Western food’s market in Singapore has matured a lot in recent years. Local restaurateurs seem to have taken note of that potentially penetrative market that has been idling for a long time since our colonial days with what the British left us. So the ‘mass production’ ideology become the strategy in an era where outsourcing is the name of the game. So like other things, you get branded Western Food flooding the market in no time. Yet maintaining the quality of the food seems to be the challenge in many cases. It’s no rocket science why quality is eluding many many mass production foods and how often have we heard the phrase ’standard dropped liao’?
Yet really and truly, business is all about making money. If you’re the boss of a business and an opportunity crops up where you can grow your earnings exponentially, wouldn’t you say YES? And the thing is that it is a real challenge to expand any food business and maintaining the ’same standard’ at the same time. Yet at times, in food business it is not even essential to maintain the same quality while you grow your business. Growth of any food business can seriously thrives on craze alone. The key is to strike hard and long before the novelty wears off and when the dust finally settles, you have a system that runs on auto pilot and makes you money, nevermind the quality of the food by then. We all know the story of Singapore’s KFC, enough said.
Sometime ago Astons came onto the Western Food’s market and created a storm. They did something that nobody else have ever done. Delivering quality food at extremely affordable price. It excited a lot of Western Food lovers and they were doing a lot of things right.
Astons has long won over the hearts of many Singaporeans as far good quality’s western food is concerned. From a single successful store, they expanded aggressively to take full advantage of the situation and their action is something that can be considered as capitalising on the ‘Bandwagon Effect’. Now I’ve eaten at many Astons Express and I must mention that I was very very very impressed at the beginning. My first Astons meal was simply overwhelming. It was very delicious and there were serious value for some food that cost you as cheap as $5.90. But of late, the script that we’re all very familiar with in regard to mass produced food seems to have that sorry same in the end. In Astons, the repercussions of large scale expansion seems to take it’s toll(or at least that seems to be the case for me).
Not contented with food delivered at Astons Express anymore, me and a few friends headed for the newly opened Astons Prime at Centerpoint. Astons Prime at Centerpoint is interesting. By their bold move to shift to the city, it’s a clear sign that they’re ready to compete with the very best in the market. The design of the restaurant is outstanding and it seemed that they have decided to ‘upgrade’ themselves. Something that is also very interesting is that the price you see on the menu is net price. Our receipt later showed that there are no charges for service and GST is already included in the price in the menu. At first look, that sounded like a GREAT thing but after looking at the price difference between Astons Specialties, Express and Prime for the item that I ordered which is in excess of $7.90, I doubt so LOL !
The menu at Astons Prime is 70 to 80% different from the Astons Express menu I know all along. I’m not sure if the original menu at Astons Prime Joo Chiat branch was like that too but it certainly disappoints to an extent because one of our friends came here on my recommendation that Astons have superb chargrill chicken. If you are a non-beef eater and you only had one choice in the menu for Chicken, you would also feel the same. We ordered the Angus Ribeye, Ribeye X Cut and Chicken with Apple Sausage.
Chicken and Apple Sausage
The first to arrive was Chicken with Apple Sausage. It came with that all familiar Astons mushroom sauce with something that looked like enoki mushrooms on the chicken. Being a virgin Astons eater, my friend commented that it is good(as expected). I tasted a bit of the sausage and it was indeed quite good with flavours that’s distinct to german sausages if you know what I mean. However that’s about it. It was good but not great, and I am not too sure if I can’t buy a pack of sausages with the same level of ‘deliciousness’ for a couple of dollars from Giant or Cold Storage. There were cubes of apples hidden in the sausage though it definitely did not taste any better than any sausages I’ve eaten without apples. But for $16.90, this must be considered cheap in any restaurants and indeed it is one of the cheapest main course items on the menu. This dish is not on Astons Specialties’ or Express’s menu though over there, they have a Chicken and Sausage Combo which would cost you around $10ish. The appearance of the chicken did looked a far cry from my usual Chargrill Chicken I had at Express though the portion looked huge, not sure if it’s an illusion whereby it’s been enlarged by the gigantic plate that it came on. The skin on the chicken wasn’t charred enough. The chargill chicken I always had beats this chicken hands down.
Rib Eye X Cut 300G
Our Ribeyes arrived and it was beautifully presented. I must also mention that my favourite Astons side dish which is the Potato Salad is not on the menu at Astons Prime. And when I asked the waitress whether the fries has the cajun seasoning on it, she didn’t understand what I was talking about. She clearly hasn’t dined at Astons Express. My friend was praising her medium rare Ribeye steak from the first bite to the last bite though I must say that by now, I’m too familiar with all this ‘Virgin Astons Eater’s’ syndrome because all the people whom I have recommended to eat at Astons had all gave thumbs up like how I did too when I first ate.
But after eating at Astons for almost 20 times, I now know that these are all old tricks. If ever there is one thing that I think Astons is doing it all wrong, it is the same sauce that they’re using for everything on their menu. Granted I haven’t tried everything on the menu but so far, everything that I ordered, it all came with that mushroom sauce which tasted delicious at first but ‘factory made’ after 20 times. The sauce is good but I believe there is an overkill effect to the point where it almost doesn’t matter what I order because I’ll get the same taste afterall. My Ribeye X Cut was nothing short of what I expected. The same sauce I had on my steak is also the same sauce that was poured on my mashed potatoes and it’s all that same sauce I’ve always eaten at Aston. I say again, this sauce is good and I love it but I seriously believe one day I’m going to get sick of it. I mean if you eat sharksfin everyday, you’ll also get sick of it one day right?
The famous mushroom sauce they use for everything.
Fries with cajun seasoning.
The fact is my Ribeye was still quite delicious though when I thought about the same thing can be had at an Astons Express stall just 5 mins down the road from where I stay, it does make me look silly coming all the way here to pay $7 more, not forgetting the cost of petrol and parking.
Our ‘Virgin Astons Eaters’ commented that the meal was good though there was no surprise for me unfortunately. The taste is exactly the same as what I know and if anything, the plate they served our food on is seriously gigantic but otherwise there are no reasons for me next time to drive all the way to Centerpoint when I can get $7 discount for driving 5 mins from my place to an Astons Express.
Rib Eye X Cut 300G
Mashed Potatoes with the famous mushroms sauce.
And lastly my steak was ‘well done’ with sufficient juiciness to form the deliciousness and yes my fries did came with cajun seasoning.
Price: $14.90 and above
Recommendation: Ribeye X Cut ( without X Cut is 200gram while X Cut is 300gram, therefore you’re paying $3 more for 100gram!)
Conclusion: My Rib Eye was good though not any better than any meals I had at Astons Express. Our bill was clearly ‘upgraded’ for the ambience and nothing else. If anything I feel that the menu at Express has a better variety though there are appetizers and entre at Prime.
Likes: Beef is juicy and flavour is appetising.
Dislikes: Uses the same mushroom sauce on everything means eaters can get bored one day. From memory, a Diners Burger I had in the past also had the same sauce. Heck it even looked like the same piece of chargill chicken in my burger. Astons does have a habit in reusing ingredients in many dishes and that could be a real stumbling block in sustaining eater’s interest in the long term.