If, like me, you have not been to the Singapore Flyer for some time, you may not know of Sky View Pavilion. I have my colleagues to thank for discovering another hidden gem.
The Chinese restaurant operated by the Flyer is not altogether new. It began life last year as Sky View Kitchen, with a dim sum menu and a selection of noodles and small bites. In January this year, it was turned into a full-fledged restaurant after renovations to create an airy and comfortable main dining room with private rooms on the side. A menu of Cantonese main dishes was also added.
Most of the dishes, with the usual selection of roasts, live seafood items and stir-fries, do not stand out from what other Cantonese restaurants here offer. There is also chilli crab, which I guess would appeal to tourists visiting the Flyer.
While the dishes may not look exciting on paper, the cooking is impeccable.
Every dim sum I try over two lunchtime visits turns out perfect - whether it is crunchy har gow or shrimp dumpling ($6) with thin and springy skins; bouncy beef balls ($4.50) with just a hint of dried orange peel; or delicious siew mai ($5.20).
Make sure you reserve an order of steamed pandan cake ($4.50) for dessert. It is done in the style of steamed thousand-layered cake, but with the salted-egg custard replaced by thin layers of pandan kaya. The pandan is very fragrant, but it is the dough that makes me sit up. The cake is so fluffy and light, I have not eaten anything better.
SKY VIEW PAVILION
01-04 Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Avenue, tel: 6854-5245, open: 11am to 3pm, 5 to 10pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11am to 10pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays)
Food: 4/5 stars
Service: 3.5/5 stars
Ambience: 3.5/5 stars
Price: Budget from $50 a person, expect to pay more if you order live seafood
The main dishes are very good too. The Crispy Roasted Pork Belly ($14) has a good balance of fat and meat, and a lovely crackling.
Most chefs would tell you that the simplest dishes are the most difficult to get right. If that is the case, the Sauteed Sliced Beef With Fresh Mushrooms ($26) is proof that there is a master chef in the kitchen here. Both the beef and the mushrooms are cooked to the perfect level of doneness, in a delicious, well-balanced sauce. Too often, a dish like this would be spoilt by overcooked mushrooms or an overly salty sauce.
If you still have any doubts over the chef's skills, order the Live Prawn Cooked Two Ways ($32). The heads are deep-fried and tossed with salted egg yolk sauce, and the meat is sauteed with celery. Both are expertly executed. The contrast between the crispy, moreish heads and the sweet meat also makes this a memorable match.
What I am more pleased to see are a few dishes from the past that have dropped off the radar in recent years.
Among them is Steamed Boneless Chicken With Ham And Vegetables ($30 for half a chicken), a dish that was frequently served at wedding banquets 30 or more years ago. Poached chicken is deboned and chopped, then laid on a plate with alternating slices of Chinese ham and mushrooms. A starchthickened gravy is poured over it. The combination is a mix of textures and flavours that go very well together, bound by the savoury gravy. The stalks of kailan on the plate are not there to just look pretty either. They also help to cleanse the palate before you pop another sandwich of chicken, ham and mushroom in your mouth.
It is so good to see Sauteed Shark's Fin With Crab Meat, Scrambled Egg And Sliced Lettuce ($88) on the menu too. Anyone who scoffs at how bland shark's fin is has to try this to realise why texture is so important in Cantonese cooking. The flavour may come from the egg and the crab meat, but take the combs of fin out of the dish and you end up with an ordinary omelette. With it, the dish comes alive, especially when you eat it wrapped in a crisp lettuce leaf.
The only disappointment is the Sri Lankan Crab Sauteed With Chilli Sauce In Singapore Style ($11 for 100g). The problem lies in the watery crab, with claws only half-filled with meat. Worse, the liquid from it dilutes the gravy, which could have tasted good otherwise.
If I were the chef and do not have better crabs on hand, I would not serve the dish.