Have always been a loyal customer of this place whenever there are gathering or birthday. I must say the service has definitely improved but could be better. At times when the crowd gets bigger, the food that we ordered tends be be missed. Drinks are also not as cheap. But overall still a great place. In future hope they can come sonething new that reward or give privilege to those loyal customer like me ;)
Every Story Needs a Context
I was tasked to find a "steamboat place" for a group dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday. As you know, looking for a value for money steamboat restaurant is easy - just head to Singapore's steamboat mecca at Bugis.
But no, this was a friend's 25th birthday dinner celebration and we wanted to eat in a comfortable, well-ventilated/air-conditioned environment with service. So, the task became a little more challenging as Coca Steamboat (pricey and not that fantastic) and The Magic of Chong Qing Hot Pot (good quality, but way out of the group's budget) didn't fit under the category of "value for money" or had the word "nett" in the price.
So coming to HGW's site, I found that Le Le Pot was voted one of the best steamboat restaurants in Singapore. Despite the fact that I usually try a place before taking friends there, I risked my good food reputation and made a reservation for 9 people on a week day.
Getting a Table
The reservation process was simple and over the phone, I was able to get information on the price and the seating arrangements for the party. On the day itself, the restaurant staff called to confirm that the party was still "on" (proactive customer service which impressed me).
The place was bright, simply furnished and most importantly clean. Throughout dinner, we never once felt hot despite having the steamboat in front of us. I was also told that even the restroom was clean. Taking a quick peek into the kitchen, I noticed that the kitchen and packing area was rather clean (compared to the ones at Bugis) and didn't have raw food or dank smells.
The Dining Experience
Whether you are ordering ala-carte or having the steamboat buffet, you have to place your order by ticking or specifying the quantity you want of each item on an order sheet. The menu was rather extensive and I really appreciated the "cooked " items for its quality and taste especially the boiled pork dumplings, fried bun "man tou", and the deep friend calamari rings.
Buffet and Food Review
For the two steamboats we had, we chose 3 stock options: Herbal Chicken Soup, Sze Chuan Hot and Spicy Soup and Laksa Soup. Apparently, after having our stock served to us, we realised that no one wanted the Sze Chuan soup (ordered by mistake) and when we asked whether we could change the stock, we were told there was a charge of $5.80, but offered to skim the oil off the stock and top it up with chicken stock to reduce the soup's potency - which was very kind of the staff since really was no fault of theirs.
The order of food came in clean white melamine plates which reinforced the impression of cleanliness and hygiene. However the fulfillment of our order was rather haphazaard with the more popular items (eg Beef/Lamb/Pork Slices) coming faster and more furiously than less popular items like winter melon and golden mushroom.
In terms of the meat quality, I was told that the chicken meat was nice - but alas, no one cooked it for me. The Beef slice was below my expectation as it came with streaky fat lining the meat. When the beef was cooked, the fat turned into a rubbery texture which I was forced to remove.
So I turned to the pork slice which turned out to be better than the beef slice. Despite my preference to minimise pork consumption, I ended up eating those tender pork slices the entire night. Likewise the lamb slices were fresh and of good cut and didn't taste at all like "goat".
The range of vegetables offered was impressive with the relatively more expensive "Tang-O" available. "Tang-O" is an acquired taste and to see it offered with at least 6 other green leafy vegetables pleasantly surprised me.
The rest of the menu consisted of the usual assortment of processed "meat" balls, mushrooms, bean curd and root vegetables.
For those who want to alternate between eating the meat "for its taste" and "for other tastes", you can concoct your own saucer/bowl of sauce to dip it in. Even the sauce station was clean and well organised.
Damage to the Pocket
Included in the NETT price was an ice dessert which was pretty decent and would have cost $2.50 at a food court. Being "iced", the dessert also provided a very good closure to the overall "high temperature" meal.
Drinks priced at $1.50 for canned drinks and mineral water. Special iced drinks like ice passionfruit/mango or ribena will cost $3.80.
Do note that the "wet napkins" are charged 30 cents per person on top of the NETT price. The quality of the wet napkin was pretty good in terms of thickness and fragrance, so I was quite happy to pay for it (unlike some other places that rip you off with inferior ones).
Overall, service was Good (for a dining experience) to Excellent (compared to Bugis steamboat restaurants). Already on a week day with 90% occupancy, the service was patchy in terms of order fulfillment, it was still acceptable as my table always had food to cook while waiting. Based on this experience, I wouldn't recommend going on a weekend when the crowds come in.
10 Things To Do At Le Le Pot:
1) Start slowly. Don't gorge yourself upfront. It's not about stuffing yourself but about enjoying the communal cooking session.
2) Stretch the session for a minimum of 2 hours.
3) Put sufficient parking coupon to last at least 2 hours.
4) Don't kill the meat with "2nd death" by overcooking it. Stand up, put one arm on your hip and swirl the meat in the BOILING stock with the other arm. Do it leisurely and enjoy the process
5) Make sure the Stock is boiling before putting any meat inside to cook. This will ensure that bacteria is killed by the heat. Low heat may cook the meat slowly, but the bacteria may not be killed sufficiently to keep you from having the runs.
6) Order fried yam slices and winter melon to put them inside the clear chicken or vegetable stock to improve the flavour of your soup. The winter melon also absorbs the taste of the broth so when you eat it, it's yummy!
7) Pork slices absorb the herbal chicken stock very well to give the pork slice a richer taste. Also, cook your pork slices longer than you would the beef or the lamb.
8) Don't cook all your food at once by throwing them into the pot at one go. You'll end up with overcooked meat and vegetables that totally kill the taste and freshness
9) If you go with a friend, or if your group can split into pairs, order one iced dessert in the middle of the steamboat (in lieu of a drink) as the craving for a drink usually kicks in halfway through the savoury feast. Then order the second iced dessert at the end to finish off the meal.
10) Make yourself a good bowl of meat dip. My favourite condiment recipe: 2 spoons of garlic. Lots of parsley and sprnig onions. 2 ladles of sesame paste/sauce. A table spoon of soya sauce. A dash of sesame oil. 2 Table spoons of Vinegar. (for those who want a kick, put some chilli oil into the mixture)
I am never a big fan of steamboat buffet, as it always make me feel super duper thirsty after the meal. And this place does not make a difference either, in fact it is a place that I won't feel like returning. To be honest, the service staff was good, but the problem just lies on the food or maybe the soup based. I ordered the chicken and laksa soup which both taste equally salty. Another problem is the ventilation is bad!
It was ok. A "safe" place to go for a dinner. We didn't take any pics cos we were so hungry! The staff was very prompt too. However, a few items that we ordered didn't arrive. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though as we had ordered RICE. We were so stuffed in the end that we were glad the rice never came. (Edited: We went to this place again on Mother's Day and it was really NOT value for money at all. For 4 people eating a meal of mostly cheap stuff like processed meat, beancurd and veggie with some seafood like prawns - there weren't even cockles that day - we paid nearly $100. It was around the same price as our well-cooked meal of braised pork, huashan, fish slice. and lobster porridge for four at Canton Paradise. How can this be? Lele isn't going to last long of it continues overcharging for cheap food.)