Where do lawyers usually have lunch? At Yan restaurant, apparently. With the UFO-like Supreme Court building located just next door, the Cantonese-specialty restaurant, dominating a prime rooftop spot at National Gallery Singapore, seems to be the judicial stomping ground for the local magistrate.
And now, the regular panel of patrons have novel things to trial and talk about. With a new head chef taking the stand, a freshly expanded menu comes to light. Chef Lai Chi Sum hails from Hong Kong, also known as ground zero of iconic Cantonese delicacies, and has a quarter-of-a-century worth of work experience in Singapore with Crystal Jade Restaurant, the local Chinese food mainstay. So, you can expect plates steep in provenance, precision and panache by the new chef at Yan restaurant.
Case in point: The baked crab shell. It is a dish birthed by the economic boom of Hong Kong, whereby to attract high-spending diners, restaurants began introducing dishes with more western flair. Chef Lai learnt the art of cooking this in the early 1980s. At Yan, he utilises the flower crab for a sweeter, cleaner palate. The succulent meat is first shredded and removed from its shell and cooked with onion then steamed in bechamel sauce and superior stock. The flavourful mix makes its way back into the shell, which is dusted with a generous amount of bread crumbs before the whole palm-sized crustacean is baked in the oven. It’s a savoury, sweet and crispy fix.
Another entrée that’s a must-order is a bowl of surprisingly gelatinous but ultra-smooth shark cartilage broth with wanton. A prawn-poultry mix is skillfully housed in delicate dough wrappers, evoking goldfishes swimming in a pool of thick soup made by boiling shark cartilage, pork trotter and lean meat for six hours.
As for mains, the new bake pork ribs with black olive looks to be a crowd-pleaser. In this dish, chef Lai pairs Australian pork ribs with pitted and preserved Teochew olives; plum sauce; and honey. There’s a clear nostalgic flavour that is mind-blowing altogether.
One more example of looks-unassuming-tastes-remarkable is chef’s order-one-day-in-advance steamed kampong chicken with ginger spring onion. If you can get past the oleaginous appearance, you’ll find that the free-range chicken sourced from Malaysia works beautifully with the mix of scallion, spring onion, ginger, and salt. All is doused in peanut oil but not to worry, the mild-tasting vegetable oil is high in monounsaturated “good” fat, which is believed to protect cells and lower cholesterol levels.
So, what’s the ultimate verdict of the new dishes to be found at Yan restaurant? We say “guilty” — of being so good. Chef Lai serves great dishes that’ll definitely be on the guilty-pleasures-list of many who love good ol’ Cantonese food for years to come.