Chinese! New! Year! Menu! Preview! At! Yan! Ting! With! Yahoo! Flickr!

Attaku!

Once again the Singapore! Yahoo! Flickr team with St. Regis invited a group of bloggers to preview the Chinese New Year menu at Yan Ting. I was part of the group.

Up till now, Yan Ting has not fully recovered from the initial reviews which is unfortunate because the Executive Chef Chan Siu Kong is doing his best, but sometimes, it’s a hard climb that is often beset with the fine line of little things that separate the great from the rest.

The event was programmed to start at an unreasonably early time of 6pm; one wondered if Yan Ting had Teochew agricultural roots. Not being a farmer, I asked if the dinner could be delayed as, very likely, most of us finish work at 6pm. We were granted a last minute extension of 30 minutes.

It’s these little things…

Anyway, dinner started with an appetizer of fried Radish and Yam cakes flecked with bits of preserved Chinese sausage. This proved to be quite popular among the bloggers what with all the oohing and ahhing going around. I thought it was tasty but it was just a riff off the carrot cake that we had for dim sum last year, so next…

Fried Yam & Radish

We were also given generous portions of their X.O. Sauce. I love to use X.O. Sauce when I’m lazy because it takes the intelligence and sensitivity required in doing good stir-fries. Just a spoonful and any stir-fry becomes extraordinarily special.

The Yan Ting X.O. Sauce is strong and savory enough to serve as an appetizer on its own. It was supposed to contain, amongst other goodies, Jinhua Ham. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried masticating, I could not draw out flavors other than the dried scallops, a hint of shallot and a whole lot of heat. If there were any other flavors, the spiciness masked it from me. It would have been great if they poured out the oil (that’s where the real flavor is!) together with the X.O. Sauce.

XO Sauce

And then there was the Yusheng. Increasingly, people are starting to relate the story that the Yusheng that we “lohei” with today was invented in Chaozhou (Teochew). The raw fish dish that the fisherman eat is as similar to the modern Yusheng as sushi is to Ceviche. The modern Yusheng that everyone eats now was created in Singapore by the Four Heavenly Culinary Kings of Singapore.

If you are interested, you can find the Teochew raw fish salad in most porridge places at hawker centers and see the difference.

One main difference is the ritual sprinkling of additives ( 😆 ) to the thinly-sliced vegetables. This is where the service staff or in our case, the restaurant manager, Danny will recite homilies that tie the spice (or oil) to a homonym.

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In recent years, as a reflection to affluence, Salmon has become the fish of choice for Yusheng. I dislike that as Salmon is a heavy-tasting fish with a complex flavor that clashes with the sweet root vegetables, coupled with heavy lashings of Five-spice powder and unctuous Plum sauce, what you get is a cacophony of strong sweet flavors fighting in your mouth for dominance. This was why most of us were dubious about the Yusheng when we saw Salmon slices brought out.

The main difference between your run-of-the-mill Yusheng and the version at Yan Ting is in the sauce and (surprise!) Cinnamon powder. Gone are the strong clashing flavors, in its place is a light citrusy sauce made from apple, pineapple and oranges with a hint of Cinnamon, all integrated with a dollop of Shallot oil. This combination actually brought about a quiet harmony which is what Chinese New Year Celebrations are all about.

Of course, there is the “Lohei” which up till today I still smirk when I see people use the term “tossing the salad” to describe it.

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Recently, this blog received an email from someone inviting me to a vegetarian dinner where the theme was a shark’s fin substitute to bring about awareness of shark-hunting. I didn’t join on grounds that it would be highly hypocritical of me and I feel that this approach does not work. One last point is that we eat the whole shark and not just the fins which shows more respect that most people.

One of the traditional Chinese dishes is the shark’s fin soup. The Yan Ting Double-boiled Shark’s Fin with Three Treasures was a visual treat when it arrived. Entirely covered with a thick dorsal fin, you had to dig through the fin to discover the three treasures of dried scallop, Shitake mushroom and Bamboo pith.

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I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should. Firstly, the soup wasn’t hot enough; I’ve always felt that good soup should arrive steaming, full of “yit hei”, this was served merely warm and after some shots with the camera, it became lukewarm. This affected the taste of everything. Personally, I felt that the shark’s fin, while it had excellent texture, did not absorb enough of the broth. I could taste the Shitake, the dried scallop and the creaminess of the bamboo pith, but that’s the problem: they weren’t as harmonized as it should be.

This is a very expensive and luxurious dish that demands the utmost care and attention all the way from preparation to service. It was a tragic shame.

However, things perked up when the Prosperity Oyster with braised sliced Abalone. The aroma itself was intoxicating.

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This is the first time I’ve tasted semi-dried Oyster and I must agree that while it had that intense concentration of flavor, it had none of the unpleasant fishy smell associated with dried Oysters. The Oyster had been gratinated with bacon (or was it Jinhua Ham?) which lent a richness to the mouthfeel and the whole ensemble was completed with slivers of spring onion that cut through the heaviness. Excellent.

The heaviness of the gratinated oyster was relieved by the milder and blander Abalone with Tau Ki.

The filler course of the dinner was Steamed Coral Trout “Tong Sing” Grouper accompanied by Wok-fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-dried Sausages. I didn’t understand the rationale behind this combination; I would have asked Chef Chan but I missed the opportunity as I was called away when he made his appearance.

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Coral Trout is a predator that seems to be muscular. This contributed to the perceived toughness of the fish which I do not believe was over-cooked (if anything, I think it was slightly under-done because it didn’t break apart easily) but what I found to be lacking was, and this could be me, the lack of integration between with the broth and the fish. Of course, it could have been too subtle for me.

The glutinous rice was a totally different thing. It wasn’t as sticky as I’d expect with just the right consistency and the flavors were definitely there. The wind-dried sausages where fantastic with strong hints of the Meiguilu. With the generous portions, I was stuffed to the gills.

Which was why I was aghast when the dessert arrived. It was a huge portion!

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This was the Traditional Azuki Bean paste (or soup?) with Crispy Glutinous Rice Cake. I was amused with the mention of Azuki beans as my first encounter with them was in the form of a facial scrub from the Body Shop.

Infused with an orange peel that has been aged for 30 years, the soup was light, fragrant and unfortunately (for my stuffed stomach) like any bean soup, very hearty. The twin rashers of battered water chestnut and glutinous rice cakes had just the right touch of sweet savoriness that leaves you wanting for more.

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Dinner was fun but I was distracted after a long day so I didn’t chat with the fellow food bloggers (Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, Timeless Facade, Gastronomic Ruminations, Dim Sum Dolly, Milk Milk, Camemberu and Black Tie, White Lie) as much as I’d like to. Perhaps next time in a more casual setting.

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The Chinese New Year menu from Yan Ting looks interesting and we’ve only scratched the surface of it. Chef Chan’s flavors are subtle and require mindful eating to fully appreciate the elegant complexity. Which makes it all the more tragic when the courses are not served in the manner that it justly deserves.

It’s the little things…

Yan Ting is at the St Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911, Tel: 6506-6866 for reservations.

2009Jan07-YanTing-70


Posted on 12th Jan 2009 in Cantonese, Food and Drink, Singapore

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There Are 3 Comments

 

Suzz commented on March 30, 2009 at 10:59 am


Hi Ivan, happy to know that you guys enjoyed (or somewhat enjoyed it) the dinner at St Regis.

I would have loved to join you guys, but after I was retrenched I was “adviced” not to be at the dinner. I was also prevented from knowing the amended date and timing so I won’t crash the event.

Sigh, so unfortunate for the original organiser hor? Like I’m been outcasted for doing great things for Yahoo!.

Anyway, lets catch up one day over a great meal with Nisa and gang. Miss you guys very much.


 

ivan commented on April 1, 2009 at 11:59 am


@Suzz: Well, it’s an event for Food Bloggers who use Flickr, so while it would have been nice to have you, as guests, we have to abide by the rules set by the hosts (Yahoo! and St. Regis).

I am not sure if the changes in date and timing should be taken as a personal slight, but I think it would have been awkward if you had gatecrashed, so perhaps some time-out and distance would have be better for all.

Yes, let’s move away from the bitterness and catch up as soon as Nisa is available.


 

[…] attended a Krug brunch that was popular because of its macarons than Champagne, was invited to a New! Year! Dinner! At! Yanting! With! Yahoo! and was introduced to a flying fish for dinner at Oso. Speaking of great food experiences, Tan Yong […]


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