Food Review: The Chinese Kitchen 厨神私房菜 at 20 Cavan Road, Singapore 209851

I've recently went for a tasting at The Chinese Kitchen on Cavan Road (near Lavender MRT/Jalan Besar Stadium) and was completely impressed by the quality of the Chinese cuisine there. They are done in the old school Nanyang style but upgraded to suit the tastebuds of today. If you know how to read Mandarin, you'll know that the Chinese name of the restaurant literally translates to "The God of Kitchen's Private Dining Dishes". The aforementioned deity here is local renowned Chef Austen Ong, who's been in the industry for ages, won many awards and even have 2 cookbooks published if I don't remember wrongly. All you have to know though, is that the food here's legit good.

You definitely need to call ahead and make a reservation for weekend dinners, and call ahead anyway for week days, because a lot of what we tried during the dinner tasting was off the menu, by-request only items.

Here's the interior - small and well ventilated, but probably quite rowdy/noisy during weekends!

The accolades by Chef on the wall, together with some paintings of the 4 Big Beauties (of China). 

We started with some refreshing appetisers like this Spicy Pomelo Salad with Prawns *not in menu (S$12). I really enjoyed the slightly Thai style to awaken your senses a bit with the spicy, tangy and citrusy flavours with a hint of bittersweet. 4/5

We also tried some Charcoal Grilled Lotus Root stuffed with hand-chopped minced meat (S$3.50/pc). If you see grilled in any part of the menu, know that the kitchen has their own charcoal grill (which is why they had to choose a shophouse location instead of being in a building. And no, it doesn't smell of smoke). Despite that though, the lotus root here was rather lacklustre is both flavour and texture. 2/5

We also had some Organic okra with pickle chilli (S$8), which if I were to tilt the dish to photograph, might incite trypophobia. So I didn't. The okra was really nice and crunchy though - it had all the flavour but none of that stickiness that I do not enjoy in okra, or lady's fingers. 3.5/5

We followed up with some Pork trotter jelly with passion fruit infused cucumber (S$10). Erm, this is definitely very old school Nanyang. I didn't really like it too much because its a meat jelly, even if the foul porky taste was absent and it was objectively a very well-executed dish. 3/5

Then on to the mains, of which their Signature Old Fifty Collagen Broth (S$40 for 2 to 3 pax/$58 for 4 to 6 pax) comes into play. It's life-changing, almost. I'm not overhyping as well. Everyone who tried it was pleasantly surprised and pleased at how delicious it was. 

It comes in original, miso or spicy (the green chilli kind of spice, be warned, it really does pack the heat). Everyone agreed that unless you are a spice fiend who hates the taste of sweet, fresh fish, get the original. The latter simply masked all the OG goodness.

The broth is simmered over charcoal for 10 hours and made with chicken, duck, pork and fish skin, together with your choice of fish which is an ocean catch, wild caught or snapper. It's called Old Fifty as it was reminiscent of the cooking style of the 50s. It was like having those sliced fish soup beehoon that you have to queue for ages for, but x100 better and without the carbs. 

Oh my gosh, do you guys remember this Ch 8 show in the past called 福满人间? I was suddenly reminded of it. Haha. Ironically its about a bunch of people who got transported back in time to the 50s in a restaurant business (?). Food does transport us to different times.

Source: RBKD
Anyway, we also sampled some delicious Charcoal Grilled Orange Sea Perch (S$62), which tasted a lot like cod but in a less fatty and solid manner. This is one of the few frozen fishes that the kitchen has to work with due to their unavailability in our region. Which is fine by me. It tasted really clean with just sea salt and chili and it was one fat fish, by the way. I do think its not necessary to splurge on this fish when you can have it in the Old 50s broth though. 3/5

There were also some XL sized Steamed Scottish Razor Clams with Korean black garlic sauce (S$11/pc). I didn't care for them though the clams were fat and juice, because the black garlic was a bit bitter. and overwhelming Skip! 1/5

We then go to an oldie and goodie - the very regionally confused Ah Po Thai Style Braised Spanish Pork Belly (S$16). I couldn't tell which part of it was Thai, nor perceive the Spanish difference but the melt-in-your-mouth pork was definitely comforting and shiok. You could just order this and get a bowl of rice and you'll be good. I know I would, if I was in the mood for something saltish, fatty and indulgent! 4/5

What I was really in the mood for though was the Wok-fried Portobello Mushrooms with Salted Egg Milk Crust *not in menu (S$16). I didn't even know portobello mushrooms can be treated in this manner, but it was SO DAMN FRIGGIN GOOD. Oh my I can eat sleep rave repeat on this dish for infinity. The mushrooms were so juicy on the inside but flash fried and coated with that sweet milk power goodness and then tossed with that savoury salted egg sauce with chili and curry leaves for that crunch. OH! MY! You really have to try. 5/5

Last but not least, my second favourite among the 12 dishes I tried. Maybe on par with the Salted Egg Portobello Mushrooms. The newly introduced Jumbo Crab Meat with Chili Sauce (S$98) and Fried Mantou (S$0.80/pc) *not in menu. I don't normally eat Chilli Crab because of the mess and the work of deshelling the crab meat. In this case, everything's already done from you (from a 1kg crab no less, so the price is actually well-justified). And the chili sauce is just perfect for dipping those long shaped mantous (not youtiaos!) into if you are not biting into the succulent, generous lumps of crab. Really, worth every cent and the trip.  5/5

Lastly for dessert, a rather unique warm dessert of Cream of Japanese Pumpkin with Lotus Seeds and Grilled Banana (S$4.50) *not in menu which was similar to Yam Paste but made with pumpkin for a lighter mouthfeel. I really liked it, for how well-priced it is too! 4/5

And because we realised how good grilled banana is, we decided to try with some Grilled Banana with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream (S$4.50).  It was good but take the warm dessert instead as that was more unique.

Finally, the very full but happy bunch of us with Chef. Must really thank him for keeping the spirit of the Chinese cuisine alive!

I don't think I need to rave any more for you to check out The Chinese Kitchen. Go with friends and family and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it. Order the Collagen Broth and the portobello mushrooms and chili crab for a good time but call ahead to reserve them!

The Chinese Kitchen 厨神私房菜
20 Cavan Road, Singapore 209851
Daily 11.30am to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm
Closed on Wednesdays
Reserve on or call 66126024 (better, to reserve/check dishes availability)
Menu on their Facebook Page Photo Album

Thanks to Middle Place PR and The Chinese Kitchen for the invite!

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