ALKAFF MANSION (*****): This is the restaurant
in Singapore. Before selecting our airline, booking the hotels and organizing
the tours, we just made sure about one key thing: we must have a reservation
Because we had to postpone our visit from dinner to lunch the next day, we just missed this unique Dutch influenced Indonesian cuisine, which makes the place like a jewel in Singapore, as they only serve it in the evening, following a long noteworthy protocol. "Rijsttaffel" means "rice on the table". It comes with a spread of spicy seafood, meat and vegetable dishes, as well as a variety of tasty condiments. Traditional "Rijsttaffel" service should be elaborate and elegant: reminiscent of a gentle wealthy refined colonial past. A majestic dinner gong intones the commencement of the ceremony and we are swept back in time to the highlands of Java, perhaps the garden city of Bogor. Then, a procession of lovely ladies dressed in traditional Indonesian sarong kebayas emerges to personally introduce and serve each dish. Touristy, isn't it? Sure; but what's the matter if this is entertaining and elegant, and if the food tastes so good? And we missed all that! So, next time we fly to Singapore, we will, one more time, make the Alkaff Mansion our top priority, for a dinner we will take pleasure in reviewing in much detail for your kind attention. Till then, why not do like us: try lunch first, then have the ultra fine dinning. Good things should come step by step! An unforgettable experience and not so expensive for the famous top end restaurant in town.
Note: the Alkaff Mansion is closed since 2010;
undergoing a complete refurbishment. It should reopen by mid-2011, with
the adjunction of an art gallery and a spa.
THE ALKAFF MANSION:
food is superb in Singapore; but to upgrade its excellence, the Mandarin
Court is currently "importing" cooks from Hong Kong. The best in the world,
according to the gourmets !
The dinning itself, as huge and impersonally luxurious as a top class chinese restaurant has to be, has its proper style. Fully booked the day of our visit, with an active and friendly staff slaloming between the large tables, it gets a warm and authentic Chinese atmosphere. A lot of local guests, indeed: proof of authenticity. Some foreign businessmen also, who certainly came here for the prestige of the place. A lot of celebrities visiting Singapore also drop by regularly.
We started with Deep Fried Seafood Rolls, much richer thought not much more expensive (SN$3.50 per portion) than the ones available from the street stalls in Bugis. We advise you to have their delicious Pan-Fried ean Curd Skin with Shrimp Rolls which, in the same range of much affordable price, offers a gourmet pleasure one would just find in a three star Michelin restaurant in Paris ! These appetizers are listed in the "Dian Xin" express menu, together with the Steamed Crystal Chives Dumplings and the Scallops with Prawns Dumplings, that we also warmly recommend.
Chinese like soups; we too ! Mostly when it comes to the aristocratic Braised Shark's Fin Soup with Crab Meat and Roe, a real delicacy enjoyed on special occasion. We were once more surprised by the price: SN$25. We paid more in Bangkok, reputed to be a cheap destination, for a meal with the same name but not the same savour at all.
When it comes to seafood, do not hesitate and have their Sautéed Prawns with Spicy Sauce. Take, at least, a medium portion (SN$38): as they are simply superlative. This was actually the course we preferred. The giant prawns were al dente: the texture being as important as the taste (a perfect one !) for the real Chinese gourmet. Extracted from their aquarium, they are cooked alive with some honey and black pepper. A curious mixture, which tastes like Cognac: strange and palatable, indeed. Prawns are treated quite well also, together with squids, with the more popular though fine Crispy Egg Noodles with Seafood (SN$27 for a medium portion).
Meat is also excellent. Of course, it is difficult to miss the Traditional Beijing Duck Served with Home-Made Chinese Pancakes. This is kind of a show to see the cook coming by your table with a trolley, and prepare the whole duck (SN$50) according to the rules. First of all, the well roasted and crispy skin is removed carefully. Then, the skin is rolled inside what they call pancakes, but which actually rather looks like the Greek Pita bread. Much enjoyable: both for the eyes and the palate. Then, the duck meat is chopped, and served with some sunflower seeds. That wonderful specialty can be enjoyed as a main course: a duck can generously accommodate four hungry people. Another alternative is the Marinated Backed Lamb, prepared just like in Beijing: well grilled, and crispy. A medium portion is SN$30.
We know they serve the most prestigious wines and Cognac, but we preferred to enjoy the all lunch with a selection of their best teas: the Chinese way !
As a dessert, you can either
try that very special Chilled Herbal Jelly, extremely popular in
Singapore. We had a lot of it during our stay, and this strange thing (half
dessert, half drink...) could be enjoyed by some of you... They also have
Double Boiled Bird's Nest with Rock Sugar: an expensive (SN$50)
"delicacy" we successfully succeed to avoid during our multiple visits
to Chinese restaurants. As one already understood, we are not fond of Chinese
desserts ! We preferred to have an Italian ice-cream (prepared by the French
chef) at the "Top of the M": the unique revolving restaurant in town. From
the 39th floor of the Mandarin Orchard Singapore, we could enjoy our dessert
and our expresso while discovering a dramatic panorama over a city which,
after all, looks greener than one could imagine from the ground. The Indonesian
islands are not that far, and we can see Malaysia quite clearly. Just for
a coffee or, better, for a romantic dinner, it is worth visiting the place.
COURT (MANDARIN ORCHARD SINGAPORE HOTEL): 333, Orchard Rd, Singapore
238867 (35th floor, main tower)
MIN JIANG (****): Located in the very plush Goodwood Park Hotel, the Min Jiang is an excellent Chinese restaurant. This is a must for all successful Singaporean businessmen, spending here a significant percentage of their astronomic wages. We have been truly impressed by the food proposed in the a la carte menu: the choice was huge, generous, and the quality absolutely worth a detour. Take small portions, please!: as by "small" they do mean medium. We were even unable to finish some of our meals: which was a pity. If you are not Chinese, please do follow our suggestions: Start with the Dim Sum (they call here "Tim Sum"). They are not the cheap and ordinary ones you can buy for peanuts in the hawker food centers downtown; they arrive rich and savourous, stuffed with fine seafood. Selections with the crab meat were great, but with Saint-Jacques it was simply superb !
We then had a Live Local Lobster anointed with Chinese Herbs: very fresh indeed, perfectly though simply cooked. Three sizes and seasonal rates are available. For our selection, the price charged was S$50 (about US$30): a little bit expensive for South-East Asia, but still OK for Singapore where such a fine meal is a real delicacy. And we are at the legendary Good Wood Park: don't forget it! Very affordable and recommended are the Frog Legs Stir Fried with Ginger and Spring Onions (about S$15).
By the way: did you know that Chinese share with French people a particular taste for frogs ? They cook them just like the best chefs do in our country. We still remember the ones Alain Senderens (Senderens Paris) prepared to our special attention one day in Bangkok. We found here the same know-how, with this "je-ne-sais-quoi" making this meal absolutely enjoyable. It was even able to made us forget our lobster: can you imagine ?! As a dessert, the Mango Pudding was fine, light, with a completely original taste. Note that if you really want to impress your guests, or your neighbors, they propose (what were reported to us as) the best sharks fins in Singapore... providing you order the "ultimate grade" Double Boiled Superior Sharks Fins with Snow Frogs (between S$200 and 350)... going, but of course, very well with a bottle of Dom Perignon.
A so very glamorous and excellent restaurant, where you can definitely be sure not to be crossed by backpackers; even on Sunday, when the "Tim-Sum Breakfast" goes for a ridiculously inexpensive S$12.80.
CHATTERBOX COFFEE HOUSE (****): We usually don't pay attention to the large hotels cafeterias: all get the same impersonal and strictly business oriented appearance, and all serve the same standard international food. The Chatterbox Coffee House, in Mandarin Orchard Singapore, is no exception as a matter of design; but it is very famous in town for its actually delicious Mandarin Chicken Rice. This popular hawker specialty from Singapore has been introduced for first time a five star deluxe in 1971: this was then somehow a revolution. Why paying many times more than in the street, or in a food center, for this blue collar delicacy ?
The chicken they serve here is quite a sophisticated one, indeed. It receives a special breeding by farm in Malaysia, and comes very tender in the plate. Each serving comprises succulent, deboned chicken with fragrant Thai rice, bean curd soup, freshly made chili sauce, quality dark soya sauce, and ground ginger. We found portions that generous that we ordered nothing more. One 2kg chicken provides four portions: twice more, at least, than at any hawker's. The meal is that much enjoyed, that the most portions sold in one single day was 1422 ! We ignore of it was quoted in the Guiness Book of Records; but we know that The Mandarin Singapore had been multi awarded for its aristocratic chicken.
The Mandarin Chicken Rice is also served outside the hotel,
at Oub Chatterbox and Oub Centre at Raffles Place, in Singapore business