City News gets first taste of Xi Yan’s Chinese New Year menu, which steers clear of tired conventions.
Tucked away in the Duxton Hill enclave of conserved shophouses, this Chinese fusion restaurant has gained popularity among the most discerning group of Singapore elites including business owners, lawyers, architects, doctors, ministers and celebrities over the past five years. With a lineage deriving from the original outlet in Hong Kong headed by celebrity chef Jacky Yu, Xi Yan has a unique concept of dining by reservation only and diners are treated to a chef’s menu that is customized and prepared daily according to the choice ingredients available.
To kick off the Chinese New Year Menu, however, it is offering set menus, highlights of which we were privy to. First, there is the Prosperity Yu Sheng (but of course). Loaded with fresh greens and generously cut salmon, swordfish, tuna and abalone slices, it is more akin to a sashimi salad. And instead of the cloyingly sweet plum sauce which often overwhelms the senses, Xi Yan’s chefs have created their very own sauce, a refreshing concoction of honey, kumquat and olive oil sauce.
The Golden Oyster Nuggets In Tarocurd Sauce, to put it crudely, is exactly how Colonel Sanders would eat his oysters—fresh oysters are encased in a sweet potato flour batter (as opposed to bread crumbs, for added crisp and texture) and fried to a crispy exterior, oozing tarocurd sauce with every bite. It’s a savory treat like no other.
The perfect showcase of the chef’s ability to play with taste and texture came with the Salivating Chicken With Century Eggs And Konnyaku Noodles, which originates from the Sichuan province but has been creatively modified by Xi Yan’s chefs to up the titillating factor. Combining five different spices—chilli, Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, garlic and shallots, the century egg is added to the original Sichuan version to mellow the spiciness, while the chewy Japanese konnyaku noodles soak up the sauce so that each mouthful allows you to savor more of the rich, tangy sauce.
The Zhenjiang Spare Ribs takes a leaf from the Hakka dinner table, where sweet meat is a must during Chinese New Year. Soaked in the famous Zhenjiang vinegar for four hours such that fragrant, sweet yet acidic flavors seep into the meat, the ribs are then slowly stewed with rock sugar and Shaoxing wine, making for a lip-smacking dish.
By this time we were feeling almost full but we simply could not resist the curious-sounding Stir-fried Kimchi Prawns With Shanghainese Rice Cakes: each prawn came dripping with strings of melted mozzarella cheese—the muted flavors of which complemented the kimchi to perfection.
|CN PHOTOS: Daniel Poh|
For desserts, there was the Xi Yan Signature Tang Yuan In Old Ginger Soup—ah, trust the innovative chefs to turn even this age-old dish into a delightful surprise. While traditional versions of the glutinous balls contain sesame, peanuts or red bean paste, Xi Yan’s creation contains salted egg yolk, candied winter melon and a dash of grounded peanuts. The paste is mixed in butter and frozen before being molded into individual rice balls. Served piping hot, the melted butter oozes out into the ginger soup and melts in your mouth as you take a bite of gastronomical heaven.
While take-aways are available, we should probably mention that there are only six tables in Xi Yan so if you want to dine in, make your bookings early!
The Chinese New Year Menu (S$68++ per pax for a six-course lunch and S$88++ per pax for an eight-course dinner) is available from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21.
Xi Yan Restaurant
38A Craig Road,
+65 6220 3546