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Saturday, 19 March 2016

[Invited Tasting] Dinner at Grand Mandarina ( 御华庭 ) Restaurant @ Chinatown

325 New Bridge Road, #01 / 02-00 Singapore 088760
Tel: 6222 3355

It was a weekend and time for the tasting session at Grand Mandarina Chinese Restaurant at New Bridge Road, offering Chinese / Cantonese fine-dining concept, which I have been looking forward to for weeks. It used to be known as Grand Mandarin and was thereafter changed to Grand Mandarina, so remember to use the new and correct name for this restaurant.

Headed by Chef Benson Tong, who gave up his submarine engineer career to operate a roast meat hawker stall, followed by cafes and later, this exquisite restaurant. He has extensive knowledge on the different food and nutritional values, is constantly on the lookout for new food trends and ideas; and strives to customise dishes that may also accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free, eggs-free diners. He has also worked as a private chef creating interesting dishes for his clients.

The interior decor of the restaurant was classy and modern, with big round tables atypical of Chinese restaurant, with exquisite tableware. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Eric who also has years of experience in Cantonese fine dining cuisine  - we got to experience the delicacies that day.

A starter of sweet, juicy tomatoes and plum sweetened the palate before the tasting session commenced. The touch of luscious sweetness whetted the appetite greatly.

The first item was the Steamed Vegetable Dumpling (SGD$4.80) with diced assorted mushroom and vegetables in black pepper. No meat? No fret. These dumplings were bursting with the aroma of mushrooms and black pepper, utterly tasty, and the melty translucent skin is handmade. One of the most flavorful vegetables dumplings I have tasted thus far.

Next up, Crispy Rice Rolled with Smoked Shredded Duck and Bamboo Shoot (SGD$7.50) - velvety rice roll (think cheong fun) wrapped around crackling smoked duck that had a lovely distinctive duck flavour but was not overly salty; nothing like the usual dry, rough smoked duck we are accustomed to. This is highly recommended.

Then we had the Pan-fried Buns filled with Pork and Cabbage (SGD$5.00) lined with thin egg sheets. The buns had a lovely crusty texture to them, with succulent minced pork-cabbage fillings within.  The minced pork was mildly-sweet, and very delicious - how they managed to ensure the delicate texture of the pork is by buying meat and fats separately to blend themselves; to ensure quality of the minced meat.

Following that, the Crackling Pork Belly (SGD$18.00) with waffle-crispy skin, crackling deliciously in the mouth; the pork meat is succulent and moistened, incredibly addictive to pop one piece after another into the mouth.

The signature Crystal Char Siew (SGD$18.00) with its caramelized coating is saccharine, crunchy and well-torched ("aburi", as described); the flesh is has a lovely buoyancy to it, along with the delicious tinge of smokiness.

Roast Duck with Summer Truffle Sauce (SGD$32.00) boosts of an earthly aroma infusing into the natural sweetness of the duck; a creative delight  to reckon with.

Next up, a new dish - Deep-fried Chilean Seabass (SGD$26.00) with crispy fish skin served with scrambled egg white and golden broth. Crispiness ranged from the brittle fish skin to the deep-fried golden skin of the Chilean seabass, and while the teeth ran through all of those deliciously, the flakey, snowy flesh of the luscious fish tantalized the palate further. The nectarous golden broth filled with silken scrambled egg white fulfilled the dish with a flourish.

Then Steamed Wild Yam in Imperial Sauce (SGD$12.00) was served next; this is a Chinese herb sometimes also known as mountain yam and other names. It has a starchy, rough feel to it, as well as a very light, powdery taste with every crunchy bite; and has a lot of benefits to it. Infused with the vinaigrette gravy and sprinkled with some tiny red chilli added flavours to it.

Last but not least, another new dish that I enjoyed tremendously - Coconut Crustacean Broth with Silken Longevity Noodles in Coconut and King Prawn (SGD$26.00). The exciting presentation piqued the palate's curiosity, and the first sip of the broth was just indescribably good - saccharine and tasty of seafood goodness. The silken strands of noodles were soaked with the tasty broth. Loved the springy freshness of the tiger prawn as well. After slurping all the broth and finishing the noodles, we dug the tender flesh of the coconut off the interior wall of the husks, and enjoyed the seafood-infused fruit.

Finally, desserts! This special is not for sale, unfortunately, and is beautifully named "Delivering Coal in the Snow (雪中送炭)", comprising black sesame husk dotted with white sesame and filled with rich and creamy durian pengat decorated with precious edible gold flakes. A mound of red bean paste divided the crispy sesame husk from the refreshing coconut ice-cream. Colorful and zesty dots of fruity sauce forming part of the plating added zesty touches to the lovely tropical dessert.

The food at Grand Mandarina was overall, delectable, and every dish is unique in presentation and taste. Service was professional and polite, adding to the enjoyment of the meal.

Thank you Benson and team at Grand Mandarina for the tasting session, and appreciation to Yvette for extending the invite.

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