(THE NEW PAPER) - Two years ago, Char moved to Jalan Besar. The hype dimmed, but good luck getting a table for dinner without a reservation.
Now, with chef Chi Leung Tse, a 20-year veteran in Cantonese cuisine who joined in May, Char is looking to make some noise again, with an ambitious 70 per cent change to its menu. It now also offers casual Cantonese dishes.
But fans need not fret - the char siew has remained and there is a new version.
I am chill about how people eat their food. But I am triggered when people order lean char siew - they are missing the point of eating char siew.
So, imagine my disappointment when - at first glance - I did not spot much fat in the Premium Slow-Roasted Char Siew ($20; 10 portions a day).
Even the glossy coat and aromatic smokiness from lychee wood could not distract me.
But that changed after my first bite: The meat is tender and juicy, without the parched chew that lean char siew has.
As impressive as the new char siew is, the Signature Char Siew ($6 per 100g, minimum 300g) still wins. It is fatty, juicy and worth the calories.
You cannot be a Cantonese restaurant without offering soup and the Signature Double Boiled Chicken Soup ($10) is excellent.
Like most good soups, it looks unassuming. The milky colour is achieved by boiling chicken bones and cartilage, and it does not prepare you for how robust the soup is.
New on the menu is the Black Garlic Stewed Chicken In Casserole ($15.80).
This homespun dish is elevated with black garlic, which gives it a sweetness that some may like.
I was told the Charcoal Bean Curd With Spinach And Wild Fungi ($14.80) is the breakout star of the new menu.
Charcoal powder is added to the homemade bean curd, which gives it a gorgeous colour.
Each block of bean curd is steamed and deep-fried before it is laid on poached spinach.
The garnishes and the skin of the bean curd registered salty to me, and I can handle my salt. But have this with rice and it should balance out.
The best part is that the curd is silky smooth.