Singapore is a regional bastion for Chinese food and the demand for Fine Dining Cantonese cuisine continues to surge after two years of blighting disruptions. TNA visits five of the nation's best fine dining Cantonese restaurants in the first of a two-part bulletin on Singapore's best Chinese restaurants.
Resplendently renovated Cassia couldn't have found a better fit with veteran Cantonese chef Alan Chan who had coursed back to Singapore after a prolonged stint away in Jeju, South Korea. His curated menu featuring a classical medley platter, double-boiled soup, stir-fried wagyu, sautéed spinach and lobster noodles all point to a steadfast adherence to old school Cantonese methods albeit updated with new forms and treatments. The abalone of the platter for example, was lightly braised for hours before being served chilled and laced with a surprising kombu sauce. It was refreshing, surprising and masterfully rendered. That's the note on the other dishes as well but far from staid assembly line affairs, one detects flavours that could only be coaxed from ingredients with finely honed skills and great clarity. Cassia is now coursing with a new synergy that will send it on its way to a higher position on the Singaporean culinary scene after years of inertia had stumped its ascent for way too long.
The Fullerton Singapore
When we last visited Jade in 2019 chef Leong Chee Yeng was somewhat gleefully preoccupied with his foray into traditional sugar lacing, and his glistening butterflies were quite the pretty thing to behold. Today he has kept steady pace with his classical renditions on Cantonese favourites, with scene stealers like stewed 6-head abalone with sea cucumber and double-boiled chicken consummé that are the delectable options on his extensive menu. There were misses though - the 'Ba Kut Teh Xiao long bao is quite the curious little parcel with nary an ounce of the said flavour and the braised Ee Fu noodle was an utterly lackluster attempt. The braised pork belly with winter melon proved to be an overtly dark ensemble that sounded conceptually promising but falls just a yard off the promised land. The flavours were singularly rich and the presentation could have benefited from a little lift.
Hai Tian Lo
Pan Pacific Singapore
A favourite haunt of the CBD crowd in the heady decades of yore, Hai Tian Lo was inexplicably plucked from its apex perch and supplanted into its current atrium space that is honestly just a tad too dim and dreary. To think the view was so good that even the accents were memorable - I still pine for the candied walnuts and XO sauce that were always served before dinner proper started. There are still candied walnuts and XO sauce when we visited, but perhaps nostalgia had tugged a tad too hard and somehow they didn't taste just as good as before. A duo of dim sum designed by newly appointed chef Ricky Leung however initiated a good start to the evening - the yam puff with foie gras and shredded chicken was a good balance of textures and flavours, and the steamed siew mai with quail eggs and black truffles was delicious even though its patina glowed like kryptonite. The double-boiled chicken abalone soup in fresh coconut was a decent rendition, and the chicken wing stuffed with crab meat and egg white was classic comfort nosh. The braised abalone with Japanese mushroom and black truffle was a nice blend of bite and aroma but an oddly intrusive shard of truffle doth protest too much in this ensemble. Alas, the crispy chicken smoked with royal tie guan yin was woefully gristly and the wok fried rice noodles with beef tenderloin was bland and gave no hint of any wok-hei finesse with beef slices that were unpalatably sinewy.
Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay Singapore
Wonder-boy chef Edward Chong had cleverly established himself as the maven du jour of fine Cantonese cuisine by prodigiously pushing the forms and boundaries of what is avant-gardist yet essentially true to the core of fine Cantonese classics. By his own account he had executed the balancing act (with aplomb might we add) with just a sup con of genius and a grand dose of hard work since he began heading the culinary team at Peach Blossoms from 2017, and his efforts are clearly paying off. Who can forget that lychee starter textured with red rice, that impossibly light and crispy Kurobuta pork puff and that decadent cigar prawn roll no one can get enough of? His spirited updates of classics like char siew made from Iberico pork and Peking duck paired with foie gras and pastry are the other crowd pleasers that had kept the restaurant circulating with happy adoring clients. Today he is in masterful command of these creative elements and have been reaping both awards and aficionados in the process. Peach Blossoms is certainly entering the 2nd spring of its long existence and is at the moment the top table to surpass.
After Shang Palace was lifted from erstwhile neglect by the hard work and dedication of the late master chef Mok Kit Keung, the restaurant is now in the stable hands of chef Daniel Cheung, who like Mok also hailed from the sister ship at Kowloon Shang. Perceptibly the standards have been maintained, with sterling techniques and freshness of premium quality ingredients still the top draws of this popular restaurant. Our old time favourite chicken wings with abalone and mushroom is still perennially comforting while some of chef Cheung's new creations like the applewood smoked beancurd rolls and steamed spotted grouper fillet in egg white sauce are sitting in nicely in the extensive menu he inherited from Mok. The tomato sauce that Cheung's Wagyu beef fried rice in whole tomato sat on was the stuff of addiction but pity there really wasn't enough beef in the rice to raise any excitement. An elegant but lavish statement on how less is more, both metaphorically and price wise, is the chef's braised bamboo pith stuffed with imperial bird's nest. It jolted my memory on how I have been schooled by my mother in the 80s that bird's nest may sometimes be prepared as a savoury dish in old Canton, but it would be a mighty waste to attempt that here as not many in Singapore would find that acceptable given how bird's nest is largely dessert first and mighty costly. Fast forward into the epoch of excess we are now in, and it appears that my late mother may be wrong, even though not entirely wrong.