(Note: Pictures can be found here http://wildchildurbancity.blogspot.com/2012/05/dinner-at-garuda-padang.html)
This is a review that I have put off writing for many weeks, and that I have been on the fence with regards to its publishing. The reasons... will become apparent below.
One Sunday, my family was craving Indonesian food and we wanted to give ourselves a little treat. Instead of going to our usual Tambuah Mas or Grandma's Restaurant, we decided to try the Garuda Padang at Far East Square.
The drinks menu at Garuda Padang can be found on every table. The food menu(s) however, are broken up and lie around in a piecemeal fashion. Garuda Padang is set up Rendezvous Restaurant style, i.e. with a large steel counter at the entrance displaying metal trays of food. But unlike Rendezvous Restaurant, which has its entire menu on the wall, Garuda Padang has table place cards in front of the trays with the names of some of the dishes and their prices.
There were covered trays at the counter which made it confusing as to whether the dishes on the place cards were available. We found out that even though there was nothing in the metal trays, you can order the dishes on them.
In addition to the "menu" listed on the place cards, there was a menu was set above the large steel counter at the entrance. As our eyes had been drawn to the food at the counter, we had not even noticed this additional menu until we were paying our bill.
In respect of the decor at Garuda Padang, the furniture chosen is simple and shows clean lines. But it exuded a feeling of "hardness", and the chairs were a little uncomfortable to sit on.
My father felt like having the aloe vera drink despite its hefty price for just a few cubes of aloe vera. Lots of sambal was served with our sambal terong. If there were supposed to be anchovies in the sambal though, we could not taste or find them.
My experience with the rendang sapi was strange. The first few bites were good, and I remember being happy at the taste of well-marinated and tender beef rendang. But as I continued eating, the spices seemed to fade and become dullish, so that it was not really a pleasure to eat anymore. One thing about the rendang that definitely made me happy though, was that it came with lots of chewy tendon.
The Sambal Cumi Cumi was average, with the squid being a little on the rubbery side. The chunk of fish in the Gulai Ikan Tenggiri (Mackeral Fish Curry) was dry and overcooked. All of us ate it with a lot of gravy for some moisture. Lot of jelly-like pieces of tendon were served in the Gulai Kikil dish. The curry they were floating in tasted a little bland.
There was sambal distributed throughout the Tumis Kangkong - good. Only, the portion was a little small. The Sayur Lodeh came with bamboo shoots. Tasted average. It seemed like the curry used in the Gulai Ayam (Chicken Curry) was the same as that used for the beef tendons.
At first, the Tauhu Goreng Istimewa surprised us. I had never seen tauhu goreng served this way. And after picking up some tauhu and veggies with a fork and putting it all into my mouth, it horrified me. The entire dish was cold... very cold..... stone cold, as if the plate food had been sitting at the back of a fridge for a long time. The black sauce had a weird unpleasant taste - I had never tasted anything like that before. My parents did not enjoy the dish either, but just ate it silently so as not to waste food.
Even though we wanted to try the Ayam Goreng Garuda (Fried Chicken with Blue Ginger Floss), we were too full, so we took away a piece. But upon reaching home, I could not help opening the plastic container to try a little. The floss and chicken were still warm, and that made the dish taste better than expected (noting that my expectations had dropped really low from the dishes already eaten). The surfaces of the breast meat were good to eat as they had absorbed the flavour from the ginger floss. Deeper in though, the meat was tough and dry - a sign of overcooking.
When I think about our experience at Garuda Padang that Sunday, one word comes to mind: "miserable". First, the piecemeal menus confused us. Second, all of the dishes were served either at room temperature or cold. This made me father hopping mad. Spicy food, and especially curry, is meant to be served hot, not cold! Third, the taste of all of the dishes ranged from only average to bad. My father cursed at not having spent his money at Tung Lok Signatures instead, and my mother was shaking her head at the sorely disapponting food.
Garuda Padang charges Rendezvous Restaurant prices for its food, but does its standard even match up to Rendezvous Restaurant? From our previous enjoyable experiences with the Tung Lok group of restaurants, I find it hard to believe that Garuda Padang is part of this group. Perhaps Tung Lok should stick with Chinese cusine.