toppings very well: the finely chopped pieces of Chinese sausage and thin strips seaweed had been incorporated into the sweet, eggy batter to yield a unique sweet-and-salty sensation with each bite. The frigidity of the soft serve also somehow managed to cool down the bottom-most edge of the egg waffle, ensuring that it was crisp till the very last oval-shaped puff.
Customer service was also unexpectedly attentive, especially given that they operate in a food court. The grab-and-go concept was less pronounced at Wooffles & Cream. Not only did the two young entrepreneurs enthusiastically explain their concept and product availability range to us in great detail, one of them actually came out of the shop and approached us while we were midway down the parfait to make sure that we were enjoying it! This is something that is rarely seen, and we could not have appreciated their sincerity more.
Despite just having consumed a full ramen lunch, the parfait disappeared in a manner of minutes. Indeed, it was that superb.
After doing a bit of grocery shopping, we actually headed back to make a second purchase to take home with us. Deciding to go soft serve-less, we opted for another variation of their Specialty Wooffles - the Crushed Peanuts 'n' Choco Chips!
We watched as the millimeter-sized bits of peanut were uniformly dusted at the bottom of the pan, allowing them to toast for a short while prior to filling the hexagonal iron with batter. Playing the waiting game while taking photos, it was observed that they allowed the egg waffles to cool under the power of a mini desk fan on a V-shaped wire rack prior to placing them in a small, logo-adorned paper bag. We received our order shortly and were equally amazed.
Time to scratch this off my radar and give New Kennedy Square another whirl next time I'm in the area!
To finish off the trip, I suggested trying out Sharetea's Markham location at First Markham Place. A short lineup had formed at the moment I entered, but it did manage to clear within a few minutes. Unsure of which items to order due to the unfamiliarity of the locale's menu arrangement, I asked the girl at the cashier if they offered any drinks that were fruity, and not overly sweet. She reluctantly raised her hand to point towards the screen displaying their Top 10 drinks, directing me to choose amongst the drinks shown. She proceeded to show complete disregard for my preferences by informing me that they offered a Creama (also referred to as cream cap or milk foam), despite my explicit uttering of wanting to stay away from milky drinks.
When I then asked her about the prices of the Top 10, she simply rolled her eyes at me and punched them into the machine to check, then spat the price out to me in wonky-sounding English. Tired of her attitude, I just decided to randomly order two drinks from the LCD screen and earn my Vicinity points. Little did I know, though, that Sharetea counted their Vicinity points by location..., meaning that I had now collected two points at a location that I guarantee to never return to.The drinks took a good five minutes to make; though the guy that handed them to me was nice enough, I somehow still felt a decently strong language barrier during the entire experience.
Our last stop of the day was Union Burger; we ordered an Original Burger with Cheese and Bacon, Chicken Club Burger, and Veggie Burger.
Majority of the staff appeared to be part-timers not a day over sixteen. The switching of shifts also made the entire takeout process even more snail-like. Thankfully, we managed to retrieve our three burgers in exactly fifteen minutes, before the parking limit was up. It would've been preferred if they chatted less and actually got on with the order - the burgers had been sitting on the countertop for a good few minutes before we called out to them that we were in a rush.
Stay tuned for more food adventures! =)