Was itching to try out somewhere new for dim sum instead of the usual favourites thus settled for Jin Shan Restaurant (金山楼) at Marina Bay Sands one late Saturday morning.
Located within the confines of the hotel (not the shopping mall), Jin Shan sat on an elevated platform on the ground floor. Natural sunlight peered through the huge glass panels that lined the side, making for a comfortable and cheery atmosphere. Unfortunately this also meant that some tables were subjected to more sunlight than others.
Abalone Pork Dumpling - We started off with the abalone siew mai, which was a joke, seriously. The siew mai itself was decent without encapsulating too much fatty meat but the abalone had a very raw taste that spoilt the whole dish. Gross.
Jin Shan Signature Rice Rolls - The signature cheong fun was actually a combination of scallop, BBQ pork and deep fried beancurd skin rice rolls. The fillings were decent but the rice rolls were too thick for my liking and lacked the silkiness of good cheong fun.
Steamed Asparagus with Prawns Dumpling - Prawns and crunchy asparagus deftly wrapped in translucent dumpling skin and topped with a smidgen of roe; Decent but nothing too surprising.
Fresh Shrimp Dumpling - Crunchy prawns and acceptably thin dumpling skin. No burst of flavour though.
Steamed Custard Buns - Rich custard oozed out when we broke into the buns but sadly, the custard was just sweet without the saltiness and rough texture of egg yolk which would have made this dish great.
Deep Fried Prawn with Mango - This dish was a little interesting although not exactly in a good way. The prawns and mango bits were wrapped in dumpling skin, deep fried till crisp and topped with sesame seeds. I could make out the taste of the prawns and sesame seeds but sadly, the mango was non existent.
Fried Carrot Cake - A tad crisp on the outside without coming across as too mushy on the inside. Average tasting at best.
BBQ Combination - I think a good yardstick of any dim sum place is its roasted/BBQ meats (烧腊) and as pretty as our BBQ combination (roasted pork & soya sauce chicken) looked, it didn't quite match up. For starters, even though the roasted pork's skin was crisp, it wasn't evenly roasted (as evident from the different hues of brown on the skin) and a tad overly salty. The soya sauce chicken fared slightly better with tender meat and a spot of sweetness.
Lean Meat Century Egg Congee - The lean meat century egg congee was a tad too watery and bland for my liking. Ditto the scallop congee (forgot to take a picture), which was watery and extremely bland. Forgettable.
Bird's Nest Egg Tart - Flaky but sans the buttery goodness that I would normally associate with tarts. The custard was mildly sweet whilst the strands of birds nest offered a nice gelatin texture to the mix. Decent but no great shakes.
BBQ Pork Puff - One of my favourite dim sum dishes, Jin Shan's rendition of the BBQ pork puff was average at best and nowhere near my personal favourite at Yan Ting. The pastry was too thick and as with the egg tarts, lacked the buttery, oven baked goodness that I personally like. And I could only make out the taste of the pork floss atop as the char siew filling was rather bland.
With a 10% discount, the 4 of us chalked up a bill of about $180, which is quite a bit higher than what I usually pay at Wah Lok. Food quality was average at best and service was definitely below that of a restaurant in a 5 star hotel. Read. Grouchy at times and unhelpful to say the least. The only thing going for the restaurant is its bright, cheery ambience. Will I go back? Definitely not!
The kind folks at District 10 extended an invitation to try out a couple of their signature dishes and since I was in town, I appreciatively made my way down to their outlet @ UE Square one weekday evening.
District 10 is both a bar and a restaurant and offers both indoor and al fresco seating at a rather prominent corner of UE Square. I personally like the wooden interior and high ceilings but the vibe is actually more of a pub than a restaurant. Good for a casual dinner but probably not so much for a romantic date.
Complimentary Bread - This used to be one of the best complimentary bread in my dictionary (back in 2007 when I first tried Bonta). Unfortunately the bread now is but a shadow of its former self. The bread was burnt which gave it a slightly bitter taste whilst the feta cheese within came across as a tad sour. How the quality has deteriorated!
Green Asparagus, Fried Egg Sunny Side Up, Sage Butter - I honestly didn't know what to make of this dish. Asparagus, sunny side up and cheese? $18 ? Seriously?
Pan-fried Goose Liver, Wild Berries Sauce & Balsamic Syrup - The foie gras lacked a well seared crust and wasn't as smooth or quivery as I had expected to be. But at least the wild berry sauce did help to cut down a little on the nausea.
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Mustard Dressing, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms - This was a waste of wagyu beef in my humble opinion as it didn't elevate this dish past the average mark. Normal beef would have done the trick. And I personally dislike mustard.
Homemade Angel Hair Pasta with Lobster, Peperoncino, Basil & Fresh Tomatoes - I was looking forward to this but unfortunately it didn't quite pan out. The angel hair pasta was way too soft and stodgy from all the gravy that it was plain unappetising. Even the crunchy lobster pieces failed to lift this dish out of the mess. ps: the presentation needs working on as well.
Homemade Foie Gras Ravioli, Light Parmesan Sauce & Scamorza Cheese - This was probably the best dish of the evening in my humble opinion. The ravioli did come across as a tad too thick but the taste of the foie gras was noticeable and not overwhelmed by the light parmesan sauce. Just watch out for the wooziness.
Crispy Goose Leg Confit, Roasted Garlic, Soft Potato Mousse - Mildly crisp skin but overly salty and dry. Pretty much sums up the goose confit.
Signature Black Angus Beef Striploin, Fried Eggs & Black Truffle - I appreciated the black truffle but I fail to comprehend the sunny side up. Nonetheless, the beef was done to a nice medium rare but came across as rather bland and a tad tough. Average dish overall.
Roasted Atlantic Cod Medallion, Spanish Smoked Paprika & Herbs Oil - The cod was decently executed without much fanfare - tender flesh with a hint of sweetness. Lacked the oomph to elevate it past the average mark.
Cinnamon Apple Fritters with Icing Sugar - And finally, desserts. I found the cinnamon apple fritters a pretty interesting concept except that there was way too much cinnamon powder sprinkled over the fritters that it was unnerving (for me at least). I was expecting a sweet finish but it ended up slightly sourish because of the apple. Can't say I'm a fan.
Traditional Italian Tiramisu - My absolute favourite Italian dessert. Unfortunately District 10's rendition didn't quite excite. The mascarpone to sponge ratio was a little lopsided in favour of the former whilst the latter came across as a tad dry. Acceptably average.
Nuvo was offering an irresistible deal on their set lunch @ $13 (apparently until end February 2014) so we dropped by for lunch one Saturday afternoon since we were in the vicinity. Helmed by Chef Mark Richards, former chef de cuisine of Keystone Restaurant, Nuvo falls under the same management (Caerus Holdings) as that of Lady M (which I personally like) in Singapore.
Hidden from plain sight in a corner of the newly opened "The Dining Edition" in Marina Square, Nuvo's interior utilises quite a bit of wood, which gives it a more down to earth feel. The open concept kitchen offers diners an opportunity to watch their food being prepared if they so wish but honestly, it would be weird hanging around the serving counter.
Complimentary Bread - The complimentary bread was warm and crusty with hints of Parmesan. Pretty decent especially with a thin spread of the accompanying Nori butter. A pity each person was only accorded one roll.
Warm Japanese Mushroom Salad - This dish honestly didn't look like much but it sure was nice. Tossed up with pine nuts, asparagus, shallots and Japanese mushroom, the salad (baby spinach) had a pleasing, savoury sweet note to it. I have honestly never been so enamoured with a salad. And I say this from having the salad on 3 separate occasions @ Nuvo.
Angel Hair Wakame pasta with Lobster Essence and Rayu Oil - One of the signature dishes at Nuvo, the angel hair pasta had a nice firm bite to it, soaking in the mild spiciness of the rayu oil (chilli oil) and the sweet saltiness of the wakame (seaweed). Overall a very flavourful pasta dish that had me reaching for my glass of water a little more frequently due to the higher than acceptable (apparently only to me) salt content. And strangely enough, it is marked as a vegetarian pasta dish (how about the lobster essence?).
Lobster Risotto - Another signature dish and one that is close to my heart (and mouth). The lobster risotto is only available on the ala carte menu and a small serving (as per my picture) will set you back by $28 while the larger one is about $36 if my memory serves me right. It was a simple yet well executed dish. The risotto was nicely al dente, cooked in a rich lobster broth with small chunks of lobster and edamame - creamily good! Well worth the money in my humble opinion.
Pocky Ricotta Cheese Cake - This dessert was rather interesting, with the top of the cheese cake adorned with chocolate swirls and the base made from crushed Pocky (yes, the $1 box of Pocky you can get from supermarkets). But all the bells and whistles aside, it just tasted like a light, decently made cheesecake that provided a nice, sweet ending to our meal.
With a price tag of $13 for an appetiser, main and dessert of above average quality, what's not to like? Service was good as well but intervals between the dishes could have been shorter. Also, the website states opening hours from 11am to 11pm but they didn't open until 12pm during this particular visit. And such things definitely don't leave good impressions. But having said that, I'll definitely return to indulge in the lobster risotto and to sample other offerings.
It was the F1 weekend again and we didn't fancy going into town for our dim sum fix. And so we decided on Ba Xian, the flagship Chinese restaurant at Tower Club. It helped that they were offering a 50% discount on dim sum for weekends only.
The lifts take you up to the entrance of Tower Club on the 62nd floor. From there, you take an internal lift from the club's lobby to the 63rd floor where Ba Xian is located. The furnishing is plush with full length windows that look out into the South China Sea. There are capsule like seats for 2 that offer a somewhat quirky dining experience.
Crispy Cuttlefish - Nicely seasoned but the flour coating was a tad too thick for my liking and so was the oil content. Makes you sick after a while.
Pork Belly Char Siew - The BBQ pork belly had a proportionate fat to meat ratio which made for great texture. However, the meat was rather bland and lacked any sweetness that I would usually associate with char siew.
Roasted Pork Belly - Although I love my sio bak, this was honestly a little hard to stomach and both of us were struggling to finish all 12 cubes of it. Sure, the skin was crispy but it was a tad too thick and dry for my liking. Also, as with the char siew, the meat was almost tasteless. A little more salt perhaps?
Pork & Century Egg Congee - Apart from the sticky texture of porridge that I personally like, this dish was average tasting with quantity of ingredients bordering on miserly.
Prawn with Crab Meat - Generous serving of prawns and crab meat stuffed within the crispy deep fried shell but strangely enough, there was a rather strong ginger aftertaste which I didn't like. Thank god for mayonnaise.
Sweet Corn Cake - This was the first time seeing sweet corn cake on a dim sum menu so thought it would be interesting to give it a go. Alas, it tasted like normal carrot cake with sweet corn and tiny bits of Chinese sausage embedded within. Texture wasn't exactly smooth but overall still palatable.
Chee Cheong Fun -The chee cheong fun came in 3 varieties of filling - char siew, scallop and prawn. For starters, the cheong fun was a little too thick but I was impressed by the generous amounts of scallop and char siew within. This was one of the rare occasions where I could actually make out the texture and taste of the scallop wrapped within. That said, the prawn filling was rather underwhelming though.
Siew Mai - Served with a slice of topshell, the siew mai was decent without coming across as too oily.
Har Gao - Instead of the de facto prawn taste that I was expecting, the har gao tasted overwhelming of vegetables instead. And the thicker than expected skin didn't help matters.
Mini Egg Tartlets - After the repertoire of dismal dim sum items, we almost gave up but decided to give the egg tarts a shot. It was decent without the custard being cloyingly sweet whilst the pastry had a nice flaky texture but lacked the oven baked taste that I personally like.
Even with 7 items at 50% off, the two of us still managed to chalk up a bill of $94, which is terribly expensive for the quality of food. Service and ambience is great but that hardly justifies the ridiculous price tag. So much for the positive online reviews.
Dropped by HY California @ Marina Bay Sands for lunch one weekday afternoon. This visit was prompted in part due to my previous visit to Hide Yamamoto and my curiosity was piqued when I learnt of the existence of a cheaper alternative - HY California.
HY California offers indoor seating with a couple of counter seats and tables as well as al fresco dining along the pathway. Full length panels offer patrons who decide to sit indoors, a view of the pathway outside and plenty of natural light if you happen to dine during the day - a win win situation.
Chicken Bento Set - There are various bento sets available for lunch but the sirloin beef bento set that I was aiming for had only 1 portion left so I went gave it up to my colleague and went for the chicken option instead. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing with small plates of sushi, sashimi, chicken, salad and tempura neatly placed within compartments in a wooden tray. Taste wise, everything came across as average and wouldn't seem out of place at "lower end" eateries like Sakae Sushi or Ichiban Sushi.
Lunch for the 4 of us cost about $96, which isn't really expensive but the general consensus is that food quality hovers around the average mark at best. I can understand that HY California is a casual eatery but the service level, food quality and pricing somehow fails to convince me why I should choose it over the likes of Sushi Tei or Ichiban Sushi/Boshi.