|First opened in 1971, this is the first Shang Palace in the world — right here at the Shangri-la Singapore.|
Shang Palace has always been synonymous with the quality of the Shangri-La brand, ever since it first opened in Singapore 42 years ago. With such an impressive culinary heritage accompanying the Shang Palace namesake, Masterchef Steven Ng inherits this history serving up the medley of Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine Shang Palace is known for.
It was a really long time since I was last here at Shang Palace — a whole 11 years to be exact. My first sharks’ fin was here (they have since stopped serving it, how times have changed), as with other decadent delicacies (including Peking duck!) that I have absolutely no idea existed in the realm of Chinese cuisine. See, the impressionable young me, aged 11, had always thought of “Chinese food” as the humble fare served up in mom-and-pop szechar stalls or in one of those restaurants below the HDB void deck. It opened my eyes to the art of fine Chinese cuisine, and since then I’ve always had high expectations about atas Chinese fare — okay, I think I shall end my self-indulgent monologue here.
|Our hibiscus tea|
|Pick your tea.|
|Our amuse bouche of tofu and century egg|
On to the food, yes. Xin Li and I started with a nice amuse bouche of tofu and century egg relish and a shot of hibiscus tea to neutralize our tastebuds. I was pretty amused at the fact that choosing tea was akin to drawing lots — a pretty good selection of tea with plenty of useful information on it. Just don’t ask me to remember names — they are all terribly long and I didn’t have time to take them down.
Our first course was the braised birds’ nest with crab meat ($48). It was pretty good, velvety rich with fresh crab meat, with a savory taste that made it good enough to eat it sans the vinegar. No wonder they say the Cantonese are good at braising things — it really shows in this dish.'
|Crispy Yellow Croaker with Salt & Pepper ($14)|
We had a crispy yellow croaker fish, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper ($14). I THINK this was a small yellow croaker fish — for the uninitiated, this is actually a pretty prized fish in Korea and is predominantly found in the cooler waters off Southern China. This isn’t aqua-farmed (and doesn’t taste like it, it’s way too small for a farmed fish anyway) and is a fish predominantly steamed or preserved. It was fluffy in terms of the meat texture and didn’t taste/smell fishy (good for people like me) and went well with the salt and pepper — good enough for me and Xin Li to eat it on its own. Kudos to the chef who demonstrated good control of the wok temperature in frying the fish — it was evenly fried and crispy throughout while being moist and fluffy in the inside.
I’ve never been a fan of braised baby abalone, presumably because of the tendency to be served overcooked, allowing it to acquire the properties of a fresh tennis ball. While I approached the braised baby abalone with apprehension, the accompanying pork belly in this dish ($28 per person) drew me over. I did enjoy the sauce and while the abalone wasn’t bad (very far from eating a tennis ball), the clear star of the show was the pork belly, which was complemented with the slightly sweet red braising sauce. The tender pork belly had a good mix of fat and lean meat in it (good for the health-conscious) and was one of the highlights of the night.
|Wok Fried Kampung Chicken with Preserved Beancurd Paste, Dried Chilli and Cinnamon ($36)|
The wok-fried kampong chicken ($36) was up next. Yes, a hefty price for a humble kampong chicken. Accompanied with preserved bean curd paste and cinnamon, the chicken was almost melt-in-your-mouth tender, enveloped with the smooth savory taste of the preserved bean curd paste. Little twinges of spice from the cinnamon and dried chilli gave it a good twang as well. I enjoyed this very much, mainly because I love the taste of preserved bean curd paste (especially when it goes with porridge, I digress).
|Master Chef Roast Lamb Shoulder ($98)|
|Chef Wai Kheong doing the carving of the lamb shoulder for us|
|The yummy lamb shoulder. With a mysterious pickled vegetable by the side. Hmm.|
Perhaps I’m the only one that felt that way — the Master Chef Roasted Lamb Shoulder ($98 for whole shoulder, serves 8-10 pax) was a carving of meat loving nirvana. The meat was moist (not to the point of juicy) and wonderfully tender, elegantly exuding the rich flavour of savoury fat that is characterized with this cut of lamb. Went excellently with the mustard or mint sauce — but quite good on it’s own too. This was one of the best roast lamb I’ve had. I had no idea why the pickled vegetables were there though. Seemed redundant — perhaps to provide an oriental touch?
|Stewed Beancurd, Assorted Mushrooms & Carrot Sauce ($28)|
The stewed beancurd and mushrooms with carrot sauce ($28) was a nice, earthy medley of mushroom and the smooth, slightly eggy taste of beancurd. I didn’t know what to make of the carrot sauce other than the fact that it melded everything together well. It was not too bad if you like mushrooms (like me).
The stewed lobster noodles with young ginger and onion ($38 per person) was pretty salty to me. The fresh lobster, coupled with the springy noodles was swamped with a lingering saltiness that stayed on after 5 cups of tea. The young ginger and onion accents did attempt to surmount a sprightly respite, but soon enough, a mild seawater taste crept in and stayed there for about 30 minutes or so. Was not too well received for me (or Xin Li, for that matter) as I’m quite conscious about my salt intake.
To finish off we had the Shang Palace Three Treasures (chilled double boiled red dates and apricot, baked cashew nut custard pastry, chilled fig jelly), at $14 per person. Dessert was great in short — it was a brilliant end to this meal. It wasn’t too heavy, rich or cloying, yet it fulfilled every sweet tooth I had. The fig jelly was sweet, but it wasn’t heavy rich. The star was probably the baked cashew nut custard pastry, for the incredible lightness of the pastry crumbled ever so lightly to give way to the custard inside that wasn’t cloyingly rich or too sweet. Highly recommended, and it was a wonderful way to end the night.
|The elegant decor|
If there is one thing I could say about Shang Palace was the assurance of an incredibly consistent, quality dining experience — there’s a reason why it’s still around, 42 years on. Yeah, they don’t get everything right (I’ve yet to go to a restaurant that has done so), but you can’t fault them. Service was courteous to a fault, in that natural, understated Shangri-La way that complements the quietly elegant décor of this establishment. The food, likewise, wasn’t perfect — you can be assured that it wouldn’t try to hard to impress, but instead, quietly delivers the best it can, much like an elegant ol’ dame whose always done things in her way, in days good or bad.
Oh, Shang Palace, how you've aged gracefully.
Oh, Shang Palace, how you've aged gracefully.
We thank Josephine and Shubhra for hosting us at this invited session.
Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
Tower Wing, Lobby Level
22 Orange Grove Road,
Mon to Fri: 12nn to 2.30PM (Lunch); 6pm to 10.30pm (Dinner)
Sat, Sun, & PH: 10.30am to 3pm
+65 6213 4473