"Treasures of The Sea " - Chinese New Year 新年 Degustation Menus @ Yan Ting 宴庭, St Regis

I was thrilled to be invited by St. Regis and Yahoo! flickr to a sneak preview of the auspicious Chinese New Year degustation menus at Yan Ting 宴庭. Incidentally, Yan Ting was recently awarded "Best New Chinese Restaurant 2009" by Singapore Tatler.

Nine Fishes Year Cakes Image courtesy of Yan Ting, St Regis Singapore

It's not difficult to fathom why as I had returned with friends for Dim Sum and Peking Duck after the Mooncake & Tea Pairing session that they hosted last year. The food served by Chef Chan Siu Kong is delicately seasoned and healthfully light. I found myself describing his food as possessing a subtlety like Japanese cuisine (think Kaiseki), whereby the natural flavours of the ingredients are not overwhelmed by the seasoning but are enhanced by it. That said, there were a few dishes where I wished he had added more seasoning but I guess its a matter of personal preference.

Yan Ting03 Image of the dining hall courtesy of Yan Ting, St Regis Singapore

The service was impeccable and the staff were very attentive to our needs without being intrusive. It's very difficult to find restaurants with good service in Singapore so this place ranks really highly in my book for service excellence. Coupled with the exclusive and plush ambience, this makes for a fabulous place for a business lunch or a peaceful meal with family and friends. I loved the privacy offered by the heavy curtains that separated our table from the next.

Yan Ting's Abundance Menu (concise version) Abundance Menu (concise version) 年年有馀 Abundance Year After Year

Yan Ting is offering 3 Chinese New Year set menus ranging from $108++ per person to $218++ per person. The menus were created with a special focus on seafood items such as Shark's Fin, Abalone and Sea Cucumber and the theme is named "Treasures of the Sea". Our menu is named "Abundance" because the Chinese phrase, 年年有馀 (nian nian you yu) is a wish for abundance or excess every year. The 6-Course set is priced at S$108++ per person. We had 5 items from the set, minus the "Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Pan-Roasted Rack of Lamb Scented with Uigur Spices".Friends who know me well will be wondering why I'm using so many Chinese characters in this entry. It's because the Chinese names of the ingredients used and the names of the dishes themselves bear alot of meaning and significance. I'll try to translate them as best I can.

If you've ever tried to order any Melon 瓜 (pronounced as "gua" which implies death) dish in a Cantonese restaurant during Chinese New Year (CNY), you'll find the manager frowning or trying to encourage you to order something else. If you tried this in Hong Kong, there is a good chance that you might get a bit of a tongue-lashing for ordering such an inauspicious dish. Thus, avoid ordering Aubergines (aka Brinjals/Eggplants), Winter Melons, Hairy Gourds & Old Yellow Cucumber in Cantonese restaurants during the CNY season. Those who are trying to impress Cantonese in-laws, do note that Salted Eggs, Salted Vegetables and even Mui Choy

(Stewed Chinese Preserved Mustard with Belly Pork) are taboo. Mui means "unlucky" inCantonese. 

Pan-fried Yam Cake 芋头糕 & Carrot Cake 萝卜糕
Pan-fried Yam Cake 芋头糕 & Carrot Cake 萝卜糕 Available for takeaway @ S$22.80 each (larger portions)


We were given some Pan-Fried Yam Cake and Carrot Cake (made of radish but is so named because the Chinese name for radish is "white carrot") as an Amuse Bouche. I loved the Carrot Cake as it was soft and smooth and had tasty morsels of Wind-Dried Sausages 腊肠 ("la chang", preserved Chinese sausages that are somewhat similar to Salami albeit sweeter in flavour). Danny Chan (Restaurant Manager) told us that many of their ingredients were specially selected and ordered from Hong Kong. I have to say that though I could only nibble on little bits of sausage, they were awesome and much richer tasting than the XO sausages (premium "la chang") that we get here. The Yam Cake was harder in texture but equally tasty. As I like these cakes to be soft, I preferred the Carrot Cake to the Yam Cake (incidentally the Chinese name for Yam 芋头 implies a "good beginning"). They went pretty well with the Chili Bean Sauce 豆瓣醬 (S$15 per bottle) but as the sauce was just a little too sweet for me, I preferred to eat them on their own. The Carrot Cake is a Must-Try!


Yan Ting's XO Sauce
X.O. Sauce @ S$30 per bottle

We were then given some X.O. Sauce to try. Contrary to its name, there isn't a drop of Cognac (not to mention XO Cognac) in it. It is essentially a spicy sauce cooked with dried seafood such as scallop, fish and shrimp. It was named XO to differentiate the quality of the ingredients in this condiment from the regular chili sauces (eg. Chili Bean Sauce). This X.O. Sauce is one of the best I've tried so far however, I still have a full bottle of XO Sauce that a Hong Kong-based friend gave me so I figured I could buy another from here when I was done with my existing bottle.
Yu Sheng (before adding fish, spices, sauces & flour crisps) Salmon Yu Sheng @ S$48 (medium) / S$88 (large) 吉庆满门 (Auspicious celebration for the whole family) (Shredded Vegetables & Chopped Nuts) before adding Salmon
Yu Sheng is a colourful salad that plays on the homonyms where yu means "fish" but enunciated appropriately, it also means "abundance"; and sheng means literally "raw" but enunciated appropriately, it means "life". Thus Yusheng implies "abundance of wealth and long life". The tossing action is called "lo hei", which means "tossing up good fortune", again a reference to a thriving business and thus its popularity with businessmen during CNY.

Slivers of Salmon One of the plates of Salmon that we hijacked for a picture

If you want to read about the procedures and auspicious phrases, you may refer to my older entry here: CNY Lo Hei Yu Sheng.


My plate of Yu Sheng - Yan Ting, St Regis


I am not a huge fan of Yu Sheng because the plum sauce dressing tends to be too sweet for my liking. Danny told us that their plum sauce dressing is different as Chef Chan had added apple juice, orange juice and pineapple juice to reduce the cloying sweetness of the plum sauce, rendering a thinner sauce with a hint of refreshing tartness. I loved the combination as this has to be one of the lightest tasting Yu Sheng ever! This is a Must-Try!


Double-Boiled Shark's Fin with 3 Treasures Double-Boiled Shark's Fin with 3 Treasures (3 Treasures: Dried Scallop, Bamboo Pith & Shiitake Mushroom) 川流不息 Ever-Flowing River


When this dish arrived, I was surprised to find that the broth was light, like a consommé. It's a refreshing change from the thick shark's fin soups that are more commonly served (we're not talking about the awfully starchy and eggy concoctions served at some wedding/set dinners). The broth was fortified with the goodness and flavours of dried scallop, bamboo pith and shiitake mushrooms. Do not be fooled by the watery consistency of the broth for it was rich in flavour and the generous chunk of shark's fin filled me up quickly.
Does this look like the hem of a skirt?
A closer look at the fin

Danny explained that we had been served the dorsal fin 鲍翅 of the shark and that it has a Cantonese name 裙翅 (pronounced "kuan chi"). This is reputedly the best type of fin because it is thick and has the best texture. It is so named because of its resemblance to the hem of a skirt (think flared Stepford wife-ish skirts). My piece of fin filled close to half the bowl and hid the pieces of crunchy bamboo pith and a shiitake mushroom that had been cut into the shape of a 50 cent coin.


Schlossgut Diel - Riesling Kabinett 2007
Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett 2007
When our soup bowls were cleared, Danny served us glasses of Riesling Kabinett. He explained that German Rieslings are good companions with Cantonese food because they have a higher acidity and just the right amount of sweetness to complement the food. Danny's also a Sommelier so I trusted his judgement.
Straw Coloured Wine - Schlossgut Diel, Riesling Kabinett 2007

The wine was pleasantly chilled and was not too cold. I loved the straw colour of the wine. The flavour of the wine was slightly tart and slightly sweet without being excessively so. It was refreshingly light with a hint of lychee. Though I don't know much about wine, I thought this wine was excellent!

Prosperity Oyster with Braised Sliced Abalone Prosperity Oyster with Braised Sliced Abalone 福 满人间 Prosperity Fills The World

The next dish was a combination of Modern Cuisine with Traditional Chinese Cuisine.

Gratinated Oyster with Fatt Choy & Bacon Prosperity Oyster: Gratinated Oyster with Fatt Choy & Bacon
This is the Modern Cuisine part of the dish where Traditional Chinese Semi-Dried Oyster and Fatt Choy 发菜 (Black Moss, the Chinese name sounds like a phrase denoting monetary luck) are combined with Western ingredients Cheese and Bacon. I am not a huge fan of dried oysters because of their strong flavours. Danny explained that these semi-dried oysters do not have the characteristically strong "fishy" flavour associated with dried oysters. The semi-dried oyster didn't taste as overwhelmingly "fishy" as the dried ones I've had but I still prefer fresh oysters for their clean taste of the sea. It was baked au gratin with browned Bacon Strips and Fatt Choy. I loved the smoky and salty flavour of the bacon strips along with the rich creamy flavour of the cheese. This is an interesting combination but as I don't like dried/semi-dried oysters, I might ask to have it replaced with Scallop. I thought this dish went perfectly with the wine as the acidity helped to cut the heavy flavours.


Abalone & Beancurd Skin Braised Sliced Abalone & Beancurd Skin


The Traditional component was brilliantly executed with a thick slice of good quality Abalone that had the right degree of tenderness and chewiness to it. The rich but not overly briney flavour of the Abalone was enhanced by the tasty, slightly starchy sauce that coated it and its companions, Poached Spinach and Tau Kee (Beancurd Skin).
Steamed Coral Trout "Tong Sing" Grouper accompanied by Wok-Fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-Dried Sausages Steamed Coral Trout "Tong Sing" Grouper accompanied by Wok-Fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-Dried Sausages 福如东海 Fortunes As Vast as the East China Sea

I was getting pretty full but I couldn't resist the Fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-Dried Sausages生炒糯米饭.

One of my favourite Cantonese CNY dishes is Lap Mei Fan 腊味饭, which is essentially steamed rice topped with preserved meats like Wind-Dried Sausages 腊肠, Liver Sausages 膶肠 (Yun Cheong), Waxed Pork Belly 腊肉 (Lap Yok) and Waxed Duck 腊鸭 (Lap Ngap). This is usually cooked in a claypot and after we're done with the dish, the better restaurants will add stock to the burnt crust and boil it for a second course.

This was a variant of Lap Mei Fan but done with Wind-Dried Sausages 腊肠, Liver Sausages 膶肠 and prawns. It was excellent as the rice was not mushy or sticky but were firm grains that had been infused with the flavour of the preserved meats. I was impressed that the chef had managed to overcome the stickiness of the rice variety. Danny explained that stock was added regularly during the cooking process (like in making risotto) so that the rice grains remain firm and unbroken. I loved the Wind-Dried Sausages 腊肠 because they were very fragrant and tasty yet lean, which is unlike many of the sausages that we get in Singapore. I gave away the liver sausages because I generally do not like to eat internal organs except for Foie Gras. The Fried Glutinous Rice with Wind-Dried Sausages is a MUST TRY!

The Grouper is supposed to be a good quality fish and thus commands a high price. Perhaps this fish had rubbed against the corals too much resulting in the toughness of the flesh or is this a characteristic of the flesh that I fail to appreciate? In spite of the tough fish, the sauce was excellently seasoned and helped to lift this dish.

Traditional Azuki Bean Paste & Crispy Glutinous Rice Cake Traditional Azuki Bean Paste & Crispy Glutinous Rice Cake 年年纳福 Receive Good Fortune Every Year
I was feeling so stuffed that when dessert came, I contemplated skipping most of the items. However, Danny did such a good job of explaining everything that I felt compelled to try them out of curiosity. See, this is how curiosity "filled" the cat!

Danny explained that the red bean soup was made with Azuki Beans, Lily Bulbs, Lotus Seeds and spiced up with the flavour of a 30-year old dried Tangerine. I hate red bean but tried it anyway. I loved the Lily Bulbs and Lotus Seeds. The hint of tangerine peel helped to make this dish more bearable for me but this is not a dessert that I would come running back for. If you love red bean, do give this a try as I'm not the best person to ask about red bean desserts.

Crispy Glutinous Rice Cake 年糕 & Crispy Water Chestnut Cake 马蹄糕
Crispy Glutinous Rice Cake 年糕 (right) & Crispy Water Chestnut Cake 马蹄糕 (left)


Glutinous Rice Cake 年糕(Nian Gao) is traditionally eaten during CNY because its name seems to refer to a Chinese phrase 年年高升 (Nian Nian Gao Sheng) which means to "Ascend to Greater Heights Year After Year". The Glutinous Rice Cake here was not excessively sweet unlike most that I've eaten. The first impression that struck me when I bit into the fritter was how the batter tasted like that of Goreng Pisang's. The texture was soft and it was not too sticky. This is good, if only I wasn't so full! The Water Chestnut Cake fritter was slightly sweeter and softer. I love Water Chestnut Cake too but I prefer it to be served chilled and not fried. Between the 2, I would go for the Glutinous Rice Cake anyday!


Deep-Fried Sesame Ball & Deep-Fried Dumpling Filled with Peanuts
Deep-Fried Sesame Ball & Deep-Fried Dumpling Filled with Peanuts


I didn't like these 2 items partly because the Sesame Ball tasted like a sweetish flour ball whilst the Deep-Fried Dumpling with Peanuts tasted as if the peanuts had not been cooked enough with sugar to render a stronger tasting filling. Perhaps the chef is staying true to his philosophy of subtle flavours but I feel a slightly stronger flavour is needed for both items.
Reunion 9 Koi Glutinous Rice Cake 九鱼献瑞年糕
Reunion 9 Koi Glutinous Rice Cake @ S$68 九鱼献瑞年糕9 Auspicious Fish


Here's a picture of the 9 Koi Glutinous Rice Cakes (Nian Gao) that the chefs have created for this CNY. Most places sell pairs of fish-shaped rice cakes. I thought that the dramatic presentation of the fish would make a great gift for typical Chinese businessmen. While touring China many years ago, the people at the art gallery told us that paintings depicting 9 Koi are usually very popular items and one of the features that buyers would look for is how close to life the painting depicts the fish. The logic is that the livelier the fish, the more good fortune the painting will bring. I couldn't help but draw a comparison with the paintings as the fish had been arranged in a manner that made them look like they were actively swimming around in a small fish pond (ie. the plate).

Thank you, St. Regis and flickr for the kind invitation. I was happy to have the company of fellow foodies and bloggers: Black Tie, White Lie, Camemberu, Dim Sum Dolly, Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, Milk Milk, Recent Runes and Timeless Facade at this dinner. It's always nice to dine with like-minded individuals.

Here's wishing everyone a prosperous and happy Lunar New Year.

*PS: The a la carte menu is also available during the CNY season.

Yan Ting The St Regis Hotel, Singapore Level 1U, 29 Tanglin Road, Singapore 247911. Telephone: +65 6506-6866 Email: diningexperience.singapore@stregis.com

Regular Operating Hours: Daily: 11.45 am to 3.00pm & 6.00pm to 11.00pm (last order @ 10.30pm)

Chinese New Year Eve (25 Jan 09) Operating Hours: Lunch: 11.45am to 2.30pm (Dim Sum Brunch only) Dinner: 1st sitting from 5.30pm to 7.30pm & 2nd sitting from 8pm to 10.30pm

Operating Hours during Chinese New Year (26 - 28 Jan 09): Lunch: 11:45 am to 2:30 pm Dinner: 6pm to 10:30 pm

Operating Hours on 7th Day of Chinese New Year (1 Feb 09) - Everyone's Birthday: Lunch: 11am to 4pm Dinner: 6pm to 11pm

Deep-fried Sesame Ball Image courtesy of Yan Ting, St Regis Singapore

Chinese New Year Goodies available for sale till 9 Feb 09