16 May, 2008

Chef Chan's Restaurant @ National Museum of Singapore

Located in an obscure corner of the newly restored National Museum of Singapore – with no signboard or whatsoever on its exterior (signboard faces inwards as I discovered), Chef Chan’s Restaurant, honed by Master Chef Chan Chen Hei – a widely known and respected figure in the Chinese culinary circle, dwells completely at ease in the ‘new’ historical setting – as it is complete with Chef Chan’s personal precious collection of Chinese antiques amassed over the years.

The place is exquisite with only four private dining rooms up for reservations – walk-ins are not entertained.

From utensils to cutleries (besides the glass carrying warm water), everything was matched to give one an authentic Cantonese dining experience to that of a Chinese noble.

With much anticipation, first up was the Melon Strips Enlivened with Orange Juice. While some claimed the melon to be crunchy, I find it rather hard to chew on. However, what turns me off from this dish was the sweet orange aftertaste one gets, and we all felt "Melon Strip Dip in Fanta Orange" would be more apt description.

One thing that irks me in Chinese fine dining is that you are unable to have a 2nd helping unlike those traditional Chinese banquet. This is illustrated when the Prawn Balls Stuffed with Pate and Wine was stacked temptingly on the serving plate but only one was distributed to each of us.

The exterior crust was crispy yet gentle for the throat but the interior was a major letdown – it was just overwhelmed with prawn taste that one cannot discern a hint of the pate or wine in it.

Stir Fried Shark's Fin with Eggs, Bean Sprouts and Spring Onion Served in Lettuce Leaves was probably one of the better dishes that night.

A good harmony among the ingredients – chewy shark’s fin and crunchy bean sprouts and lettuce leaves was a pleasure to chomp on. However, reality check beseech me to realise that one doesn’t need extraordinary culinary skill to execute this – this is one reason why my dad doesn’t order bean sprouts whenever we dine out.

The Sautéed Lobster with Garlic was another highly anticipated dish since it was one of the more “luxurious” items on the menu that night. The intense aroma of the garlic wowed us when it was first brought into our room, but we soon live to regret it as the profuse amount of garlic threatens to engulf the whole dish. It was such a shame since the lobster was very fresh and sweet but the tingling feeling from the garlic seeks to mar it.

The meat of the Steamed Sliced Red Garoupa in Village Style was very fresh with a good bite, but the gravy that accompanied it was outrageously starchy.

This is another example of excessive inclusion of element (starch if you are wondering) that threatens to blemish the already pathetic serving of fish that each of us got that night.

The Sautéed Vegetables with Shredded Mushrooms was greeted with disappointment that night. Drenched in gravy, it was just ordinary – any decent cook should be able to pull this off their kitchen – enough said.

The only showpiece for the night rightfully belongs to this seemingly humble chicken. Probably his best known dish, Chef Chan’s Famous Crispy Roast Chicken was the only dish that kept everyone quiet throughout its partake. Everyone was busy devouring the crispy skin that snap with every bite, coupled with the moist and tender chicken meat that was nothing short of flavour. This dish even though tended towards the saltier side near the end, was the only one that blew me away. A simple dish yet delicately and magnificently executed.

Dessert of the night was a choice between Papaya with White Fungus and Herbal Jelly with Glutinous Rice & Mango. And I opted for the latter, which I swiftly regretted. The dessert didn’t quite gel as one and I ended up eating it three ways, first the mango that was unripe therefore sour, then the glutinous rice which was nothing extraordinary, and lastly follow by the Herbal Jelly which some concluded should come with more honey, but I am used to having it bitter.

We chalked a total of $860.15 for 9 people (after 10% credit card discount), which
roughly makes out to $96 per pax. For such a price and Straits Time claiming that it deserved at least one Michelin Star, expectations were high and I expected more. However, only the roast chicken make it for me that night that one is definitely better off having the rest of the dishes at some Tze Char stall elsewhere.


Food: 2/5 (Only the roast chicken stood up)
Service: 5/5 (Immaculate service - pampered like a King)
Ambience: 4.5/5 (Lavish decor - felt like dining in an imperial palace)
Price: 1/5 (Not value for money for the standard of food served)
Total: 12.5/20
93 Stamford Road
#01-06, National Museum of Singapore
Singapore 178897
Tel: 6333 0073
Opening hours:
Lunch 11.45am to 2.30pm
Dinner 6.15pm to 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays

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Steve said...

At the start of the Blog, I was already making a plan to visit the National Museum and make a special occasion of it.

By the end of the blog, I was shaking my head in disbelief, especially when I saw the price. What a pity.

Let's hope that Chef Chan takes some of the criticism on board and lifts his game.

His Food Blog said...

Hey steveky,

You are heading back from Tasmania? When would that be? For good or just for holiday?

The National Museum is nicely done up and might have a few nice exhibitions going around, so it ain't all too bad.

Also you might wish to check out Novus instead for a better experience.

Holly Jean said...

hey ya.. yep I know who u are... your gf mentioned that you had a food blog.

yeah, I have just resigned from my job and now starting to do freelance writing/ copywriting. why? got lobang for me?

Btw, hurry up with the persimmon review la, I am curious to know what you thought abt tht night

Steve said...


Yes, I'm spending a year in Singapore from 10 June - and I can't wait. So I'm surreptitiously using your blog to plan a culinary tour of the island, starting on 11 June!

Thanks for the tip re Novus. I will definitely add that to the list.

I will be back to Tasmania after my sojourn in Singapore, so the oyster lunch offer stills stands!


His Food Blog said...

Hi Steve,

Wah - I am honoured. :)


Oh, and enjoy your stay and the food escapade.

Anonymous said...

Surprised that some of the comments are so negative . Since the opening we have been regulars there , almost 2 to 3 times a week ! The reason is we simply enjoy his passionate cooking , we can feel the love and effort he puts into his cooking. Except for his chicken , nothing has been mentioned on his other masterpieces, what a sad thing! His stir fried beef is something that NO other restaurent here or Hongkong ( famous for good food ) can match ,we can't go without each time we dine there. We love sharksfin and the only place that we know that serves good sharksfin is Thai Village and Klong Tang Ping ( closed , used to be at Holland Village ) but since trying Chef Chan's version , We never step into Thai Village anymore. As recently as last week , he served us this dish and we can't help praising him for making further improvements to this dish .It was superd better than previous occasions , we told him to serve us this version in future instead of the old version , words can't describe the heavenly taste. Even his Kwai Fa Chi ( fried sharksfin wrap in lettuce ) is first class. Then we had the South African abalone; wow ! Ahyat & Tunglok who used to be well renowned for this dish are miles behind him .He cooks them in a brown sauce which is very thick and each time we finish every drop on the plate. His garouper sliced fish cooked in a herbal style is also our favourite. There are so many other dishes which are highly commendable , viz; crab in "see chap" , winter melon seafood soup , braised lobster in superior sauce , pork ribs cooked in a similar beef sauce and even large pig intestines ( like the kway chap style but of very high standard ) Sorry that I can't describe his dishes with the correct culinery words but it's overwhelmingly good. I will rate his cooking at 8.5/10 , service is so so , ambience is 9/10. In the past my favourite spot is Crystal Palace ( Taka Shopping ctr) ,Jade (at Wisma Atria ), Cathay Restaurent ,Peach Garden, Taste Paradise , Wah Lok , Tunglok at Paramount , on average for a family of 4 , we spent $200 to $300 but at Chef Chan , if we don't go for Sharksfin or Abalone , our bill comes to around that too . I don't agree that it's pricey to dine there since I have been frequenting above restaurents before settling for his which my family likes so much. If we can afford it , we won't go elsewhere , every meal there makes us fully satisfied. Only dislike is the hollow effect in his rooms which can be noisy when the diners next door create a din with their loud talking.

Since he plans to work another 2-1/2 years before going back to his hometown in China to start a teaching school for ophans , we hope to dine there as often as we can afford to before we miss them forever. Wish you enjoy yourselves there if you plan to try him out.

Anonymous said...

Another man's food is another man's poison....as usual...food ratings are subjective

Anonymous said...

I am surprised the decor, ambience and cutlery are all so opulent and elegant whilst the food (pics you took) the foods like food from the zi char stall!

His Food Blog said...

Hi Anon 02:55,

Yeap. Pretty disappointing cos I really love the decor and the service. The food just didn't matched up that night.

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