Ernie and I tried it out one Saturday to see if the buffet was value-for-money or a ripoff.
Overall, the buffet was a hit-and-miss affair. There were some memorable items, mostly the fried and unusual dim sum creations. The funny thing was that the more conventional dim sum staples were very very ordinary, to the extent that some of them were a yawn.
We'll start off with the better dishes. First up was the Fried Carrot Cake with Chinese Sausage with XO Chili Sauce ($6.80 usual price). The carrot cake was nicely smoked, soft and well-flavoured. I liked that the beansprouts were properly relieved of their heads and tails.
The Sauteed Fish Fillet with Ginger and Spring Onions ($24) was also commendable. The thickly sliced fish fillets were fresh and flaky and the ginger and spring onions imparted a delicate taste to the chunky pieces of protein.
The Fried Crispy Fish Skin with Seven-Spice Salt ($10) was another hit. It's the Chinese version of Japanese fried salmon skin. The fish skin was cut incredibly thin and fried wonderfully crisp, with a light dusting of seasoned salt for flavour.
The Deep-Fried Crispy Mango Roll with Prawn Paste ($4.80 for 3 pieces) was a nice twist on the usual Deep-Fried Beancurd Skin Roll with Prawns. Mangoes lent a refreshingly sweet accent to the crunchy prawns.
The Deep-Fried Bacon Roll with Prawn Paste and Enoki Mushrooms ($4.80 for 3 pieces) was also pretty good. A wrapping of bacon around anything is always great.
The Steamed Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce with Minced Garlic and Red Chili ($4.80) was also good. I liked the fleshy and fatty spare ribs, steamed to tender perfection.
The Soup-of-the-Day, Watercress with Pork Ribs Soup ($10) was clear but full-bodied. I could tell it was simmered for hours to obtain that depth of flavour from the pork bone base.
I also liked the Century Egg and Lean Meat Porridge ($8), smooth watery rice gruel delicately flavoured with pork broth. Ernie ate the century eggs because I really dislike it, while I ate the pork slices.
The porridge came served with some crispy bits as a topping, similar to the "golden ingots" in Yusheng salads.
We also lapped up the Stir-Fried Seasonal Vegetables with Minced Garlic ($18). Simply sauteed and fragrant with the scent of aromatic garlic.
The Deep-Fried Prawns with Wasabi Mayonnaise ($32) was also well done. The prawns were fresh and crunchy and the wasabi mayonnaise was nuanced without overpowering the delicate sweetness of the prawns.
The desserts were served in tiny little portions, so we got to try more of them. The Chilled Puree of Mango with Sago, sans Pomelo ($8) was refreshing and tart.
I particularly liked the Chrysanthemum and Apple Flavour Jelly topped with Walnut and Plum ($8). Light, refreshing and delicate.
The Chilled Cheng Teng with Ginseng Jelly ($8) was also a good palate cleanser. White fungus added texture and crunch, while longans and red dates added sweetness. My only gripe was that this could have been a little less sweet.
On to the not-so-great. The Deep-Fried Homemade Beancurd with Oats and Chili Padi ($20), while promising, was a letdown. It tasted re-fried and the batter was too thick.
The Braised Crabmeat Broth with Fish Maw ($12) tasted a little fishy, which really put me off. I took a couple of sips and pushed it away.
The Fish Fillet Porridge ($8) also had a strong fishy scent and that lingering stale fish taste.
The Steamed Rice Roll with Mushroom and Shredded Chicken ($5.20) was quite disappointing. The rice roll was too thick and the chicken was minced, not shredded, and the filling was very bland. We had to douse it in the soy marinade.
The skin of the Steamed Prawn Dumpling ($4.80 for 3 pieces) (har gow) was too thick and floury, but the prawns were sweet and crunchy.
In contrast, the skin of the Steamed Xiao Long Bao ($5.20 for 3 pieces) was too thin and gave way when we picked it up.
The Steamed Pork Dumpling with Mushroom ($4.80 for 3 pieces) (siew mai) was alright but rather unspectacular. I would have expected a restaurant like Peach Blossoms to have done a spectacular version of this dim sum staple.
The Deep-Fried Yam Dumpling Filled with Crabmeat, Dried Shrimp and Minced Chicken ($4.80 for 3 pieces), while pretty in presentation, was also a letdown. There was too much yam and too little filling.
The Deep-Fried Squid with Fine Salt and Pepper ($10) was good, but I didn't like it because I don't like squid tentacles.I would have gladly eaten this if it had been squid rings instead.
The Cream of Almond ($9) was a letdown. It tasted like almond essence was simply added to milk, very boring dish.
Marina Mandarin Singapore
6 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 6845 1000
Opens daily from noon to 2.30pm for lunches and 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinners