There’s something about the name “Clover 8” that bothers me. The “clover” part carries associations of shamrocks, Ireland, good luck, childhood, gardens, green. Very pleasant. It’s the “8” part that riles. What does it mean? That two fours are eight (the two, perhaps, representing Miao Yi and Xin Man Yuan – the two sister restaurants of C8; the four a nod to the luck of finding a four-leaf clover)? That eight is a notoriously lucky number in China? A pun on the word “ate”, perhaps? An effort to legitimise the fact that the price of every dish ends with the decimal .80 (although more likely the other way around…)? A combination of all these reasons? Or maybe i’m just overthinking things. Probably. But still, it bothers me.
C8 can be found inside the newly opened and prematurely-aged Leisure Park Kallang, itself located in the desolate expanse of Kallang’s stadium precinct. It’s a strangely unsettling location – one that looks tired and depressed when visited outside the hours of a concert or sporting event. The interior wears the make-up of a bright and vibrant restaurant; one that tries hard to uplift itself from the overbearing mundanity of its location. But the location is ever-present; in the constant throb and pulsating air caused by pneumatic drills, in the tinny tinkling of classical piano, in the weathered and dust-streaked windows looking out onto the barren car park, in the naive keenness of the servers. C8 doesn’t wear the garb of a traditional vegetarian/vegan eatery (righteousness, Buddhism, enforced ideals); instead, it tries to fit in.
The menu focusses on Thai, Vietnamese, and Western food, with a spattering of local dishes and some dim sum. This is a departure from Miao Yi’s other restaurants (all Chinese), which goes some way to explaining the more modish decor as well. It charts a new direction for the company; one that adopts a noticeably more populist approach to vegetarian dining. Which, I would imagine, is a good thing.
The Thai green curry (SGD 5.80) looked quite oily, and was served with a greasy plate of dry white rice (the plate was greasy, not the rice). Whilst visually off-putting (not helped by the picture in the menu, which presented the curry in deathly grey hues), we couldn’t help but soften in the presence of its fragrant aroma. The curry contained aubergine, red chilli, basil leaves, and some mushy mock chicken. The taste was surprisingly pleasing – the lemongrass, basil, and kaffir lime provided a subtly sweet base, the chilli providing a nice accent to every mouthful. It was a little watery, and could have done with more coconut milk to add depth and richness to the flavours. Nonetheless, good value.
The Thai sweet and sour fried fish with rice (SGD 5.80) looked awful (sliced haggis, anyone?), but the taste was passable. Nothing special here – just some mushy, beancurd-derived mock fish slathered with sweet chilli sauce. The “fish” tasted of nothing in particular (some residual flavours of seaweed, but little to get excited about), the sauce of plastic. It was a small portion, and probably only worth about two and a half of my hard-earned Singapore dollars. Three at a stretch.
The steamed BBQ buns (SGD 4.80) represent one of the four dim sum options. They were of a good size and well-priced. They looked a little mischievous, as if they had been fighting in the steamer and then made to behave before being presented at the table. The little rascals; I liked them from the get-go.
They didn’t disappoint – thick and smokey barbecue flavours supported a well-textured mock pork filling. The best mock-BBQ filling I have had the pleasure of biting into, in fact. Unfortunately the bun casing was heavy, compacted, and very sticky. Whilst I desperately wanted to rave about how good they tasted, I seemed to spend most of my precious eating-time cleaning the bun off my teeth with my tongue. Deliciously frustrating, but certainly worth a try.
Clover 8 is an everyday sort of place – quite good value, a bit bland, lots of options, trying to please everyone. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The food is solid and predictable and pleasant. My biggest complaint is that they refused to give me a glass of tap water. Apparently, doing so would have contravened their management’s policy (their words, not mine). Oh come on…
#01-40 Leisure Park Kallang, 5 Stadium Walk
Open 11:00-22:00 daily