chinese 5/24/2016 04:16:00 pm
You would think that proper Chinese restaurants are a dim a dozen in Singapore, given that 80% of Singaporeans are of Chinese origins. Not true! If you were to really think about it, except for the Paradise/Crystal Jade Groups and hotel restaurants, good Chinese restaurants are few and far between compared to Italian, Japanese and French ones. That's why I ventured all the way to Resorts World in Sentosa to check out a truly authentic Chinese restaurant called Avenue Joffre serving up Cantonese, Szechuan, Shanghainese Cuisine and Dim Sum.
According to Dan & Esther, "the original Avenue Joffre (or Huai hai Lu) in Shanghai is about a Cantonese filmmaker who used to live along this street and had opened up his house for gatherings featuring Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine. It eventually evolved into a meeting spot where people would bring their own regional cuisines to share. In the same light, Avenue Joffre, the recently opened restaurant along Sentosa Gateway, doesn’t adhere to Chinese dishes from one particular region, but instead offers culinary delights from provinces and cities all over China like Zhejiang, Szechuan, Beijing and Guangzhou."
The interior is very comfortable and luxurious - probably a great place to bring business associates to, if you are working around Sentosa (?) or won a lot of money at the casino and want to have a good meal to reward yourself further.
Here's our tasting menu for the night. As you can count, there are more than 10 dishes here to sample, and there were a few which were not on the menu (bonus from Shanghainese Master Chef Zhou Yuan Chang). Chef Zhou will present his award-winning signature dishes for a limited time only from 15th April to 31st May 2016.
Well with all these dishes, what should I order? Don't worry - other than dim sum (which they are also famous for), there are quite a few stellar dishes that you should definitely try. For example, this Shanghai Smoked Fish ($16) -- the unique marinate that gives the fish a sweet, complex and smokey flavour. Too bad about the fish bones in there (be careful!), or I would have eaten more! 3.5/5
We also sampled some other cold dishes (sweet and sour spare ribs S$19, shredded jelly fish and turnip S$12 and braised tofu skin with mixed mushrooms S$20), which to me were rather plain compared to what's to come, even though they were good at whetting our appetites. 3/5
The Stir-Fried Prawns with Wild Garlic (S$18) was quite an effort to consume. The prawns are not the big succulent species we are used to - instead these are more on the 'hae bee' type. I didn't really eat this since I dislike peeling prawns (you could eat the shells though). 2/5. This could be skipped!
Because you should definitely try this - the simmered mud crab with asparagus lettuce in claypot (market price)! This was one of the star dishes that night, primarily because of how fresh the broth was from the mudcrab (not muddy at all). And the noodle-like strands in there are a true test of the Chef's knife skills because those are CHOPPED asparagus (not the English type..). It was the first time everyone at the table tried something like this I reckon, and we all loved it. The clay pot was empty at the end of the meal. 4/5
Next came my personal favourite - the braised pork belly with preserved vegetables (S$30). Even though mei cai kou rou is a popular dish in Singapore, what we have is the Hokkien version I was told. Here the preserved vegetables (under the dome of goodness) are slightly less salty and of a different variety. I could barely taste the difference, but I do think this is more fragrant. Coupled with the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, and I'm in heaven. 4.5/5
Then we have a really unusual dish that I have never seen before - the blotched snakehead fish with Chinese chives (S$42). You would think that it will be brown fish with bits of green, but no! This is apparently a very classic Shanghainese dish and technique in which the fish has been carefully sliced up so they look almost like noodles, or 鱼丝 in Mandarin. Unfortunately though, while impressive in technique, there were some bones in there (careful, especially for kids!) and I found the fish to be quite bland and it left behind an oily mouthfeel. 2/5
We then also tried the stir-fried Shanghai "Eight-Treasure" with chilli paste (S$23), which was a delight on the senses with the generous portions of beancurd, prawns, gingko nuts and other types of nuts in there. The chilli gave the dish quite a kick - don't underestimate its fire! Still, very yummy. 3.5/5
A dish that got us all curious was the deep-fried chicken wing stuffed with bird's nest (S$15/pc). Bird's nest used as a stuffing? Everyone was curious as to how that is like, but turns out the main component that the description did not mention was glutinous rice! And this made the wing incredibly yummy - it might look simple but man it was good. Everyone finished theirs in a jiffy. One of the crowd-pleasing favourites for sure. 4/5
And even though this deep-fried shredded cucumber and minced prawn balls (S$42) might look really unassuming and plain, it was again, a party in the mouth. The minced prawns were really bouncy and fresh, coupled with the refreshing cucumbers. The crunchy outer surface also made this really fun to eat. However I am not sure it warrants that price tag. 3.5/5
Alright, bear with me ok? Because this stew fillet of beef with kumquat in claypot (S$30) is worth reading about and trying. Apparently made during a Cooking Conference in Paris, it probably took inspiration from the French beef bourguignon (or perhaps even vice versa!). It was simply divine - the beef just melted in our mouths with the rich deep gravy. The kumquat, when taken a bite of and paired with some beef, created some sort of culinary fireworks. Just outstanding. 4.5/5
Lastly, we come to the classic Szechuan poached sliced fish in chilli oil (S$38 onwards) or "water cook fish" in Mandarin as a literal translation of 水煮鱼。White sliced fish swam in a vat of spicy Szechuan chilli oil made with peppercorns and assorted spices until we hauled it up into our mouths. It's actually not as spicy as it looked - there's more fragrance from the spice, than actual heat. This was a very 'shiok' dish for everyone to enjoy (especially with some rice). 3.5/5
Not on the menu but created by the Queen of Dim Sum, Master Chef GE Xian’e, we also tasted some of that delicious Pork Soup Dumplings 小笼包 (S$7) that Avenue Joffre is known for. I can taste why -- it's18 folds per dumpling with a skin so soft and tender with juicy pork bursting inside. 4/5
We ended the meal with little sweet treats that's not on the menu - a small walnut and date cake and a red bean glutinous rice roll. They were a little stale by the time we got to them, but still tasted delicious and delicate. If only we have some space to sample actual desserts, but never mind - I'll go back again next time!
Here's me with Ms-SkinnyFat midway through our tasting -- already starting to feel full! Great dining with her as usual.
Avenue Joffre is a worthwhile Chinese restaurant for you to bring your family or business partners for a treat and a taste of the best in Shanghainese and other types of Chinese cuisine. Get the Szechuan Fish or the beef stew, or order some rice to go with your pork belly and end off with some soup dumplings!
26 Sentosa Gateway, #02-137/138/139, Singapore 098138
(Entry by Festival Walk and Crockfords Tower, in between Syun and Osia.)
Mondays to Sundays 12pm – 4pm (last order 3:30pm), 6pm – 10pm (last order 9:30pm)
Thank you to Avenue Joffre for the invite.