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Indulge in a royal feast at a boutique hotel: housed in a boutique hotel built in 1928, the Majestic Restaurant serves fine Chinese cuisine in a relaxed setting in Chinatown.

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Tucked away in the heart of Chinatown, almost inconspicuous in a row of conservation shophouses, is a gem of a modern Chinese restaurant. As part of the hip and much hyped New Majestic Hotel--famed for its funky, individually designed rooms, the Majestic Restaurant has a sleek design with chic, contemporary decor. A refreshing green adorns its walls and its natural brown flooring and comfortable cushioned seats further add to the calm and relaxing ambiance.

A large brass and copper sculpture takes the centre stage at the main dining area, flanked by two chandeliers. In the middle of the ceiling, there are three portholes that allow you to look at the bottom of the hotel's swimming pool. The natural light that filters through the water casts a surreal glow and a lulling calm. Sipping on the hot osmanthus tea full of refreshing flower fragrance, you will leave your work worries and stress aside to enjoy your meal even before the food arrives.

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Award-winning chef Yong Bing Ngen, formerly from other established names including Hai Tien Lo at Pan Pacific Hotel and Doc Cheng's at Raffles Hotel, is the man responsible for the exquisite blend of modern and traditional creations offered at Majestic Restaurant. At first glance, the menu may appear slightly pricey but you will find the food and dining experience well worth paying for.

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The restaurant offers several set lunch options which range from S$40 to S$60 per person or S$200 to S$280 for four to six people. We tried two different set lunches and it was hard to find fault with either.

The first set started with a fruit salad with roast pork and wasabi prawn, an interesting combination of flavours and colours. Along with the lettuce, there were small pieces of grapes, mango, rock melon, and jambu--a good mix of sweet and sour tastes, all drenched in a salty soya sauce dressing. The roast pork was added in small cubes instead of thin slices thus providing more bite. It had been roasted till a perfect crisp on its skin while retaining the juiciness of the meat. The succulent prawn had been lightly coated with wasabi mayonnaise giving it just enough spiciness from the wasabi to create a tingling taste sensation.

The starter for the other set lunch featured a trio of wasabi prawn, sliced Beijing duck skin, and pan-seared foie gras. The foie gras which you would not usually expect to see on a Chinese menu, was crisp on the outside while delightfully smooth inside, melting easily in the mouth and leaving a tender sweetness behind. The thinly sliced Beijing duck skin was almost paper crisp and the wasabi prawn once again added a moderate spiciness in a twist of flavours.

The soups were next served and the braised shark's fin with crabmeat arrived boiling hot in a claypot and remained steaming hot even when you are half-way through. The soup was consistently thick and there were slices of fragrant mushroom and crunchy bean sprouts. The crabmeat which had been added was in big chunks which enabled you to taste its fresh sweetness; but the real treasure in the soup was the shark's fin which was not shredded but served in generous pieces.

You can also opt for the premier shark's fin cartilage soup with white cabbage which was truly delicious. The soup which has been brewed at length was naturally sweet without being cloying. Besides a whole comb of shark's fin, there was an assortment of shredded cabbage, honshimeji mushroom and wolfberry to add to the nutritious goodness of the soup.

If you are not for eating shark's fin for ecological reasons, there is a selection of other soups from the menu to try. The hot and sour soup was a fairly rich broth with assorted seafood, tofu, mushrooms, and black fungus. The refreshing sourness whetted the appetite and the spicy undertone lingered on long after we had finished the soup. There was also an interesting play of texture between the crunchy black fungus, the chewy mushrooms, and the silken tofu. In addition, the seafood provided an interesting variation from the traditional recipe that uses meat.

Our sets came with a serving of steamed fillet of sea perch with fermented bean, and pan-seared fillet of rib eye with chef special sauce. The sea perch was simply served in a longish boat-shaped plate. The fish was very fresh, smooth, and well steamed, and the bean paste added sweetness and a savoury spiciness.

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The unbeatable choice, however, would be the wagyu beef. Extremely tender and soft, the beef had a velvety texture and practically disintegrated with a full flavour in the mouth. Its black pepper flavouring recalls more of western steaks and the small portion of kimchi at the side might have been out of place, except that you would expect nothing less than culinary twists and innovations from Chef Yong.

The portions of the set lunches are sufficient and you would have been satisfied without the noodles which are included. The stewed noodles with lobster and scallion were a little dry though the serving of lobster was once again in generous portions. The noodles with baby abalone and beef was more flavourful, with a rich salty savoury sauce, and the noodles were well cooked. The vegetables which accompanied the noodles were diced into small pieces and placed at the side.

Besides the set lunches, we also selected a few dishes from the menu and were suitably impressed. The standard portions are generous and can easily be shared among three to four people. The set lunches do not come with a vegetable dish on its own and we decided to order asparagus. The wok-fried asparagus with honshimeji, chilli, and minced garlic had a good wok fragrance and a well-balanced and not overpowering spicy and garlic taste. The asparagus was crunchy and contrasted well with the juiciness of the honshimeji mushrooms.

The signature braised homemade tofu with whole garlic was delightful. The tofu was crisped on the outside before the braising. The braising sauce was absorbed by the crisp skin and it had a nice bite against the soft smoothness of the tofu. The accompanying greens were crispy and the whole roasted garlics were surprisingly sweet and not pungent.

Another signature dish was the pan fried carrot cake in XO chilli sauce. The carrot cake, a familiar item, is presented with a different slant. The chunky carrot cake cubes were tender, smooth and contained dried shrimps and Chinese waxed meat. The cubes were lightly pan fried and the addition of bean sprouts, chives, and fried eggs gave the dish a nice texture.

For dessert, we had the chilled avocado puree with ice-cream and sago; chilled pureed mango, sago and pomelo; and the crispy durian ice-cream. For the first two items, ice-cream added creaminess to the purees and both the avocado mixture and the mango mixture were not too heavy nor too sweet. As usual, the sago pearls were great texture agents and the pomelo bits provided refreshing bursts in the mango dessert.

The star dessert was no doubt the crispy durian ice-cream. As soon as it was placed on the table, you can catch a waft of the aroma of durian even before you dig into the dessert. The item reached us with its pastry outer crust still hot and crispy, while the ice-cream inside remained intact and frozen solid. The delicious combination of the hot crispy pastry skin, cold creamy ice-cream and the surprising find of real durian pulp in the middle made this dessert a must-try. The accompanying tangy mango sauce further perked up the dessert, making it a perfect end to a satisfying meal.

With its cool stylish ambiance, attentive service, and unusual but delectable creations, it is easy to see why the Majestic Restaurant has garnered a loyal following and firmly established its place in the homegrown restaurant scene.

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Majestic Restaurant

New Majestic Hotel
31 to 37 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6511 4718

Monday to Sunday
1145 to 1500 hours
1830 to 2300 hours

Food:

Service:

Ambiance:
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Title Annotation:EXQUISITE DINING
Author:Swan, Poon; Yee, Sarah
Publication:Today's Manager
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Words:1361
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