In an almost-bizarre case of going full circle, oriental exoticism is now trendy with Chinese restaurants. The speakeasy-styled (hidden behind a coffee shop's refrigerator door) Dragon Chamber cheekily riffs on this with dishes like General Tso’s chicken, but their version is a vastly upgraded take on the neon-orange sugar-laden ones you’ll find in American Chinese takeouts. The restaurant is also a place to test one’s bravery. The menu includes such esoteric delights as braised crocodile’s foot, and a chicken and pork-based soup with a male crocodile’s – and there isn’t a more delicate way to put this – reproductive organ. Cocktails are also a thing here. Wash down your food with drinks the the Old Fashioned Twist, a jazzed up version with banana-infused rum garnished with a smouldering cinnamon stick.
2 Circular Road. Tel: 6805-8181
Culina at COMO Dempsey
Stalwart fine-foods importer Culina has new digs for their B to C operations, and it's huge. Their new location in Dempsey Hill is a couple of blocks down from their previous place, and occupies more than twice the space at over 15,000-sq ft. A bigger space naturally also means more stuff — the foodie playground now boasts a wine bar, in addition to an expanded Culina bistro that seats 175. Heading the kitchen is chef Timothy de Souza, who has helmed several restaurants in the COMO group prior. The menu's an attractive, if familiar mix of European dishes that run the gamut from a flaky, umami bomb of a pissaladiere tart to a selection of pastas, salads, sandwiches, and largers plates like duck confit. What you really should do though, is take a gander around the groceries section, and spend some time gawking at all the beautifully-displayed produce that includes everything from intensely-flavoured Black Onyx grain-fed angus beef to glistening, in-season seafood like King George whiting. After gawking, decide that they should be dishes on your table — at their freshest — and have them prepared professionally, and simply so that their provenance shines.
15 Dempsey Road. Tel: 6474-7338
Opened as an offshoot of Shangri-la Hotel's Shang Palace, this 3-in-1 concept offers a formal dining space, a casual market/eatery, and bar all in the same space. The restaurant showcases three of the four Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine: the Cantonese, Sichuan, and Huaiyang styles of cooking. Three master chefs helm the kitchen — Chefs Mok Kit Keung, Joe Hou, and Rick Du — each in charge of a different cuisine. Dishes range from a show-stopping deep-fried whole boneless chicken filled with glutinous rice, eaten in the dining space; to the humble but labour-intensive bamboo noodles tossed with dark soy sauce and lard. Meanwhile, regional specialties include the Huaiyang “Jiangnan Wok” braised black marbled pork and spicy Sichuan chicken, prepared using the traditional mature rooster for a more robust flavour to stand up too all the aromatics.
You’ve heard the adage “birds of a feather flock together”. So is the case for the Loco group and patrons at their new Mexican chicken joint, Chico Loco. Featuring a spit-roasted chicken that has been brined for ten hours in an umami solution that includes agave nectar, before being basted with a blend of quintessentially Mexican herbs and spices such as achiote, the poultry at Chico Loco are assured to be cage-free, hormone-free, antibiotic free and cage-fed. A dry-rubbed lamb shoulder is also offered for those seeking other sources of protein.
They also do coffee and a breakfast menu for the early birds, as well as booze and bar snacks in the heart of the central business district, for your after work respite.
102 Amoy St. Tel: 9738-7828.
Zui Yu Xuan Teochew Cuisine
Unlike the intense, wok-driven flavours of Cantonese cuisine, Teochew food is more subtle, focusing on lighter dishes that focuses on the original flavours of ingredients. Zui Yu Xuan is the latest Teochew restaurant to open, and features plenty of iconic dishes from Chaoshan, including braised duck, cold crab, and of course, steamed fish. They've also got other fast-disappearing delicacies that are unique to the dialect group — pig's trotters set in an aspic made with superior stock; and crispy noodles, served with black vinegar and sugar. They've also got a Teochew muay (rice gruel) menu during lunch, with accompaniments like braised pig's intestines and belly meat with preserved mustard greens; and brasied goose web and wing.
130/131 Amoy Street, Far East Square. Tel: 6788-3637
Min Jiang at Dempsey
The long-standing Min Jiang (which first opened in Goodwood Park Hotel) has moved its One-North outlet to Dempsey Hill, taking over the space previously occupied by a luxury spa. The new spot features a beautiful, wood-heavy design that seats almost 160 pax, with 80 generously seated in the main dining area. Signatures like their wood-fired Beijing duck, and stewed noodles and lobster remain on the menu; but there's also an injection of new dishes. Master Chef Goh Chee Kong — who's been with the restaurant for 17 years — has created a series of intricate dim sum, including goldfish-shaped prawn dumplings that swim in an egg white sauce; and truffle-vegetable parcels that come wrapped in a delicate skin marbled blue, thanks to the oft-used pigment from butterfly pea flowers. Other highlights include extremely moreish typhoon shelter-style squid rings and soft shell crab; and steamed chicken with kailan, covered in a glossy superior stock sauce and served with ginger paste. If anything is indicative of chef Goh's attention to detail — the latter dish is prepared with precisely-weighted fowl to give the perfect balance between texture and flavour.