The classic Chinese restaurant revamped
DRAGON and phoenix motifs on the wall, heavy rosewood furniture and abundant use of gold and red all around - it used to be easy to spot a Chinese restaurant. But the new age Chinese restaurant no longer follows that path. Instead, it's taking a leaf out of its Western counterparts, going chic, moving away from garish reds and adopting more subtle shades such as grey and beige, but still incorporating little splashes of colours.
1 Empress Place, Asian Civilisations Museum, #01-03
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-11pm, Mon to Sun
With all the hype surrounding the opening of the new National Gallery Singapore, it's easy to miss the re-opening of the Asian Civilisations Museum just around the corner, along with its own slew of fresh dining concepts.
One of them is Empress by The Prive Group, which soft-opened last Tuesday serving classic Chinese cuisine in a contemporary setting alongside the Singapore River.
While Empress is sleek with an upbeat vibe, old-school elements like rattan-backed dining chairs and round wooden tables with lazy Susans add nostalgia.
Prive group chairman, Yuan Oeij, said: "We wanted a design that respects the location; that reflects approachability but also elegance, and has the balance between modern and traditional Chinese. So it was like sliding the scales on an equaliser."
He adds that the restaurant focuses mainly on traditional Cantonese cuisine and their speciality is in their roast meats prepared by executive chef Ricky Leung from Hong Kong. One of the highlights is a triple roast platter of Empress char siew, crackling roast pork and Empress sticky and sweet pork ribs ($28-$56).
Other dishes on the menu include deep-fried tofu and salted egg yolk ($10-$20), king prawn dumpling in supreme broth ($14 per person), lobster mapo tofu ($22-$56) and a vegetarian-friendly fried brown rice medley ($20-$40).
Desserts, on the other hand, were an opportunity for Empress to be more creative, says Mr Oeij.
One of his personal favourites is the cempedak creme brulee ($13 per person) with both fresh and dried jackfruit sitting atop the classic French dessert.
Marina Square, #03-128A/B
Opening Dec 7
The soon-to-open Kai Garden at Marina Square could well give the other Chinese restaurants in the area a run for their money. After all, the restaurant will be opened and headed by executive chef Fung Chi Keung, who has had an illustrious career.
The Hong Kong-born chef was head chef at Pine Court at Meritus Mandarin Singapore and then later group executive chef at Paradise Group, where he came up with the idea of colourful xiaolongbao packed with unusual fillings such as foie gras and black truffles.
Chef Fung was also the executive chef at Xin Yue Modern Chinese restaurant at River Valley Road.
At the 200-seater Kai Garden, Cantonese cuisine will be the draw and chef Fung will be giving his interpretation of Cantonese classics, such as Peking duck with pumpkin crepes and double-boiled shark's fin with collagen and Chinese herbs soup.
Says chef Fung: "The paradox of full flavour yet delicate taste, of vibrancy of colours yet subtleness in presentation - this is what I love. I want to maintain this purity that makes Cantonese cuisine so unique but at the same time, create new and memorable experiences for the diners."
Just as how the menu will be today's interpretations of Cantonese classics, the interior will be modern as well. The restaurant is still being fitted out but from the artist renderings of the place, the colour theme revolves around greys and dark browns. There will be Chinese screens adorning the ceiling and walls, with artwork lining some of the panels.
Apart from the main dining hall, there will also be a function room that can seat up to 60 and four private rooms.
28 Sentosa Gateway, #02-137/138/139
Opening hours: Noon-4pm, Mon to Sun; 6pm-10pm, Sun to Thurs; 6pm-10.30pm, Fri, Sat and eve of public holidays
A meal at Resorts World Sentosa's new restaurant, Avenue Joffre, is like a ticket to tasting the cuisines of China without even leaving your seat.
The restaurant was named after an area in Shanghai's French Concession back in the 1930s and 1940s, which is now known as Huaihai Road, and opened in late September in partnership with the Hong Kong hospitality group Epicurean Group.
The decor was inspired by a Cantonese film-maker's home as well as the Chinese movie industry during that time, while the menu has a variety of dishes from different parts of China including Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan and Zhejiang.
In the kitchen are four Asian master chefs, each with their own area of expertise, including head chef for Sichuan cuisine Gu Xiaorong, Shanghainese cuisine master chef Zhou Yuanchang, Dim Sum Culinary master Ge Xian'e and executive chef Ip Chi Kwong who specialises in Cantonese cuisine and oversees all culinary operations.
Highlights include a Sichuan-poached sliced Mandarin fish in chilli oil ($38-$76), braised tiger king prawn with homemade tofu ($22 per person) and, of course, dim sum selections like steamed Shanghai pork dumplings (xiaolongbao, $7), steamed crystal prawn dumplings (har gao, $6) as well as Chinese roast meats like crispy pork belly ($20-$40).
Says chef Ip, 62, a native of Hong Kong with 46 years of experience under his belt: "A lot of the Chinese dishes that are served here are traditional dishes but presented in a very modern way, which is very close to Western plating. It's like a fresh presentation of something that everybody is very familiar with."
THE BUSINESS TIMES