Zi Char - Kok Sen Restaurant

Zi Char - Kok Sen Restaurant
30 Keong Saik Road

Legacy Zi Char With A Handful Of Signature Dishes

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 6
Ambience & Setting: 4
Food & Beverage: 8
Service: 4
Value for Money: 6
Spent about SGD $22 per person.


Kok Sen Restaurant is one of the early heritage spots along Keong Saik Road / Outram area, a mainstay that has been around for many years. Known for their Chinese Cantonese Zi Char at pocket-friendly prices, Kok Sen Restaurant has a handful of signature dishes, which you can see at almost every table here!

Ambience at Kok Sen Restaurant harkens back to the early days of the coffee shop, and it still retains much of that clean, brightly lit, sparse but functional layout. Actual floor space is limited, so tables are extended out into the walkway in front, and the alley at the back. There isn't much shelter if it rains. Typically fully packed, the place is noisy and bustling.

Service at Kok Sen Restaurant can be brusque, but they earn points for their extremely quick order fulfillment. Staff can and will make recommendations, especially their signature dishes. Not the best service around, but they are efficient. Waiting times can be long during peak periods, and there is no waiting area, so expect to stand around, sometimes for up to 20 minutes.

Food at Kok Sen Restaurant is Chinese Zi Char, with their signature dishes being Cantonese classics, as they do tasty soups, and sauce / gravy dishes. Portions are designed for communal dining. Due to high turnover, their food is usually served piping hot and fresh. Prices are sightly higher than regular coffeeshop zi char, but still wallet friendly, budget about SGD $22 per person for a meal here.


The menu here is rather extensive, and they have several dishes which are only available on weekends. Generally though, most diners stick to the tried and true signature dishes, with 1 or 2 other accompanying dishes to round out a meal.

Kok Sen Restaurant Signage

Kok Sen Restaurant Menu 01

Kok Sen Restaurant Menu 02

Kok Sen Restaurant Signature Dishes

They offer a house made Lime Juice With Sour Plum (SGD $1.50) here, which I find decent enough. Not outstanding, but rather refreshing as a beverage.

Lime Juice With Sour Plum

The Big Prawns Bee Hoon Soup (SGD $16 / $32 / $48) feature thick rice vermicelli noodles, kai-lan / Chinese kale / Chinese broccoli, and large, fresh meaty prawns, in a savoury, sour and spicy soup / broth that bears similarities to the Thai Tom Yum Soup. Fragrant and robust, the spicy kick of the soup / broth makes it quite addictive, while the savoury spicy notes leave you wanting more. I understand you can order this without the noodles, though they'll still charge you the same price for it. Good!

Big Prawns Bee Hoon Soup 01

Big Prawns Bee Hoon Soup 02

The Bitter Gourd Braised Pork Ribs With Black Bean Sauce (SGD $13 / $20 / $26) is a signature dish here, with its loyal supporters. Personally, I couldn't see what the fuss is about. I do commend the tenderness of the bitter gourd, which is soft and has lost the sharp, bitter taste, and the pork ribs are nicely tender as well. But it lacks that savoury, salty character I expect in a dish like this, resulting in a largely average dish. Let down by the taste, we didn't finish this.

Bitter Gourd Braised Pork Ribs With Black Bean Sauce 01

Bitter Gourd Braised Pork Ribs With Black Bean Sauce 02

The signature Golden Dragon Chicken (SGD $32) is only available on Fridays, and the weekends. The key in this dish is misdirection, a whole flattened chicken, with a beautifully roasted, crisp skin arrives at the table, glistening in the light. But below the skin, the chicken meat has been entirely removed, and mixed with a fish paste, to create a sort of chicken patty fish cake. The taste is beautifully savoury with a light salty flavour, your brain tells you it's eating chicken when you crunch into the golden brown skin, then you get the mix of chicken and fish that throws the senses. Dip into the sticky sweet sauce for added delight. Great!

Golden Dragon Chicken 01

Golden Dragon Chicken 02

Golden Dragon Chicken 03

The Claypot Yong Tau Foo (SGD $14 / $21 / $28) is a highlight of any meal here. Assorted pieces of fried bean skin tofu puffs, eggplant / aubergine, and bell peppers / capsicums are stuffed with a home made mix of squid and prawn paste, then drenched with a thick, braising gravy, rather like the Ampang style version. Savoury, just salty enough, with a pleasing combination of textures; crunchy, bouncy, chewy, and tender, I could eat a whole bowl myself! Highly recommended!

Claypot Yong Tau Foo 01

Claypot Yong Tau Foo 02

The best dish here would have to be the Big Prawns Hor Fun (SGD $16 / $32 / $48). The savoury, sweet, spicy gravy used is made from the same base as their tasty soup / broth, just reduced down and thickened with egg. The noodles have good, smoky wok hei / breath of the wok, making each mouthful delicious. The kai-lan / Chinese kale / Chinese broccoli, and large, fresh meaty prawns complete this tasty dish. Highly recommended!

Big Prawns Hor Fun 01

Big Prawns Hor Fun 02

The Stir-Fried Small Chinese Cabbage With Garlic (SGD $9 / $14 / $18) is a simple, straight forward vegetable dish. Crunchy and fresh, with a whiff of smoky aroma from being stir-fried. The baby bok choy / chinese cabbage / xiao bai cai also has the fragrant aroma of garlic. Decent.

Stir-Fried Small Chinese Cabbage With Garlic

The Cereal Butter Squid (SGD $12 / $18 / $24) has a nice portion of fresh squid / cuttlefish, buried under a mountain of crispy, crunchy cereal oats. Decent dish, you get the savoury taste of the oats, and the freshness of the squid, but it falls short of being great because it lacks that depth of flavour. Above average dish.

Cereal Butter Squid

The Prawn Paste Chicken (SGD $12 / $24) straddles the fine line between being moist and dry... what saved it is the bone in pieces of chicken, which helps to lock in the natural juices. Savoury and crisp on the outside, with good prawn flavour, the meat is tender and clean inside. Pretty good dish!

Prawn Paste Chicken