[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Yan Ting

I was invited for a tasting of Yan Ting's newly-launched Exquisite Set Menu by new hire Chef Mak Kip Fu who hails from the much lauded Lung King Heen. The charmingly humble and unassuming chef brings with him the Michelin-starred experience all the way from Hongkong, injecting a breath of modernity into Yan Ting's repertoire of classic Cantonese cuisine.

Dining at Yan Ting is par excellence, exactly what you'd expect from a St Regis. The glamourous but tasteful opulence of the restaurant belies the refined elegance of the food here.  Service is discreet, attentive and pampering.

As per post-invited tasting S.O.P., I was back with the Hubs for a revisit a week later for a quality control check of sorts. While the food was exquisite (with a couple of courses possibly being even better than at the tasting) and the 8 courses were indeed substantial, I couldn't quite reconcile its $138++ per head pricetag (that, by the way, after including taxes and service charges, amounted to about $170 per person). The set dinner here just seemed a smidge overpriced, in light of its comparables at Lei Garden, Cherry Garden or Summer Pavilion. Best to reserve this for a special celebratory occasion.

The Trio of Appetizers comprises a couple of crispy Suckling Pig slices, a duo of tender Barbecued Pork glazed in honey, and a heap of fat chunky Marinated Jellyfish seasoned with sesame oil. Save for the slightly forgettable barbecued pork, the other two appetizers were pretty standout. 

The Trio of Appetizers was better at our revisit. The Barbecued Pork was superb, soft and tender with great flavour.

The Marinated Jellyfish, minimally seasoned with sesame oil and sesame seeds, allowed for its clean and clear flavours to shine through.

The Suckling Pig, with its unbelievably crackling skin and delicate sliver of meat, was totally addictive.

The Pan-Seared Crab Claw, coated with a bouncy succulent prawn mince, and topped with a fresh roe and fried conpoy strips, was nicely balanced against the bitter grilled asparagus.

Even if the conpoy was missing in action during the revisit, this was still very much delicious. 

I loved the Double-Boiled Duck Soup, flavoured with earthy cordyceps flowers, salty Chinese ham cubes, sweet wolfberries and fruity raisins. This was delicate and nuanced, with great depth of flavour, and not in a MSG way.

I'd been looking forward to this course for the revisit, and this was delightfully comforting. A bull's eye that hit that sweet spot in the recesses of the tummy.

The Steamed Coral Trout was impossibly fresh. Yunnan ham strips lent a smoky saltiness while lotus leaves imbued a faint earthiness to the moist fish.

At the revisit, this was again, steamed to a moist perfection. A word of caution though to beware tiny bones in some of the fillets.

The Baked Rack of Lamb, lightly battered and then cooked to a perfect medium doneness, This was complemented by the robust Chef's signature coffee glaze, a stickily sweet sauce tempered with fruity apple accents.

The lamb was swapped out for an equally robust Stir-Fried Frog's Legs with onions, red peppers and black bean at the revisit set menu. The lamb is oddly on the Elegant Set Menu at $198++ per head instead. I'm not that huge a fan of frog's legs but this was amazingly succulent and a flavourful confluence of the sweet, salty, peppery and sharp tartness.

I was also partial to the Poached Seasonal Greens in a pool of superior stock, sweet but never overwhelming to the wilted spinach and crunchy lily bulbs.

The baby lily bulbs were absent from the greens during the revisit, but it wasn't missed. I love the umami accent imparted by the ham strips to the sweet broth.

The Wok-Fried Jasmine Rice wrapped in lotus leaves was sensational. Well-fried and a wonderful medley of umami, savoury and smoky flavours from the conpoy, mushrooms, egg scramble and char siew cubes.

We loved this at the revisit. The Hubs pointed out, and I quite agree, that despite its bold dark hue, the fried rice was surprisingly mellow and light, and not too heavy as most carbs are. 

The dessert platter of Fresh Seasonal Fruits, served bite-sized for convenience, could have been sweeter, but these were a welcome palate cleanser to an overstuffed tummy.

There was a wider selection of fruits for the dessert platter during the revisit, but they were still lacking in sweetness. The side of me that likes to see the silver lining in every cloud would say that the sour overtones of the fruits helped cut through the very filling meal.

Many thanks to Jesmine for being a wonderfully engaging host and the good people of HGW for the invite!

Yan Ting
St Regis Singapore
Level 1U
29 Tanglin Road
Tel: 6506 6887
Open weekdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
weekends from 11.45am to 3pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Violet Oon's Kitchen

We love Violet Oon's Kitchen. The fact that we've been back here 3 times in a week alone will attest to our love for Vio's modern Peranakan fare. It's about the only consolation to our delayed move to our new place. For the more regular of my readers, you'd be aware that we were supposed to move over the Hari Raya Haji public holiday, but our move was not to be. Substantive works have yet to be completed, and so, we have had to scramble to rearrange all of our movers and deliveries. So anyways, we'll be here out west for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, we'll get good news from our contractor soon. *crossing our fingers and toes real hard*

The Ngo Hiang ($14) is a must-try, and possibly the best appetizer of the lot. Crab meat lends sweetness to the prawn and pork mince, with a good crunch from diced water chestnuts. The entire mixture is swathed in beancurd skin and then battered lightly before frying so it's extra crunchy. An awesome tea-time snack for when the munchies hit.

The Hubs really likes the Chap Chye ($8) but I didn't quite take to its strong prawn bisque base. Too little tao cheo was used and there wasn't enough depth of sweetness.

The Nasi Kuning & Hay Bee Hiam ($12) is almost exactly the way my Grams used to make it. The sun-shiny duo of Indonesian yellow rice and fried spicy prawn floss complemented each other perfectly, from their fragrant aroma to their robust flavours.

The Chicken Lemak ($21), comprising chunks of tender boneless chicken doused in a spicy gravy thickened with coconut cream and lightened by kaffir lime leaves, was great with the steamed white rice.

The Fish Tempra ($24), a couple of fried seabass fillets dunked in a black soya sauce spiced with cut chillis and onions and enlivened by limes, was complex and delicious.

Violet Oon's Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6468 5430
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 10pm
Fridays from 11.30am to 11pm
Saturdays from 9.30am to 11pm
Sundays from 9.30am to 10pm
Closed on Mondays


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Alkaff Mansion Ristorante

For a long time, Alkaff Mansion, which used to house a Peranakan restaurant in the 90's, was abandoned and slowly fell into disrepair. After a hefty injection of gold from new management, the historic colonial mansion has gotten an Italian facelift. The date-night worthy spot is now rebranded as Alkaff Mansion Ristorante, and it's owned by the same people behind Spruce, so you know the food's gonna be pretty good. I was there for an invited tasting, and really enjoyed the hosted dinner. The food was elegant and masterfully executed, with an artistic flair for plating. Service at the invited tasting was impeccable, unintrusive but attentive and warm. We later found out that our server was an ex-SIA stewardess, so her SQ training clearly came in handy.

We returned for a revisit, unfortunately, right dab smack in the middle of Restaurant Week, so the restaurant was swarming with diners. Even so, the food was still excellent. Service, however, suffered due to the full-house, because the kitchen was consequently (but somewhat understandably so) overwhelmed. There was an inordinate gap between the courses that left our stomachs growling and us filling up on bread. Notwithstanding the long lag-times between courses, the wait staff were still very much engaging, genuine, witty and friendly.

One thing i noticed about its grounds is the clear tented pavilion on the lawn below the mansion. For engaged couples looking for a wedding venue distinct from the drab and characterless hundreds of hotel ballrooms which 99% of couples get married in, this is an ideal place for an intimate (about 200 pax capacity, methinks) and unique and gorgeous wedding. It's air-conditioned, so you don't have to worry about the heat, humidity or the dreaded mozzies, but it's completely encircled in glass so you still get a beautiful view of the lush greenery of the Telok Blangah Hill. If we had chosen to get married in Singapore, this would definitely be on our shortlist!

At the tasting, we were treated to an Amuse Bouche of a spoonful of Caprese, sprightly and refreshing, with chilled cherry tomatoes bursting with summery sweetness, peppery basil, a couple of mozzarella cubes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Dinner at the tasting started off on a high with the Carpaccio di Salmone, Marinato Insalata Riccia e le sue Uova, marinated Scottish salmon carpaccio with yellow frisee salad and salmon roe. It was light, clear and fresh, with a perfect balance of the briny taste of the sea, neutral frisee and bright fruity mandarin oranges. I was hankering for more.

At the revisit, the Carpaccio di Salmone, Marinato Insalata Riccia e le sue Uova ($26) was extremely well-received for its clean and clear flavours.

The Casoncelli di Zucca, Fonduta di Taleggio e Ristretto di Vitello, mashed sweet pumpkin swaddled in homemade pasta in a taleggio cheese fondue and veal jus, contrasted with crushed walnuts and bitter spinach that showcased the flavours of autumn beautifully.

At the revisit, the Casoncelli di Zucca, Fonduta di Taleggio e Ristretto di Vitello ($26) was superb but a little more rustic in approach. The column pasta didn't quite have that elegance of the wrap at the tasting.

The Punta di Manzo a Cottura Lenta, Patate Charlotte e Castagne was one of the best slow cooked beef short ribs ever. The ribs were fork-tender. Scrap that, they were plastic fork-tender, and so amazingly soft even geriatrics with dentures can enjoy them. These were intensely flavoured, with a sticky, thyme-based marinade that coated each hunk liberally. A special tribute must be made to the amazing chestnuts, roasted to an almost mashy texture, and addictive as hell. Cutesy charlotte potatoes halfies were on hand to wipe up every last remnant of the awesome sauce.

At the revisit, the Punta di Manzo a Cottura Lenta, Patate Charlotte e Castagne ($42) was a big big hit for its amazing texture and full-bodied well-balanced flavours. 

The Maialino a Bassa Temperatura, Sedano, Rapa e Frutti di Bosco, a trio of Italian suckling pig mounds, was cooked very well, with a gorgeous skin that crackled when bit, but the pork was a little too mature, with an overwhelming "porky taste" that the tartish berry compote couldn't quite balance out.

At the revisit, the crackling skin of the Maialino a Bassa Temperatura, Sedano, Rapa e Frutti di Bosco ($42) was just as delicious, but the robust mature taste of the pork didn't quite resonate with our tastebuds.

The Carre' D'Agnello al Forno, Cipolline Glassate al Balsimico e Mostarda in Grani, oven baked lamb rack with glazed pearl onions and grain mustard sauce, was one of the more memorable lamb racks I've had. it was tender and juicy and thoroughly flavoursome without a hint of game. The sting of the pearl onions was neutralised by the balsamic pickling so it made for a great nibbler.

At the revisit, the Carre' D'Agnello al Forno, Cipolline Glassate al Balsimico e Mostarda in Grani ($44) was perfectly cooked to an even soft pink throughout. The Hubs loved loved LOVED the pearl onions.

The artistically plated Alkaff Mansion Tiramisu, with savoiardi and mascarpone cream, was heady and rich yet nuanced.

At the revisit, each of us had our favourites for sweets. The Alkaff Mansion Tiramisu ($14), my littlest brother's dessert of choice, was moist and balanced.

The Semifreddo al Cioccolato Bianco e Caffe, a white chocolate and coffee parfait with espresso sauce and hazelnut meringue was beautifully plated and as exquisitely good as it looked. The bite-sized cubes of coffee-tinged confectionery were impossibly smooth and compact, a dream that melted on the tongue.

At the revisit, the Semifreddo al Cioccolato Bianco e Caffe ($14) was just as good as I remembered. Obviously, this is my favourite.

We rounded off the tasting dinner with the Tortino al Cioccolato, Gelato alla Vaniglia e Caramello ($16), a classic Valrhona chocolate cake with brown sugar-tipped vanilla ice-cream, caramel sauce whisps and fresh berries. Great texture and awesomely delicious.

At the revisit, the Tortino al Cioccolato, Gelato alla Vaniglia e Caramello ($16), the Hubs' favourite, was luxurious and incredibly well-balanced.

Here, the waitress brought around the Bread Basket for our picking. I liked the breadstick, always a dependable nibbler, and the fluffy focaccia buns, still warm, tantalisingly aromatic and flavourful on its own without the need for the accompanying olive oil-balsamic emulsion dip.

At the revisit, the bread was really useful in quelling the hunger pangs. These were always served warm and soft.

Many thanks to Jasmine of Alkaff Mansion Ristorante for being such a gracious host and HungryGoWhere for the invite!

Alkaff Mansion Ristorante
10 Telok Blangah Green
Tel: 6510 3068
Open weekdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.15pm for dinner
Weekends from 11.30am to 3.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.15pm for dinner
Website: www.alkaff.com.sg



There are a lot of parallels to be drawn between Morganfield's and Chili's. Both are family-friendly, American-chain restaurants that serve Southwestern American cuisine. But that's where the similarities end. Where Chili's excels in almost every cheese-laden, carb-centric or meaty protein dish on their menu, Morganfield's is more than a little disappointing in comparison. Service is also tighter at Chili's. Although Morganfield's has had more than a year to iron out any servicing kinks, and the hordes and snaking queues have dissipated, the staff still seemed choppy and blur. Plus, Morganfield's is a lot more out of the way than the very centralised Chili's. It's not to say that Morganfield's was awful. It's just that it wasn't as good as Chili's. 

We didn't quite take to the Chili Concarne ($3.90), which was more like a mix of pulled pork, mince and kidney beans stewed in Tex-Mex chili spices. The addition of shredded pork was, to say the least, disconcerting because I've always associated chili with fatty mince instead.

The Lobster Bisque ($9.90) was too rich and got really sickeningly cloying quickly. This needed a lot of pepper to get through.

The gargantuan Morgan's Ribs Sampler ($116.90) was lackluster. The grilled corn was dried out, thick cut fries were uninspiring, and the corn muffins were a pale imitation of Kenny Roger's rendition as these were overwhelmingly rich with buttermilk. The ribs were marinated well and intensely flavoured but because parts of them were dried out,they were resultingly forgettable. Chili's does this fantastically. The best part of this platter was the sausages, which isn't saying much because how difficult is it to screw up sausages, right?  

Every platter is served up with a dessert of Chocolate Lava Cake, which, despite its generous portion, failed to impress. It didn't have that oomph or balance of the tiny ones at 3 Inch Sin or Craft Bakery.

1 Vista Exchange Green
The Star Vista #02-23
Tel: 6694 3635
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch;6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Fridays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 12midnight for dinner
Saturdays from 12noon to 12midnight
Sundays from 12noon to 10.30pm
Website: www.morganfields.com.sg


Violet Oon's Kitchen

Violet Oon's Kitchen along Bukit Timah Road marks the eponymous local cookbook author's first foray return into the world of F&B. We'd been wanting to try this ever since we moved into the area, but never really got down to it until our last week here. As it turns out, with the benefit of hindsight, our procrastination is totally regrettable.

The food is an homage to the restauranteur's Peranakan roots, with a smattering of localised western fare such as pastas and pizzas. While the appetizers were a little shaky, the mains were excellent. Coupled with the memorably personable service and elegant yet homey ambience, we thoroughly enjoyed the 2 dinners we had here. I think, even after we've moved back into the city, we'll be back for more of Vio's stuff.

The Kuay Pie Tee ($18) with turnip strips and bamboo shoots braised in a prawn stock filling was delectable, especially with that freshly pounded sambal, but the half prawn topping was too cold and extremely jarring. This would have been much better served at the same temperature as the braised turnip mix.

The Pong Tau Hu Soup ($14) with 3 huge balls made with pork, prawns and beancurd mince were a tad dry, and the prawn bisque was way too rich and sweet. That said, the julienned bamboo shoots were a nice complement and belly pork decadently fatty.

The Vio's Shepherd's Pie ($17), a casserole of stewed ground beef hash topped with creamy mashed potatoes, was more like a meaty version of French onion soup, with the liberal amount of caramelised onions added into this. Still, it was very appreciated by the Hubs, who loves all things onions. I thought they could hold back a little on the onions, as it'd overwhelmed the beef.

A signature, the Vio's Chicken Curry with Roti Jala ($21), was a velvety coconutty curry served with a chewy Indian-styled laced pancake. This was delicious, but what's unique was the salad, dressed in a bright lemony dressing so it made for a wonderfully crisp counter to the rich curry gravies.

The Buah Keluah Ayam ($22), a trio of tender chicken chunks dunked into a grainy gravy spiced with lengkuas and turmeric was superb. Hands down, the best treatment of the keluak nut. The mixture was redolent of its distinctive tang but mellowed out to a meaty finish.

The Babi Pongteh ($19), 2 hunks of pork belly slowly braised with yellow bean paste, cinnamon and cloves to a fork-tender consistency,  was spiked with fresh green chillis for some kick. Plump Chinese black mushrooms and bamboo shoots lend texture, and steamed white rice was on hand to wipe up every last bit of that beautifully brown gravy.

The Beef Rendang ($22) here utilizes the premium beef cheek for its characteristically sinewy soft texture. Braised till denture-soft in a melange of kaffir lime and bay leaves in creamy coconut milk, the smoky nutty gravy was served with aromatic nasi kuning, and cucumber coated with hae bee hiam.

A must-try here, the Pulut Hitam with Vanilla Ice-cream ($9) was excellent. The Hubs says this is the one thing he'd drive back to the west to get even after we move out of the area. It all boils down to the extremely well-balanced and nuanced black glutinous rice pudding.

Violet Oon's Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6468 5430
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 10pm
Fridays from 11.30am to 11pm
Saturdays from 9.30am to 11pm
Sundays from 9.30am to 10pm
Closed on Mondays
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