The team headed out to Li Bai for a celebratory Chinese New Year lo hei lunch. It's an old reliable and one of my all-time favourite Chinese restaurants. And while it can feel slightly dated or stuffily old-school, I like its solidly traditional approach to the classics. At Li Bai, convention and form trumps trendy pop and modern twists. So don't expect truffle this, or fusion that. Instead, Cantonese cuisine is executed with polish and finesse, for a most exquisite meal.
The Salmon Yusheng Lo Hei Platter ($62 for small) was beautifully elegant, every julienned vegetable perfectly even. I know some of my OCD friends would absolutely love this.
The soups at Li Bai are exquisite, and the Chicken Broth with Bamboo Pith & Straw Mushrooms ($12) was a fine example of one. Delicate soup base, and generous hunks of ingredients.
A must-try, both for lunch and dinner, the Roast Pork & Barbecued Meat Platter ($36 for small), sided by marinated jellyfish, was fantastic. Crisp skin and flavourful, not gamey meat for the roast duck, and delightful crackling and juicy lusciousness for the roasted pork.
The dim sum at Li Bai is one of the very best in SG, and possibly the most refined of the lot, the Steamed Shrimp Dumpling ($8) was outstanding, with skin delightfully thin and chewy, swaddling fresh plump prawns studded with crunchy bamboo shoots for texture.
Ditto for the Steamed Pork Dumplings ($8) burnished with fresh shrimp, shrimp roe and conpoy.
I love the Steamed Soup Dumpling ($7.20), stuffed with pork and crabmeat for added sweetness. The pork broth based soup was subtle with the seafresh sweetness of crab stock.
The Steamed Scallops & Snow Pea Shoot Dumpling ($9) was light and balanced with clean and clear flavours.
Also available for dinner, the Deep-Fried Silver Fish ($10), lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, was polished and addictively yummy.
The mark of a skillful wok master was evident in the Stir-Fried Radish Cake with XO Chilli Sauce ($9), redolent with smoky notes and beautifully caramelised charring.
The Deep Fried Crispy Beancurd Skin with Shrimp ($8.10) was well-rounded with the streaks of yellow chives lending a crisp freshness.
For dessert, the Red Bean Paste Pancake ($15) was a massive hit. The semi-sweet red bean paste was velvety smooth, and pancake crusty and crisp, without the soggy weight of oil.
My personal favourite, the Cream of Mango Sago ($7), dotted with fresh mango dice and pomelo, was refreshingly piquant.
Smooth as a baby's bottom, the Mango Pudding ($7), topped with fresh strawberries and coconut cream, was delicate and well-rounded.
Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant
39 Scotts Road
Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel Lower Level (the hotel sometimes calls
it the "ground floor" or "level 1" but for the avoidance of doubt, it's
actually the basement 1)
Tel: 6839 5623
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch;
Daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch