If you read Berch on Food you might remember that a few years ago I marveled at the rise of all-Asian shopping centers that focused on food. Well, it’s 2007 and the all-Asian mall has come to our valley, in the form of Ulferts Center in sprawling eastern Dublin. There’s some decent food out in that part of the world now, including a branch of Armadillo Willy’s and Stacey’s at Waterford.

Chinese doughnutUlferts is a couple of blocks west, and it’s a two-decker strip mall of the style that’s been popular in Los Angeles and San Jose for the last few years. (Ulferts, by the way, is a Taiwanese furniture store which is nominally the anchor tenant but it’s one of the few non-food-related businesses.) The center opened earlier this year but many spaces are still being prepared. The major (and much-anticipated) restaurant will be Koi Garden, a branch of the immensely popular and hyped dim sum house Koi Palace in Daly City. Koi Garden takes up much of one wing of the upper level, and appears to be slowly heading toward completion. However, it features a smaller and less ambitious sibling — Just Koi — which is already open on the lower level. More about that tomorrow.

Right now, I think 10 of the 14 planned eateries are open, which means many visits are in order!

Of the restaurants that are open, the one with the most buzz was Singapore Old Town Cafe. I tried it on a Friday night and there was a line out the door of people waiting for tables. I decided to go for takeout, figuring I’d probably be home eating before I got a table. I ordered two small appetizers (Chinese doughnut stuffed with shrimp paste and Singapore-style spring rolls) and a main course (sambal belacan prawns). Sambal belacan prawnsI have to say I was underwhelmed by all three. The Chinese doughnut was tasty, but over-fried by quite a bit, to the point of toughness. The spring rolls, which had been recommended, were tiny, had little contents, a stale crumbly wonton-skin wrapper, and were simply unappetizing. I ate half of one of the two small rolls and discarded the rest. The belacan prawns were a disappointment — the prawns themselves were small (most other places use large ones) and the sauce was watery and did not have nearly enough of the spicy belacan sambal (dried shrimp paste with chili peppers), and there were far too many large chunks of bell peppers and onions.

I love Singaporean/Malaysian food and hoped it would be as good as Straits Cafe, Penang Garden, Red Kwali, or Spice Islands, but based on my single visit, it wasn’t in that class, but I’m sure I’ll get back to it reasonably soon.

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