Majestic Restaurant moves to new venue, but returns to classic menu

Majestic Restaurant's Signature Spare Ribs with the chef's "secret" Zhenjiang sauce. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT
Majestic Restaurant's Crispy Duck. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT
Majestic Restaurant's Double-boiled Sea Treasures Soup with Black Truffle. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT

(THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Once in a while, you bump into an old friend and you wonder why you never made a point of catching up more regularly.

Then as you chat more, you recognise some of the annoying little quirks that remind you why that friend is more of an occasional lunch date than a weekly tea-time buddy.

We have had that kind of relationship with Majestic Restaurant, where we are terribly fond of chef-owner Yong Bing Ngen and his cooking, especially when he sticks to the classics of Cantonese cooking.

It is only when he breaks out of that mould and starts getting a little funky and contemporary that our old-fashioned taste buds start backing away in trepidation.

We are happy to report that the new Majestic - freshly uprooted from its original premises at the now shuttered New Majestic Hotel - is now nicely settled into the mammoth Marina One complex, bringing a refreshing old-school Chinese restaurant familiarity to this temple of futuristic design.

While there is some attempt to conform to the building's avant-garde steel-and-glass structure, the simple red chairs and floor-length tablecloths, covered with matching red-rimmed crockery, are comfortingly down to earth.

The menu this time seems a lot more rooted to tradition, although there are some contemporary nods in the use of truffle, morel mushrooms and foie gras. But there are enough classics and near-classics to rely on and the very realistic pricing is another plus.

For example, it has been a while since we have seen soups in a high-end Chinese restaurant priced at $10 and the menu features four such options, topping out at $22 for individual servings.

Majestic Restaurant's Double-boiled Sea Treasures Soup with Black Truffle. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT

In this case, it is well worth splashing out for the $22 Double-boiled Sea Treasures Soup with Black Truffle for its rich intense broth - nothing like the namby-pamby delicate brews that come in miserly little bowls at some places.

You get a good-sized bowl filled with chunks of pork and chicken that are still tender and taste like meat, not bundles of string; slippery sea cucumber, a piece of whelk and possibly some fish maw; and a whole, satiny-textured mushroom. It is the kind of soup that makes you happy and nourished at the same time.

A more delicate palate will appreciate the lighter, dainty, clear soup that fills the crevice of a hollowed-out, old cucumber ($18) with melting, soft flesh that you easily scoop into the broth, enjoying it with the lucky dip of seafood bits at the bottom.

Majestic Restaurant's Crispy Duck. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT

The restaurant uses Irish duck, either whole in Peking Duck-style or shredded while still hot - its tender meat and crispy, fat-rendered skin a delicious contrast of texture that is lightly tossed in mayonnaise with julienned Chinese pear, mango pulp and occasionally distracting streaks of hoisin sauce ($14). The warm duck and cool salad greens and pear are a yin-yang plate of refreshment.

Majestic Restaurant's Signature Spare Ribs with the chef's "secret" Zhenjiang sauce. PHOTO: MAJESTIC RESTAURANT

The Signature Spare Ribs with the chef's "secret" Zhenjiang sauce ($22) needs a bowl of rice to counter the sticky glaze of sweet-sour, black vinegar reduction covering tender, boneless pork ribs with a good layer of fat. They are deep-fried just enough to create a crunch upon contact - giving way to bouncy, resilient meat.

The steamed sea perch fillet ($38), on the other hand, feels like a misguided attempt at making mui choi (braised preserved vegetables) for pescatarians.

Usually stewed with pork for a hearty, savoury rice topping, you get a wimpy stew of black fungus and preserved vegetables in a sauce seasoned with preserved bean paste, under a pale fillet of slightly mushy fish that refuses to contribute any flavour to the dish.

Also, while we are hoping to enjoy matrimony vine leaves in the very classic combination of superior stock and trio of salted, century and regular eggs ($20), we get a newfangled version where the clear broth is thickened, giving the dish an unnecessary heft.

It starts off well but gets quite cloying pretty soon, although the generous amount of vegetables is an immediate boost to your daily vegetable quota.

You might want to drop a couple of dishes so you have room to enjoy the claypot hor fun with fresh prawns in egg gravy ($24). It is a really well-priced dish for the six large prawns nestled in a piping-hot claypot filled with wide rice noodles seared to achieve enough wok hei to withstand being buried under a full-bodied river of prawn shell-enriched gravy.

We are groaning by the end of it, but we will not pass up on the variations of Mao Shan Wang durian on the menu. There is the all-time favourite deep-fried frozen durian ($10) - a sizeable block of creamy flesh encased in a feather-light, crispy batter that shatters into jagged sheets on first bite.

The slightly melted layer just inside the crust is the best part.

You can also just get the durian flesh on its own ($10), whipped into a small mound, drizzled with gula melaka syrup (we can enjoy it just fine without the syrup) for a fuller, intense hit of the king of fruit.

Yes, Majestic is an old friend we have not visited for a long while, but despite its minor shortcomings, we are pleased to make its acquaintance again.

Majestic Restaurant

Where: 04-01 Marina One, The Heart (East Tower), 5 Straits View, tel: 6250-1988; open: 11.30am to 3pm and 5.45 to 10pm daily

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