For the uninitiated, Singapore’s cosmopolitan dining scene can be tricky to navigate. Losing yourself in a gastronomic abyss sounds romanticised, but it can be an exasperating game of hit-and-miss for those looking to hone in on a particularly winning style of cuisine. And this is exactly why stalwart Majestic Restaurant’s recent move to a more central location at The Heart (East Tower) of the prestigious Marina One property is a blessing in disguise. Fans of the original restaurant at the now-defunct New Majestic Hotel in Bukit Pasoh Road (which now houses swanky private members’ club Straits Clan) were understandably apprehensive, but it is worth the trek—especially for lunch.
The reason is the full dim sum menu, which is the direct result of a bigger space, shares the renowned and always affable chef Yong Bing Ngen. And for now, at least, it is only available at lunchtime. Furthermore, there is plenty of ingenuity and lusciousness to satiate even the most discerning taste buds. Take the foie gras pate and mushroom crystal dumpling, which is unfussy yet hugely satisfying.
I thoroughly enjoyed the chef ’s bold take on traditional dim sum dishes, and many of them are more than just token augmentations. For instance, the customary radish roll here is not only reimagined with Western ingredients, its elegantly made crispy puff pastry also boasts a filling of tender chunks of chicken, button mushrooms and mozzarella, with a subtle hit of curry powder that piqued my palate.
There is even an elevated spring roll filled with morel mushrooms. But for something more immediately outstanding, the organic brown rice cheong fun (steamed rice roll) is a salmon pink construction filled with plump prawns that are first baked in rice paper for added crunch. The lei cha (thunder tea) sauce it is served with is a verdant mix of pu’er tea, peanuts, sesame, ginger, and a variety of vegetables.
And for a break from the customary dumpling soup, there are dumplings filled with lobster claw meat, bamboo fungus and scallops, served in a rich lobster broth that has been cooked for over two hours. That said, even the more traditional spinach dumpling with scallop, prawn and sweetcorn is richly satisfying.
Refreshed and refined
Chef Yong’s modern signature dishes are still as enjoyable, as is his lush yet comforting stewed mee sua with baby abalone. Others, such as the Peking duck, have enjoyed a few upgrades. The restaurant now uses the hybrid Irish bird from Silver Hill Farm in Ireland and the rewards are obvious. The crisp skin is served with slightly thicker and fluffier pink-hued (using rose powder) crepes. The meat, succulent and flavourful with just the right amount of extra fat, is served sliced and dressed in roasting juices—because it really doesn’t need anything more.
And there is another prized poultry that has earned a place in the spotlight. It is a new dish and one that epitomises the chef ’s unique talent for elevating comfort foods and flavours we instinctively crave. The smoked French chicken arrives at the table bare under a glass cloche filled with hickory smoke—affirming once again how the best dishes need little embellishment.
It also belies just how time-consuming the cooking process is. A modern take on the Hakka salt-baked chicken, the young corn-fed bird is first marinated overnight with herbs and salt. In the morning, it is blanched, hickory-smoked, and then hung to allow the skin to dry. It is finished in a bath of hot oil to crisp the skin just before serving. Order in advance because only six portions are prepared daily.
The chef ’s rejuvenated repertoire remains peppered with nods to local flavours, paired with a renewed interest in healthier options. But what I have always enjoyed about his cooking is a sense of authenticity that perpetuates each dish—from the house-made pickled mustard leaves that go into a simple vegetable stir-fry to the “secret” sauce that dresses a signature serving of spare ribs. His approach to flavouring is seldom shy but reliably measured, and is still a joy to behold.
I am always willing to pair my meals with my favourite wines, and because the restaurant has boldly opted not to charge corkage, I think I will be doing just that from now on.
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