I was invited to dinner by a friend, and she recommended for us to meet at this restaurant specialising in Singaporean style cuisine. Being a Singaporean myself, naturally the idea peaked my curiosity, and I agreed heartily.
Located on a less busy street in the Jing an district, Awana is a cozy little restaurant with a bistro-like decor. The place was pleasantly lit, and wait staff service and attitude was average.
To be honest, I was not expecting too much of the food because reviews which I had read were really mixed, and not very spectacular.
The first dish that arrived was the house-made tofu; One of the highly raved dishes on dianping. I give it a 3/5 because house-made or not, it was a very dull dish with dull flavours. The points are awarded for the silky smooth consistency and nice thin fried crust holding the tofu together. Sauce was flavour-less, albeit seasoned. The ginkgo nut garnish added absolutely nothing to the dish in terms of flavour. Typical tofu dishes in Singapore would have a fermented bean-based sauce (tau cheo / duo ban jiang), so I was quite disappointed in this rendition.
Next up was the sambal sotong (cuttlefish). A little over-seasoned, cuttlefish was fresh enough – no fishy taste. While the sambal was passable, it did not have enough kick. A good samba would have strong shrimp paste notes, with a sweet and tangy taste from gull melaka (coconut sugar) and lime juice. It is not easy to balance the 3 aforementioned flavours because they are on the extreme ends of savoury, sweet and sour on their own. Anyway, Awana’s rendition of this dish gets a 3/5.
The next one was the satay. This really disappointed me, although the portions were huge. They were nothing close to being authentic. Meat was supposed to be chicken / beef on separate skewers, but it all tasted pretty much of mystery meat. The kebabs were more like heavily spiced meat patties. Peanut sauce was average but was too little for 6 large kebabs. I would have preferred smaller skewers of marinated chicken thigh pieces. 2/5
The mee goreng was up next, and this was actually the most authentic and best tasting dish of the evening. Fried with egg noodles, tomatoes and some seafood, they were actually quite a lively plate, with a good wok hei (wok essence) present. Noodles were neither broken apart nor soggy. The resultant sauce had a nice balanced savoury/sweet/tangy flavour. If I could choose, I would simply order plate of this 4/5 entree as my dinner and be done with the evening, but nooo…
I had to be adventurous and order a curry fish head (I was making a crazy bet that this place would actually serve an authentic curry fish head). Long story short, it was more of a thai/hongkong-style curry fish head, a more delicate curry flavour with possibly an entire can of coconut milk in the dish. That said, the ingredients were correct, tomatoes, onions, eggplants and a fresh half of a mystery fish head. It might have tasted better if slightly less coconut milk was used, and tamarind juice/water was added to add tang to the (fiery) bang. 3/5
All in all, the dishes were very mediocre except for the mee goreng. If you noticed that I have been quite generous with the scoring despite my seemingly bad review of the dishes, it was because most of the ingredients used were actually quite fresh, and the dishes didn’t taste all bad themselves, just that they weren’t excellent.
Would I come back again? Probably not, given the assortment of better Singapore restaurants in Shanghai.