VLV, the lounge and restaurant in Clarke Quay, has, from the start, been conceptualised as a multi-venue dining destination with both upmarket and casual options.
The second-level upmarket Chinese restaurant opened last year, but it was only early this month that the final part of the project was officially launched.
VLV Riverside is, as the name suggests, the outdoor area by the Singapore River where diners sit under pod-like shades. It serves zi char dishes, with a menu that is almost completely different from the restaurant's.
The focus is on Singapore and Malaysian Chinese dishes usually served at roadside or coffee shop stalls, although there are some dishes that are unique to the eatery.
A few are taken from the restaurant menu - such as the Roasted Truffle London Duck ($24 a portion, $45 for half), which stands out for being a fine-dining dish among the more humble offerings.
It is pricey, though that can perhaps be justified by the shavings of black truffle over the duck. If you like truffles, you will love this dish. I find the aromatic fungus in too many dishes these days, so I would rather the eatery leave that out and charge a lower price.
The meat is tender and moist and the skin is beautifully roasted, so the duck can easily stand on its own.
01-02 Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road, tel: 6661-0197, open: 6 to 11pm (Sundays to Tuesdays), 6pm to 2am (Wednesdays to Saturdays)
Price: Budget about $50 to $60 a person
The other dishes I try range from so-so to excellent.
What I am not impressed with are the vegetable dishes - Stir-fried Egg Plant, French Bean, Lady Finger & Petai In Sambal Sauce ($18) and Poached Amaranth With Beancurd Skin & Garlic ($18).
The first is a common dish in Malaysia that is better known by its Chinese name, which translates as Four Heavenly Kings, because it comprises four types of vegetables fried with sambal belacan. Fried sambal dishes need strong heat, both in the chillies and from the wok, to be good. The version here lacks that and ends up being just decent - not bad, but not great either.
In the case of poached amaranth, or Chinese spinach, that dish depends on a good stock to give it flavour. The one here is middling, so the dish is unremarkable.
Crackling Pork Belly Ginger Scallion XO Noodles ($22) also disappoints, because the noodles are a tad hard and the ginger scallion fragrance too elusive.
But there are some very good dishes.
They include the Crispy Bull Frog With Ginger ($26), my top pick among the dishes I try. The frogs are meaty, allowing you the luxurious feeling of biting into chunks of smooth and sweet flesh. It is something I do not get to experience with the small, stringy frogs I often find in restaurants here. And the batter is light and crispy, not overly oily.
The deep-fried ginger slices are even better. They are incredibly crispy and have just a hint of heat, so you can eat them like chips without fear of setting your mouth on fire.
Chairman's Crab ($9 for 100g) is steamed crab with bonito, egg white and ikura, a lightly seasoned dish that allows the natural sweetness of the shellfish to come through.
The egg-thickened juices at the bottom of the plate remind one of my dining companions of hor fun gravy, making her wonder if the dish could have come with some of the rice noodles too.
But I feel that the flavours need a boost first of all. A shot of Chinese rice wine, perhaps? A dash of chicken stock would help too.
With the heatwave over and on a clear evening, dining outdoors is quite bearable these days. There are also fans installed on the roofs to keep temperatures down.
Dining by the river has its attractions, among them a chance to people-watch and to enjoy the view of river taxis plying the waters. Also, the restaurant has an alfresco courtyard area with a band playing pop songs in the evening.
The young singer, who performs in English and Mandarin, is good.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.