Madame Fan offers traditional Chinese as well as experimental dishes

The Double Boiled Four Treasure Soup consists of sea cucumber, fish maw, dried scallop and crab meat.
The Double Boiled Four Treasure Soup consists of sea cucumber, fish maw, dried scallop and crab meat.PHOTO: JW MARRIOTT SINGAPORE SOUTH BEACH
Stir fried Gai Lan with slivers of Kelatan salted fish.
Stir fried Gai Lan with slivers of Kelatan salted fish.PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

(THE NEW PAPER) - The NCO Club in Beach Road is an institution.

It started as The Britannia Club in 1952, was renamed The NCO Club in 1974 and was gazetted as a conservation site in 2002. It is now part of the South Bridge Club.

When I was a national serviceman, I went there to get cheap beer. I returned recently to dine at the Chinese restaurant Madame Fan, and the memories returned.

Here's fair warning: If you're there with a male friend who has spent any amount of time there, he will recount every little tedious detail, just like I did.

The frozen smiles on the faces of my dining companions couldn't stop me.

Madame Fan still looks sexy and dangerous, with moody interiors, velvet seats and dim lights, plus a wonderfully eclectic playlist that had me trying to find the songs on Spotify.

Luckily, it wasn't style over substance when it came to the food.

I also like that while there are some experimental items on the menu, the signatures are resolutely traditional.

There is nothing new with the Double Boiled Four Treasure Soup ($28) but that's precisely why it is so good.

Sometimes you should not mess with the formula.

The ingredients - sea cucumber, fish maw, dried scallop and crab meat - provided the textures, flavours and depth to make this a show stopper.


Crispy Aromatic Duck. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

The Crispy Aromatic Duck ($38 for half a duck) lives up to its name.

The skin is crispy but the fat of the duck keeps it juicy.

You can eat it any style (including with caviar, at $170) but just skin right into the mouth is my favourite way.


Gambero Rosso Prawn. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

The XO sauce that is in the Gambero Rosso Prawn ($58) needs to be bottled because it is just the right amount of spicy and umami.

One of the most memorable dishes I had at Madame Fan was the stir fried Gai Lan ($14, from the lunch menu).

The vegetables are almost crispy, but it is the slivers of Kelatan salted fish that did the work. It is such a simple dish but brought me so much pleasure.


Braised Soon Hock. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

The Soon Hock ($14 per 100 grams) is usually fried or steamed, but ask for braised for a lovely experience. The sauce is aromatic and savoury and good with rice.