FRESH LOOK, FRESH MENU
Cherry Garden, the fine-dining Chinese restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore, has a fresh look and an updated menu.
The dark, soothing tones of the interior have given way to brighter colours with a new carpet of cherry blossoms and beige upholstery for the chairs. The wood pillars and panels remain, but are stained a lighter hue of brown.
The menu features new creations by chef Cheng Hon Chau, including steamed prawn dumpling with black garlic ($8) and a delicious steamed red garoupa with pickled chillies ($18 for 100g).
My favourite is the five grain fried rice with Cantonese pork sausage and vegetables ($24 for small). Comprising grains such as jasmine rice, glutinous rice and barley, it also boasts the lovely aroma of diced sausage and the sweetness of corn kernels.
WHERE: Cherry Garden, Level 5 Mandarin Oriental Singapore, 5 Raffles Avenue MRT: Promenade OPEN: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6885-3500
Talking about Michelin-starred restaurants, I am won over by the cooking at Curate in Resorts World Sentosa.
The fine-dining restaurant does not have any star, but was set up by the integrated resort to host guest chefs from overseas Michelin-starred restaurants. In between guest stints, it also serves a menu by resident Germany-born chef Benjamin Halat.
The eight-course menu, priced at $198 a person, is beautifully presented and boasts some nice dishes such as a foie gras parfait topped with sansho pepper and served with passionfruit gel; and carabinero prawn with a curry sauce perked up with laksa leaves and calamansi.
Go hungry because the meal starts with eight rounds of amuse bouche - creatively presented snacks that taste as interesting as they look. A nugget of raw tuna, for example, is shaped like a pebble and served on a platter with stones and leaves.
WHERE: Curate, The Forum, Level 1 Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway MRT: HarbourFront OPEN: 6.30 to 10.30pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays); closed on Sundays and Mondays TEL: 6577-7288
FISH BEE HOON SOUP AT LUCKY PLAZA
One day, after eating the popular yong tau foo on the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza, I was complaining to my hairstylist, whose salon is across the road, about how disappointing it was. We agreed that, except for the fried pork ball and stewed mushroom, everything else was run-of-the-mill.
But try the fish bee hoon soup on the ground floor, he said. So I did and it is good.
Alfa Cafe is a nondescript stall that is so small, it does not have any seats at its premises. Instead, you have to carry your little dish of chillies to the shop lot across the aisle, where some tables and chairs are set out.
A bowl of fried fish bee hoon, with or without milk, costs $5. I have tried both and prefer the milky version because it has Chinese rice wine in it - an excellent idea.
The bowl comes with three big pieces of deep-fried fish that are coated in a batter that remains crisp at the edges even after soaking in the soup for a while. The batter has a starchy feel that reminds me a little of Japanese agedashi tofu.
And topping each bowl are thick strips of spring onion and Chinese parsley. I know some people regard these with horror, but I find that they add a nice fragrance to the soup.
The stall sells other food such as breakfast fried bee hoon and fruit rojak, but I always order the fish bee hoon.
WHERE: Alfa Cafe, 01-92 Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road MRT: Orchard OPEN: 7am to 4.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), fish beehoon available from 11.30am; closed on Sundays TEL: 6235-9987
SEVEN HEAVEN AT LOLLA
Lolla's new head chef Saiful Aziz's tasting menu showcases autumn produce as well as what the young man can do. There is a choice of five (from $70, depending on what main course you choose) and seven courses (from $100).
Go for all seven courses because the meal starts with Lolla's signature sea urchin pudding before launching into chef Saiful's creations. It is a small portion but enough to make you appreciate the delicious squid ink pudding topped with raw sea urchin.
The rest of the menu comprises dishes that look simple, but are well-balanced in flavour and texture, such as a bonito carpaccio topped with chopped water chestnuts and matched with crisp slices of pickled daikon.
There is also an umami-filled dish of sauteed chanterelle mushrooms with sprouted beans, topped with sheets of aged manchego cheese.
A simple pan-seared brill is expertly done, with the fish fillet given a crisp coat. It comes with a salmon roe beurre blanc sauce.
The food is good. In fact, I'm more impressed with it than what I eat at a two-Michelin-starred French restaurant the following night.
WHERE: Lolla, 22 Ann Siang Hill MRT: Chinatown/Tanjong Pagar OPEN: Noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays); 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Sundays) TEL: 6423-1228
Book a meal at Cherry Garden or Lolla with Chope.