The two-month-old Orient Palace in the annex of Furama Riverfront hotel is marketed as a one-stop destination for dining, spa and wellness therapies, as well as live entertainment. Which is quite - how shall I put it - innovative?
However, when I was there for lunch two weeks ago, the Spa Nes on the second floor had not opened yet and the live band played only at night.
Which was just as well because I could not imagine having my body kneaded after a full meal.
And the thought of loud music flooding the enclosed ground-floor dining room was enough to trigger a headache.
Still, the lighting could be brighter to bring more cheer to the restaurant. And because business was slow, there wasn't enough activity in the open kitchens to work up a buzz.
Orient Palace brands itself a Nanyang restaurant and the menu lists an odd mix of dishes that range from luxe items such as roasted suckling pig, braised dried abalone and braised giant garoupa to humble bak kut teh sets.
Ordering lunch for two proved to be more difficult than it should have been.
01-01 Furama Riverfront Singapore Annex Block, 407 Havelock Road, tel: 6931-8888; open: 11.30am to 3pm daily, 5.30pm to 1am (Mondays to Fridays and Sundays), 5.30pm to 2am (Saturdays and eve of public holidays)
Price: Budget from about $70 a person. Much more if you order dried abalone
A dried abalone (from $88 to $208) each seemed too extravagant. And how many giant garoupa dishes, each made with a different part of the fish, would I want to eat? And would bak kut teh go with all that?
In the end, I decided to go more local than luxe and ordered Suckling Pig, which, helpfully, came in a quarter portion for $68 - a whole pig was $258 and half was $138 - followed by Bak Kut Teh ($8.80 for a dragon rib), Giant Garoupa Porridge ($9.80 for small) and Signature Seafood Mee Goreng ($16.80).
It was an odd assortment of dishes, but that was what the menu offered.
Then the food came and all was well.
The suckling pig was roasted on the premises, over a charcoal pit behind a glass partition, and came sliced with a bit of meat attached - which is how I like it. It was still warm, with crisp crackling and tender, moist meat.
The sauce it was served with was, however, too sugary. So I ate the pig on its own, without the usually more-nuanced sweet bean sauce to cut the fat. It was still good, though.
Next came the Bak Kut Teh, one dragon rib in a bowl of soup each for my dining companion and me, with dough fritters.
The pork tasted fresh and was just tender enough. The soup, though not spectacular, was very decent, better than many famous shops I've eaten at. I made a mental note to come back for it when I am in the mood for supper.
Following this with seafood mee goreng might seem odd to some, but I have often mixed and matched equally disparate dishes at hawker centres.
I liked that the fried noodles were not drenched in sweet ketchup, boasted good wok hei and had a generous amount of prawns, squid and fish. The dish was even better than the versions I'd tasted at the old Ponggol seafood restaurants that claimed to have popularised it. Another good supper dish, I thought.
What was even more ideal for late-night dining was the Giant Garoupa Porridge. The fish is not commonly found on restaurant menus and is usually expensive. But because Orient Palace has found ways to cook different parts in small portions, it keeps prices low.
The bowl of Teochew-style porridge was good for one person, with enough slices of garoupa fillet not to appear niggardly. Because it was an overgrown fish, the meat was tough, but the porridge was tasty.
One reason its dishes seem so suitable for supper, and for the restaurant's late hours, could be its location near many of the Havelock Road nightspots. The premises were formerly occupied by the Tiananmen KTV hostess club.
That might also explain why it was so quiet during lunch. But it shouldn't be because bak kut teh and suckling pig are just as good for daytime meals.
•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and Instagram @wongahyoke
•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Luxe meets local'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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