I Found My Fave New Place For Crispy Bee Hoon & It’s Even Better Than JB Ah Meng’s - 8days Skip to main content



I Found My Fave New Place For Crispy Bee Hoon & It’s Even Better Than JB Ah Meng’s

While JB Ah Meng popularised the dish in Singapore and this writer still enjoys its version, Crown Prince Kitchenette’s rendition is simply more shiok.

Nestled in the basement of United Square shopping mall in Novena is Chinese restaurant Crown Prince Kitchenette. The year-old eatery, which took over the space where Duckland used to be, was recently rebranded from Crown Prince Wine and Dine and now serves mostly Cantonese cuisine and Malaysian-style zi char dishes. But don’t let the large and rather unwieldy menu confuse you — zero in on the smoky JB-style crispy beehoon pancake. But more on that later.

The casual-chic diner is run by Elaine Yap, 54, and her daughter Anjolene Aeria, 32, who own a large tea shop chain (which they declined to name for this story) and the now-defunct Lian Peng Bak Kut Teh eatery. They shuttered their bak kut teh restaurants in IMM and Changi City Point in 2020 when the pandemic struck.

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Opened restaurant on a whim

The decision to open Crown Prince was spontaneous. At the start of 2021, one of their staff was commiserating about how dire things were for his cousin, a head chef in a “popular seafood restaurant in Johor Bahru’s Duty-Free Zone” (they decline to name the restaurant). With that restaurant temporarily shut for months during the Covid-19 lockdown, he was left with no work and income, so Elaine and her husband, who is also part of their family-run biz, decided to take the plunge and hire him and his team. They invested $300K to start Crown Prince, which opened in November 2021.

“We are always open to opportunities. The [JB chef’s] cuisine resonated with us, and we feel good food must be shared. And since the chef was a personal recommendation, we decided to start this restaurant so we can bring him and his team in,” says Elaine.

The look

The 80-seat restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, and the interior boasts neutral tones and modern décor, with Chinese calligraphy adorning the walls. There are only three large tables for big groups of eight to 10 pax.

To keep costs down, Elaine tells me that they had minimal work done to the space, only doing minor touch-ups to spruce it up. It appears they might have even kept some of Duckland‘s furniture, which look vaguely familiar.

The menu

The menu, which boasts more than 60 dishes, is somewhat confusing — it has a little bit of everything from zi char offerings such as Crispy Chao Ta Bee Hoon and Cereal Prawns to roast meats and atas banquet dishes like superior shark’s fin soup and live seafood. Prices start from $6.80 for starters, topping out at $288 for a large lobster platter. The menu is put together by their head chef, Chew, 45, who has more than 30 years of cooking experience. 

Anjolene tells me that when the restaurant first opened in 2021, it offered “banquet-style food and portions” as that’s what the chefs used to cook in JB. However, that didn’t quite work here as they get mostly office workers on weekdays. So they revamped the menu in October and the restaurant was rebranded to a less stuffy-sounding Crown Prince Kitchenette to better appeal to the mall’s clientele. 

If you saw our previous menu, you would feel intimidated. We offered a lot of live seafood like prawns, clams, lobster, and even [their more casual] dishes like fried rice were for 10 pax, so people didn’t know what to order,” she explains. 

Regulars shouldn’t worry; dishes from Crown Prince’s old menu are still available — in smaller, more affordable portions. There are also more kid-friendly offerings like Chicken Lollipop with Cereal and Claypot Herbal Bak Kut Teh to appeal to younger people and families. Around 20 percent of the dishes are new.

Desmond Tan & Vivian Lai are regulars

Since the revamp, Crown Prince has seen an increase in lunch and walk-in crowds, and they are bustling on weekends. They’ve got celebrity fans too. According to Anjolene, Vivian Lai has been patronising the restaurant even before their revamp and Desmond Tan was just here last weekend. His order? Peking duck, Three Delicacies with Garlic and Ginger Broth, and Braised Pork Belly with Yellow Wine Gravy.

There are plans to find a bigger space, so they can accommodate banquets and have private rooms as this was their original vision for the restaurant.

Signature Crispy “Chao Tar” Beehoon with Seafood, $10.80 (8 DAYS Pick!)

I’ve found my new favourite place for crispy bee hoon. The iconic Johor zi char dish, also known as san lou bee hoon (it was created in San Lou seafood restaurant in JB), is characterised by crispy fried bee hoon flattened to look like a thin pancake. This was also one of the signature dishes at the Johor Bahru restaurant where Chef Chew used to work.

Despite its name (chao tar means burnt in Hokkien), the bee hoon, which comes with squid, prawns, fish and pork slices, is not charred, but beautifully crisp and browned on the outside and redolent with wok’s breath. Meanwhile, its interior is moist and infused with savoury flavours. The vermicelli has a hint of spice and isn’t greasy unlike some renditions I've tried at other zi char joints. In fact, compared to JB Ah Meng’s rendition — the gritty Geylang zi char hotspot which boasts a Michelin Bib Gourmand nod first popularised the dish in Singapore — I prefer Crown Prince’s version for its stronger wok hei, crisper crust and the fact that it is less oily. Very addictive.

Chef Chew tells me that to get the bee hoon crisp outside and moist inside, the noodles and protein first have to be fried till fragrant and dry. It is then flattened with a spatula into a ‘pancake’ and repeatedly flipped for around five minutes to sear the beehoon and seal in the flavours.

Signature Braised Pork Belly with Yellow Wine Gravy, $16.80

With its glossy sheen, the thick slab of Shanghai-style braised pork belly, or dong po rou, is quite a sight to behold. It is cooked in specially aged homemade yellow wine and a braising liquid consisting of spices like cinnamon, five spice powder for almost three hours until the meat is meltingly tender and umami. Only cuts which have 60 percent lean meat and 40 percent fat are used for a better mouthfeel. It’s very flavourful, if a bit rich, but pairing it with steamed buns ($3 for two pieces) helps to balance out the decadence. 

Herbal Roast Duck, $33.80 half; $58.80 whole (8 DAYS Pick!)

Crown Prince uses fresh Malaysian ducks weighing about 2.2kg for their dang gui (angelica root) roast ducks. The birds are massaged and bathed in seven different herbs and spices, then left to air-dry overnight before they are roasted onsite. 

The skin, cooked to a nice reddish-brown hue, is crisp with a very thin layer of fat, while the meat is tender and juicy, with a delicate hint of dang gui flavour. I like that the bird isn’t drenched in gravy so I can still taste the flavours of the meat. It also comes with a gooey plum sauce that is a little too sweet. 

Claypot Herbal Bak Kut Teh, $16.80 a la carte; $28.80 for two-pax set 

The bak kut teh, which was introduced after the revamp, is currently only available for lunch. Even before the bak kut teh reached my table, I could smell the scent of Chinese herbs wafting in the air. The dish is prepared with Chef Chew’s own recipe that features superior stock and a blend of 12 herbs and spices. 

Unlike traditional Malaysian bak kut teh which boasts a clear dark broth, this is slightly murky and richer. It is also lighter on the herbal flavour with a unique, slightly sweet aftertaste, which I later found out is TCM herb tian ma (gastrodia root). The bak kut teh set comes with four succulent pork ribs, sheets of fried beancurd skin and enoki mushrooms, and sides like braised peanuts, dough fritters, stir-fried lettuce, and rice. Comforting and a nice alternative to the usual Malaysian bak kut teh.

Bottom line

Crown Prince offers both fancy Chinese fare like Peking duck, but also comforting, well-priced Malaysian zi char dishes such as smoky crispy bee hoon — I’d happily drop by again just to eat the latter dish. Also worth a try: the pleasantly herbaceous Malaysian-style bak kut teh.

The details

Crown Prince Kitchenette is at #B1-09/64/65, United Square Shopping Mall, 101 Thomson Rd, S307591. Tel: 8877 4117. Open daily 11am-3pm; 5pm-10pm. More info via website, Facebook and Instagram.

Photos: Kelvin Chia

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