Full Of Luck Club, a two-week-old restaurant in Holland Village, is marketed as the brainchild of the team behind Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant in Sheraton Towers. And yet, it is not run by the five-star hotel in Scotts Road.
The main link, as far as I can tell, is that Li Bai's executive Chinese chef Chung Yiu Ming is involved in planning the menu of the new restaurant.
Not that it matters because Full Of Luck Club and Li Bai are as different as chalk and cheese.
While Li Bai is known for its exquisite Cantonese cuisine, the new place offers Chinese cuisine made hip for the young.
And it seems to work. When I visit on a Tuesday evening, the place is packed with people in their 20s and 30s who are clued in to the upbeat Western music and tucking into tiny portions of sharing plates.
The decor is consistent with the vibe, with diners squeezed into small tables and a long counter facing an open kitchen at the back. Bigger groups can go to a more spacious dining area on the second level.
FULL OF LUCK CLUB
243 Holland Avenue, tel: 6208-6845
open: 11am to 11pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11am to 1am (Friday and Saturday)
Food: 3/5 stars
Service: 2.5/5 stars
Ambience: 3/5 stars
Price: From $50 a person
The food, too, is nothing like what you would find at Li Bai - except for a small selection of dim sum such as Steamed Shrimp Dumplings With Bamboo Shoots ($7.20) and Baked BBQ Pork Puff ($5.40).
The Steamed Rice Rolls With Shrimp ($6.80) is excellent. The rice sheets are smooth, with crunchy prawns snuggled inside them. Doused with a salty-sweet soya sauce and served with stalks of caixin vegetable, the cheong fun is certainly as good as what you would find at the parent restaurant.
The rest of the menu is a mix of new creations and traditional Chinese dishes reduced to tapas-sized plates.
There is also a "bao bar" serving Chinese-style burgers, with the bun replaced by a fluffy steamed bao that sandwiches dishes such as Salted Egg Yolk Prawn and Braised Pork Belly ($9.80 for any two flavours).
The two mentioned items are good, with bits of chilli padi to spice up the flavours. The prawns are fried in salted egg yolk sauce with curry leaves, while the pork belly is a typical kong bak with pickled lotus root slices to cut the fat.
I like the Panko-crusted Portobello bao too, which is good for vegetarians. The deep-fried mushroom is served with teriyaki mayonnaise, cabbage and carrot slaw, and grilled pineapple.
But the Kung Pao Fried Chicken bao is disappointing because it lacks the chilli heat required of the Sichuan dish.
Another Sichuan dish in the sharing plates section, Boss Chicken ($16.50), suffers from the same problem.
This is the classic la zi ji that is sometimes called firecracker chicken because it should be so spicy, it sets the tongue burning. But the version here is a sodden firecracker with hardly any chilli heat. Worse, the diced chicken is dry and tough.
As for the other dishes, there are just as many hits as misses.
Try the Golden Sand Corn With Salted Egg Yolk ($4.80), which is a snack and one that is a lot of fun to eat.
Kernels of corn are tossed with salted egg yolk sauce and a bit of chilli in a wok until the sauce forms an even crust over each one. Toss a few in the mouth and enjoy how the salty-spicy flavours of the salted egg crust blend with the sweet corn.
The Chilli Glazed Fried Fermented Bean Paste Chicken Wings ($8) get my vote with a spicy, sweet and sour flavour combination. The wings are meaty and juicy too.
The Crispy Aromatic Duck ($35 for half) is not the best or the crispiest I have eaten, but is still quite decent. The meat is shredded at the table and you wrap it in steamed Chinese crepes with cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce.
Look for bits of the duck skin if you find the meat too dry - and if you do not mind a bit of fat.
The Hakka Crispy Kurobuta Pork ($18) is neither as crispy nor aromatic as described in the menu, which says it is "marinated with fermented bean curd, Chinese wine and signature fragrant spices". I taste none of those, however, just rather dry pieces of pork with indistinct flavours.
The two beef dishes I try - Truffle Pepper Beef Claypot Rice ($16) and Moonlight Truffle Beef Hor Fun ($20) - are disappointing.
Both come with lots of dark gravy that looks delicious, but tastes bland. It is as though the chef has forgotten to season it, which makes me wonder where the colour of the sauce comes from.
The beef is decent, but not outstanding, and the aroma of truffles eludes me.
The servings are tiny too. I can easily eat two plates of the hor fun and still have room for appetisers and dessert.
Full Of Luck Club is a place to hang out and chill with friends over food and drinks.
Order the right dishes and you may end up with a good meal, though I suspect the fast-food-generation clientele it targets may not care about that too much.
It is not the best place for family dining. And if you are planning a power lunch, go to Li Bai instead, where the service and ambience are more conducive for business talk.
And your business associate will be more impressed with your taste in food too.
• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
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