I am on my best behaviour tonight as I’m dining with my wife and the in-laws (or should I say “the out-laws”?)
By being on my best behaviour, I mean holding back on drinks which can be more torturous than the water torture that Vietcongs used on prisoners-of-war during the Vietnam war for those of you who understand what I mean.
You see, my wife Mysaucepan hails from the weird and wonderful city of Singapore and whenever we are in town, the temptation to stray off the spectacular array of street food is pretty remote. Let’s face it, what can be more flavoursome than Singapore’s famed chilli crab, a woking hot plate of char kway teow or curry fish head? And this is not even the tip of Singapore’s hawker food iceberg.
But being a world-class city means that some of Singapore’s international hotels have stepped up their game by hiring and attracting world-class chefs to meet the culinary demands of expatriates, business executives, tourists and visitors alike. As a result, some of the restaurants in these hotels offer world-class cuisine and operate at the highest level of service and hospitality.
Hai Tien Lo at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Marina Square, offering fine Cantonese cuisine, is one such restaurant.
We are greeted by tall and lanky waitresses clad in traditional cheong sam upon our arrival on the 37th floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel. Their elegance is perhaps only surpassed by the circular-shaped dining room setting which takes commanding views of the Singapore skyline.
As we settle down to read the menu, the lights and laser beams of Singapore’s newest icon, the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino are simmering in the distance.
We decide on an impressive sounding six-course Cantonese banquet that includes among other things abalone, birds’ nest soup and soft-shell crab for what appears to be a reasonable S$130.00 including taxes and service charges (approximately A$108.00).
It is also new year’s eve 2010 tonight so there is an air of excitement because diners are feasting and also eagerly awaiting the showcase of fireworks later that evening. The vantage point for viewing the fireworks from our dining table is perfect as it overlooks Marina Bay and the harbour beyond.
The birds’ nest soup arrives and its fragrance beckons as soon as the lid is opened. The broth is a clear honey golden brown, subtle in flavour and sweetness.
An entree of wasabi mayonnaise prawns with dragon fruit, honey dew and apple comes with three large king prawn cutlets, gently seared and coated with the slight sting of the dressing. Although not quite traditional Cantonese, this is one of the more refined wasabi mayo prawns that I have tasted, even comparing with the best of Japanese restaurants. The cold apple and honey dew cubes provide a refreshing crunch and contrast in temperature with the warm and succulent prawns.
A slow braised baby abalone and black truffle in oyster sauce is perhaps the best version that I have experienced anywhere in the world. The abalone was soft and succulent, where flavours are enhanced by the rich oyster sauce and a delicate snippet of the black truffle.
The view of the Singapore skyline is spectacular and provide a beautiful backdrop against the charming dining room as we dined.
The next course was a slightly more intense flavoured black pepper beef tenderloin.
The skill of the Cantonese chef is clearly on display as each cube of beef is meltingly tender and coated with just the right amount of a black peppery sauce that is void of any excess oil even on the serving plate itself.
The finale main is deep-fried soft shell crab and egg noodles. The servings thus far are quite generous and we feel sufficiently fed by the time this dish arrives. The soft shell crab is crispy and has all the strong flavours of fresh crab and contrasts beautifully with the soft silky noodles studded with whole cloves of garlic and garnished with shallots and coriander.
Dessert is a deep fried custard with chocolate biscuit and honeyed walnuts which gave a crispy crunch to the soft creamy custard.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite restaurant located in a hotel anywhere in the world?
Hai Tien Lo
Level 37, Pan Pacific Singapore
7 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square
Tel: +65 6336 8111
Toll free reservation within Singapore: 1800 7224 342
Please see list of international toll free numbers