I haven't enjoyed Hunan cuisine in years, since Charming Garden in Dunearn Road closed down in the Noughties and Cherry Garden at the Mandarin Oriental hotel switched to a Cantonese menu.
So the current promotion at Jin Shan Lou in Marina Bay Sands brings back a lot of memories. Called Palates Of Surprising Hunan, it features guest chef Xu Juyun from Changsha in China, who is awarded the title Great Master Of Hunan Dishes, among many other accolades. He has been working in the kitchen for 50 years.
His menu at Jin Shan Lou is not only very good, but the prices are also pretty decent. The most memorable dish for me is the Stir-fried Hairline Ox Tripe ($28 for small). The tripe is sliced so finely that the dish looks like a plate of fried beehoon. This requires knife skills that must have taken years to hone. It is a tasty dish with a delightful crunch. Also very good is the Stir-fried Parboiled Tender Chicken With Spring Onion, Chilli And Ginger ($20 for small). There is just enough chilli and Sichuan peppercorn to titillate the tastebuds without numbing them, and the oil gets a nice aroma.
Other dishes to order are Essence Of Minced Meat, Dried Scallop And Waterchestnut In Bamboo Tube ($9 each), Steamed Fish Head With Special Hunan Chilli Vinaigrette ($48 for half a head) and Stewed Pork In Brown Sauce Mao's Style ($26 for small), so named because it was late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong's favourite dish.
This is a rare chance to taste a master's cooking and one of the best Chinese promotions I have experienced in recent years.
Where: Jin Shan Lou, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 1 Bayfront Avenue, 01-05, Tower 2 Hotel Lobby MRT: Bayfront When: Till July 20, 11.30am - 5pm, 5.30 - 10.30pm Tel: 6688-7733
WHOLE LOBSTER IN A ROLL
Sometimes, you need just one good idea to make a success of a new restaurant. Pince & Pints, which opened in Duxton Road this week, is banking on lobsters to do the trick. There are only four items on the menu, and all feature a whole lobster from Boston, Maine or Canada.
You can have it either steamed or grilled, and served with mesclun salad and shoestring fries. Or cooked in chilli sauce and eaten with fried mantou, a la chilli crab. The last option is The Lobster Roll, where the steamed lobster meat is cut up, mixed with mayonnaise and salt and stuffed in a toasted bread roll from a local traditional bakery. The first two options are best if you want to taste the natural flavour of the crustacean. But if you do not want to mess around with shells, the roll is very good too. The bread is a tad too sweet for me though. The chilli version caters to local tastes but it is the least impressive.
Dishes are $48 each and each lobster weighs about 600g.
Where: Pince & Pints Restaurant and Bar, 32 Duxton Road MRT: Tanjong Pagar When: Mon - Sat, 5 - 10.15pm (last order) Tel: 6225-7558
If you like crabs, all types of crabs cooked every which way, you should check out the two-month-long crab buffet at Park Hotel Clarke Quay. There are 19 types of dishes featuring crabs, ranging from popular local items such as Chilli Crab and Salted Egg Crab to interesting creations such as Crab Laksa Beehoon. There are also other dishes such as Chilled Spanner Crab, Deep-fried Softshell Crab, Crab Bouillabaisse and Indian Spice Curry Flower Crab.
My favourite is the Steamed XO Crab, cooked on a layer of egg custard with a bit of ginger and Chinese wine. You really get to taste the sweetness of the crab.
Where: Brizo Restaurant, Park Hotel Clarke Quay, 1 Unity Street MRT: Clarke Quay When: Till Aug 31, 6.30 - 10.30pm (Thu - Sun) Price: $55 a person ($90 including wine, beer & soft drinks, $100 including champagne, wine, beer & soft drinks), $27.50 for children Tel: 6593-8855
FUN WITH PIZZA
Fans of Extra Virgin Pizza will find two-week-old Alt. Pizza in Suntec City a tad familiar. That is because executive chef Matthew White was formerly the chef at the artisanal pizza eatery in United Square and Asia Square. He gets a little more fun at his new place and comes up with unique creations such as Garth Fader ($14), which is topped with red pepper cream sauce, mozzarella, smoked cheddar, toasted pine nuts, roasted onion, artichoke hearts and cherry tomato.
Then there is Dangerous Diego ($16), with organic tomato sauce, chorizo, manchego cheese, roasted onions and peppers, sweet paprika and roasted garlic chilli oil. Meat lovers will like the Alpha Lima Tango ($16), with hickory smoked BBQ sauce, mozzarella, wagyu short-rib meatballs, smoked cheddar and roasted onions.
For me, they are all good. But if you can't find anything that tickles your fancy, you can create your own. In the DIY Pizzas section, you pay $8 for a sauce and $2 or $3 for a topping.
The eatery also serves interesting beers from Long Coast brewery in Humbolt Bay, California, which you do not find anywhere else in Asia. Look for it outside Suntec's Tower 4, right behind the taxi stand.
Where: Alt. Pizza, Suntec City Tower 4, 01-602, 3 Temasek Boulevard MRT: Esplanade When: 11am - 9.30pm (last order) daily