Originating from Dalian in China, Bu Er Xin operates two outlets in Singapore; a restaurant in PoMo and a stall at Food Republic in the basement of Shaw House. It’s known for its steamed buns, although it offers a range of noodle soups and salads as well. Unlike the nearby Bao Today, it boasts a small selection of sweet and savoury vegetarian dishes (most of which are reviewed below) that are comparatively well-priced.
The signage is elegant, but exclusively in Chinese, which can be a little confusing for those of us who’s Zhongguo language skills are sub-par. Nonetheless the frontage includes lots of pictures of steamed buns and the windows reveal stacks of bamboo dim sum steamers which, if you know what you’re looking for, sort of give the game away.
When I visited (Saturday lunchtime), it was empty and the waitress fed on us like a vulture. She wanted us to order before we had even looked at the menu, and assured us that the dishes we chose were vegetarian, although the taste of some suggested otherwise… Orders under SGD 20.00 must be paid for in cash, and we were charged 60 cents for unused tissue (not to mention SGD 1.00 for water). It was probably intentional, as the refund turned out to be one of the most satisfying parts of the whole experience.
Bu Er Xin
1 Selegie Road, #01-05 PoMo
Open 11:00-15:00 & 17:00-21:00 Monday-Sunday
This dish looked quite flavoursome, but tasted of little more than bean sprout-infused water. I really don’t know how they did it, but any sort of flavour had left the bowl before it was placed on the table. Amazing. The bowl itself was large, and included bean sprouts, noodles, spring onions, pak choi, mushrooms and half a marinated egg. The noodles were good quality, but the other ingredients tasted anaemic. We ended up (liberally) seasoning the soup ourselves with soy sauce and chilli, which helped inject a little life into it.
My favourite dish – it was simple and tasty. Good quality noodles and chopped scallion served with a very unique star anise-flavoured sauce. It came with a milky soup (not pictured) which had black fungus and a strong and residual meaty flavour. Hardly the vegetarian option we asked for…
This bun is certainly big – so big the waitress had to cut it open for us. It included crunchy bamboo shoots, various types of mushroom, mustard leaf, cabbage, pak choi, black fungus and tofu. Lots of ingredients, all finely chopped. The dominant flavour was of shiitake mushrooms. It was tasty, but the filling was overwhelmed by the skin of the bun, which was dense and chewy. It was served lukewarm, and fell short of my expectations.
It was seeing a poster for the osmanthus and red bean bun that made me want to visit Bu Er Xin in the first place. I thought the addition of osmanthus – a fragrant flower that is commonly blended with tea in China and Japan – was inspired. Indeed, the osmanthus contributed a floral sweetness to the red bean, which pleased both the nose and palate. Unfortunately the amount of filling was miserly (and in stark contrast to the picture on the menu), and again the flavour was almost nullified by the skin of the bun. Shame, as this could have been a cracker.
For me, Bu Er Xin was an unpleasant experience. From the pushy waitress, to the strangely diluted flavours and (apparent) misrepresentation of dishes, I felt like I was being challenged. Whilst there were some good flavours on offer, they were let down by their delivery. I can’t think of one good reason to go back.