Chinese New Year: Festive feasts

Steamed red grouper fillet on a bed of organic vegetables from Peony Jade.
Steamed red grouper fillet on a bed of organic vegetables from Peony Jade. PHOTO: PEONY JADE

Tables at popular restaurants are filling up fast for Chinese New Year Eve.

Chinese New Year is slightly more than a month away but reservations for reunion dinners on Feb 7 in hotels, restaurants and zi char places are filling up fast.

Some restaurants are already fully booked on that day.

Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant in Sheraton Towers Singapore has been fully booked for Chinese New Year Eve dinner since September last year. Half the diners made reservations as early as last February.

Other restaurants that are packed include Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant in Carlton Hotel, which has been fully booked since last month, and Yan Ting at The St Regis Singapore, where slots for its one-seating reunion dinner were filled up by November.

Other restaurants that are filling up fast include Hua Ting Restaurant in Orchard Hotel and Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant in UOB Plaza.

Although prices at some restaurants have increased, I will still visit a restaurant as it is a once-a-year treat.

MS ANG LING LING, who will be eating out this Chinese New Year Eve

Hai Tien Lo in Pan Pacific Singapore, Golden Peony in Conrad Centennial Singapore and Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel are up to 80 per cent booked.

Most of the 20 restaurants that The Sunday Times speaks to say that they are not increasing prices of festive set menus in order to stay competitive. This is despite the rising cost of premium ingredients such as seafood and the extra manpower needed to handle extra seatings.

Mr Robert Han, group general manager of The Quayside Group, which owns Peony Jade Restaurant at Clarke Quay and Keppel Club, says: “In view of the uncertainties of the economy, we are keeping to last year’s pricing despite using ingredients such as fish maw from China, lobsters from Canada and Italian black truffles. Prices have increased between 20 and 30 per cent in the past year.”

For other restaurants, prices are up 2 to 10 per cent this year.

Madam Soon Puay Keow, managing director of Spring Court in Upper Cross Street, says its prices have increased by 5 per cent this year. Dried delicacies such as sea cucumber and Chinese sausages have gone up by 20 per cent, while seafood such as scallops and lobsters have increased by more than 10 per cent, she says.

At least one restaurant is reducing prices.

Wan Hao Cantonese Restaurant in Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel says prices of its set menus this year start at $98.80++ a person, compared to $118++ a person last year.

Mr Himanshu Jethi, the hotel’s assistant director of food and beverage, says: “We revised our pricing strategy after comparing prices with competitors in order to reach out to a wider demographic of diners.”

With stronger demand for reunion dinners this year, restaurants such as Hai Tien Lo have increased its seating capacity by 30 per cent.

Zi char restaurant Keng Eng Kee in Alexandra Village is fully booked on Feb 7, the eve of Chinese New Year, so it decided to offer reunion dinner menus on Feb 6.

About 60 per cent of the tables for the additional seating have been booked.

Ms Ang Ling Ling, 41, an assistant director in the social sector, is looking to reserve a table for her family’s reunion dinner.

She says: “Although prices at some restaurants have increased, I will still visit a restaurant as it saves the hassle of cooking and it is a once-a-year treat.”

However, property agent Jasmine Tan, 51, is staying away from restaurants.

She was put off by an hour-long wait three years ago at a restaurant despite having made reservations.

“It is more worthwhile to spend the money on quality seafood ingredients for a steamboat meal at home,” she says. “We can eat and chat without keeping to a time limit.”


Chinese restaurants

Empress

 EMPRESS
Lucky Orange. PHOTO: EMPRESS

Tuck into its eight-course Prosperity set dinner ($118 a person, minimum four people), which includes a salmon and silver bait yusheng, suckling pig and roast duck platter, and fried glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf.

End the meal with a Lucky Orange (above), a dessert made with a whole mandarin orange filled with orange granita and soy milk panna cotta.

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum,01-03
When: It is open at 11.30am to 3pm and 6 to 11pm on Chinese New Year Eve and closed on the first and second day of Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6238-8733

Dragon Phoenix

About half of the seats in this Chinese restaurant are available on Chinese New Year Eve.

Tuck into eight set menus that start at $438++ for six people. All menus include its signature yusheng, a dish that was co-created by the restaurant’s founding chef Hooi Kok Wai.

Other dishes include poached live prawns, stewed ee fu noodles and shark’s fin with crab meat.

Where: Novotel Clarke Quay, Level 6
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 7.45pm, 8 to 11pm, open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6339-3368

Peony Jade


Steamed red grouper fillet on a bed of organic vegetables from Peony Jade. PHOTO: PEONY JADE

The restaurant’s first seating is almost fully booked, while the second seating is 80 percent filled.

Take your pick from eight set menus(from$798++ for 10 people).

Delicacies include sauteed Boston lobster with egg white topped with conpoy, fish roe and caviar, pen cai treasure pot filled with ingredients such as 18-head whole abalone, scallops, prawns, sea cucumber and dace fish, and steamed red grouper fillet with minced garlic and chilli.

Where: Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Road, & Block 3A Clarke Quay, 02-02
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year Eve: 6 to 7.30pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm, open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6276-9138 (Keppel Club) or 6338-0305 (Clarke Quay)

Lai Wah

This 52-year-old restaurant is 80 per cent booked on Chinese New Year Eve and has expanded its seating capacity to more than 100.

It offers two nine-course set menus at $498 (requires a $298 deposit) and $598 (requires a $398 deposit). Dishes such as crispy roast chicken, yam basket and fried pork chops are on the menus.

Where: Block 44, Bendemeer Road 01-1436
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 7.30pm (fully booked) and 8.30 to 10pm, closed on the first day of Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6294-9922/6298-4460

Spring Court

This 86-year-old restaurant is 70 to 80 per cent booked on the eve. Choose from four set menus (from $638 for an eight-course meal). Expect dishes such as braised sliced abalone with mushrooms, braised shark's fin with crab meat and deep-fried soon hock fish.

Where:52 to 56 Upper Cross Street
When: Three slots on the eve: 5 to 6.30pm, 6.45 to 8.15pm (fully booked) and 8.30 to 10.30pm. It is closed on the first day of Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6449-5030

Si Chuan Dou Hua

Seating at the chain’s three outlets are 80 to 90 per cent filled.

Festive dishes include a truffle-scented vegetarian yusheng that comprises 20 ingredients such as matsutake mushrooms, truffle slices and greens; stir-fried glutinous rice wrapped in honey glazed Kurobuta pork; and steamed rice with sliced garoupa and matsutake mushrooms.

Set menus start at $72 a person (minimum four people).

Where: Three outlets: Parkroyal on Beach Road, 7500 Beach Road; Parkroyal on Kitchener Road, 181 Kitchener Road; UOB Plaza 1, 80 Raffles Place, 60-01
When: Two seatings on the eve: 6.30 to 8pm and 8 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6505-5722 (Parkroyal on Beach Road), 6428-3170 (Parkroyal on Kitchener Road), 6535-6006 (UOB Plaza 1)

Yan


Signature crispy roast suckling pig served three ways from Yan. PHOTO: YAN

The restaurant in National Gallery Singapore is 80 per cent booked on the eve. Choose from eight set menus, which start at $118++ a person( minimum eight to 10 people).

Festive favourites include the Yellowtail Fish Yu Sheng, roast suckling pig served in three ways and braised abalone and sea cucumber with fish maw and mushrooms in double-boiled conpoy soup.

Where: National Gallery Singapore, 05-02
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 8pm and 8.30pm to 10.30pm, open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6384-5585

Ban Heng

More than 80 per cent of slots at its flagship outlet in Boon Keng Road have been booked on the eve.

There are four set menus (from $398+ for 10 people) to choose from. Expect dishes such as braised chicken with Chinese herbs, stewed Tianjin cabbage topped with black moss and Hong Kong-style steamed garoupa.

Where: Five outlets including Block 22 Boon Keng Road 01-21 and Orchard Central 11-01/02
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 7.30pm, 8 to 10pm, closed on the first day of Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6291-0407 / 6298-5285


Hotels

Jiang-Nan Chun

This Cantonese restaurant closed in October for renovations and is re-opening just in time for Chinese New Year.

Its six-course set menus start at $118 a person and feature dishes such as suckling pig skin with foie gras, and double-boiled matsutake mushroom soup with fish maw and chicken.

Where: Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, 190 Orchard Boulevard
When: Two seatings on the eve: 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6831-7250

Man Fu Yuan

Its first seating on Chinese New Year’s Eve is 70 per cent booked.

Choose from nine set menus that start at $108++ a person (minimum two people), which is a five-course menu that includes stir-fried Phoenix clams with XO Sauce and double-boiled abalone with conch and bamboo pith.

Where: InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.45 to 7.45pm and 8.15 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6338-7600

Jia Wei


Pen cai from Jia Wei at Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy. PHOTO: GRAND MERCURE SINGAPORE ROXY

Choose from five set menus that range from $258 for four people to $1,388 for eight to 10 people.

Festive dishes include yu sheng, steamed sea perch fillet, pen cai and a charcoal-grilled suckling pig.

The meals include a bottle of Moet &Chandon champagne.

Where: Grand Mercure Singapore Roxy,50 East Coast Road
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5 to 7pm, 8 to 10pm, open throughout Chinese New Year.
Info: Call 6340-5678

Summer Palace

The restaurant is 85 per cent booked on the eve of Chinese New Year.

Choose from 10 set menus that start from $998 for 10 people. Dishes include the Summer Palace Yu Sheng, which is topped with lobster, abalone and smoked salmon and Buddha Jumps over the Wall, with South African seven-head abalone, bird’s nest, fish maw, sea cucumber and dried scallops.

Where: Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road
When: Two seatings on the eve for the restaurant: 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10pm, one seating for the ballroom: 6.30 to 8pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6725-3288

Min Jiang


Crispy salmon skin lo hei from Min Jiang. PHOTO: GOODWOOD PARK HOTEL

Both the restaurant and ballroom are up to 80 per cent booked for the first seating.

Set menus start from $98 (minimum two people) and go up to $1,788 for 10 people.

Expect new dishes such as deep-fried nian gao with banana, and crispy salmon skin yusheng.

Dinner set menus in the hotel’s ballroom is available on Feb 7, and start from $688 for six people.

Where: Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road
When: Two seatings on the eve: 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6730-1704

Wan Hao

The restaurant and ballroom are more than 90 per cent booked. Its first seating is full and there are limited seats left for the second seating. Pick from five set menus that are priced from $98.80++ a person (minimum four people).

Menu highlights include roast duck marinated in ginseng sauce and stir-fried scallops with coral clam, broccoli and XO sauce.

Where: Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year Eve: 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6831-4605

Hai Tien Lo

The restaurant is 80 per cent booked on Chinese New Year Eve.

There are five set menus that start at $168.80 a person.

Highlights include pan-fried foie gras with sliced barbecued Beijing duck and smoked duck and stewed chicken with eight treasures and lotus seeds.

Where: Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year Eve: 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6826-8240

Golden Peony

The restaurant is 80 per cent booked on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Set menus start from $100++ to $188++ a person.

Feast on innovative festive dishes such as roast suckling pig stuffed with Hainanese chicken rice, swan-shaped filo pastry filled with foie gras, truffle and minced chicken and Canadian sea perch stuffed with lobster, minced shrimp and fish roe in spinach puree.

Where: Conrad Centennial Singapore, 2 Temasek Boulevard
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year Eve: 5.30 to 7.30pm and 8.15 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6432-7482/88


Zi char eateries

Keng Eng Kee Seafood


Lotus leaf rice from Keng Eng Kee Seafood. PHOTO: KENG ENG KEE SEAFOOD

If you do not mind having reunion dinner early, book a table at this popular zi char restaurant. It is fully booked on Chinese New Year Eve, but about 40 per cent of the slots on Feb 6 are still available.

Choose from three set menus (from $258 for five to six people). Dishes include fried rice with Chinese sausages, cashew nuts, roast pork belly and pig liver sausages in lotus leaf; roast chicken in sweet sauce and deep-fried whole soon hock fish. A deposit of $100 is required.

Where: Block 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, 01-136
When:Three seatings on Feb 6: 5 to 6.30pm, 7 to 8.30pm and 8.45pm till late, closed on the first and second day of Chinese New Year.
Info: Call 6272-1038

Zi Yean Restaurant

It is about 50 per cent booked for the eve of Chinese New Year. The second slot is filling up fast.

Choose from five set menus that start from $208 for four people. Signature dishes include Empire Treasure Chicken stuffed with chestnuts and salted egg yolk and boiled with herbs; stir-fried white and brown rice with Chinese sausages and prawns; and hashima cooked in a pumpkin and carrot broth.A deposit of $100 is required.

Where: 01-443 Block 56 Lengkok Bahru
When: Three seatings on the eve: 5 to 6.30pm; 7 to 8.30pm and 9 to 10.30pm. It is open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6474-0911

Por Kee Eating House

About half of the available seats on the eve of Chinese New Year are filled and only outdoor seats are left.

There are two set menus; the $438 menu for six to eight people includes dishes such as braised sea cucumber with fish maw, abalone and broccoli, cold dish platter and shark’s fin soup. A $100 deposit is required.

Where: Block 69, Seng Poh Lane, 01-02
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 8pm, 8 to 10.30pm, open throughout Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6221-5082

Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant

It is 30 per cent booked on the eve. Choose from three set menus (from $368 for four to six people), which include dishes such as claypot fish maw soup and steamed Teo chew style pomfret.

A $100 deposit is required.

Where: Block 115 Jalan Bukit Merah 01-1627
When: Two seatings on the eve: 5.30 to 7.30pm and 7.30 to 9.30pm. It is closed on the first and second day of Chinese New Year
Info: Call 6275-7575/3535

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Festive feasts'. Print Edition | Subscribe