Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Royal China @ Raffles Hotel

If the above shot reminds me of Black Eyed Pea’s celestial, intergalactic Meet Me Halfway video, then the black caviar topping the siew mai (steamed pork dumpling) must be that sense of grandeur that is the elephant in the video. Does that make the scarlet prawns Fergie?

Not necessarily something that would elevate the taste in a bite to a whole new romance but yes, it was a treat for diners, especially when the price was reasonable. It all added up well to the prestige of the Chinese restaurant with a majestic name but of a peculiarly blue setting in a megastar hotel they called Raffles.

The wonderful years here in this little red dot had taught me that dressing down in restaurants, be it expensive or not, is an enjoyment and not an offence but yet, intimidated by the reminder of a dress code on its website, I told myself that I should perhaps succumb to the rules. Afterall, it would be embarrassing to walk into the restaurant with my favourite pair of faded shorts (that even my friends are embarrassed of) and squeaking sandals, only to be barred with a haiyo, you never understand Engrish one ar? Just as well a reason to don my new expensive shirt that, believe me, was the result of an erroneous purchase.

Like how a bowl of bak chor mee had never failed to cause instant salivation, the thought of Raffles Hotel  always makes me sweaty. No doubt, this grand dame still dazzles with her bright white paint and colonial architecture but since most spaces in this historical building are unenclosed without air-conditioning, high humidity is to be expected. Having said that, this is a great tourist feature - like a warm way of saying, Welcome to Singapore! That’s lovely.

Predictably, I reached the entrance with my expensive shirt sweat-patched. I observed groups of patrons entering and leaving the restaurant. Shorts and slippers were spotted. Ah…I should have known better.

I'm not sure about the main dining hall but every room was assigned with at least one staff. Therefore, service was efficient, no doubt. What's interesting was the choice of music. With such setting, I would have expected a style similar to Tan Dun's For The World or some simple ensemble of gu zheng and er hu. Instead, we got 70s Hong Kong pop songs from the likes of Cheng Kam Cheung (鄭錦昌) that seem to be a strange choice. How does the music sound like? Here's are some good samples. I kid you not. Nevertheless, it makes up a light, interesting conversation piece on an easy Sunday morning while we await the made-to-order, steaming hot dim sums.

Back to the caviar, as exquisite as it may be, was not salty enough. What the roes did offer as an alternative was the burst in the mouth that one will never get from the commoner's garnish of dyed sago seed or salted egg. Expectedly, the pork and prawns were firm and fresh. We tried many dim sums from the rather simple menu. On the regular front, there were char siew puffs that came with a less solid filling, char leung or Chinese cruller wrapped in flour skin and a surprisingly good steamed layer cake with salted egg that was fragrant and fluffy. The cake paled the steamed bun with black sesame filling. Though it sounded interesting, the filling of a pasty texture rather than being flowy was disappointing. We should have gone for some hor fun instead of the recommended yee mee which came plain on taste despite the smooth, eggy strands. Ending the meal was a cocktail glass of osmanthus (桂花) jelly. Subtly sweet, it was alright but what's the unroasted peanut and grass jelly topping all about?

Though BEP's video was interesting and somewhat visually stunning, I questioned the necessity and logic behind some of the elements like the elephant in space and the man in a spacesuit floating so close to the sun and all. It's a huge success though. Perhaps I'm being too critical and should just sit back and enjoy the music. And the fresh dim sum that everyone's been loving at Royal China but didn't manage to meet me halfway.

Royal China
Raffles Hotel
Tel: (+65) 6338 3363


CUMI & CIKI said...

oh man.. take me hairy! i've been running in the mornings so i can afford it:P LOL

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

wah got char leung calling to me..yummm

Sean said...

yikes, no air-con?! ok, maybe that's a good excuse to indulge in a singapore sling here, huh :D

ladyironchef - Singapore Food Blog said...

you finally went to royal china! where's the next dim sum place? :D

J said...

Oh dear... Sounds like a some what disappointing dim sum outing? :(
(Still, beautiful photos as always! You make the food look so DELISH)

thenomadGourmand said...

Love the 1st pic best!

jason said...

Unroasted peanuts? O_o"

mimid3vils said...

what is in the 1st photo?

HairyBerry said...

cumi & ciki, come, yo! we go makan! ;D

joe, the char leung was quite good. :D i wished the skin was thinner though.

sean, ahhhh, now that's a thought! ya know, i've never had a Sg Sling since i landed here! hehehe.

ladyironchef, i think it'll be yan ting. or maybe man fu yuan. argh, spoilt for choice! haha.

j, thank you! ;D well, quality of food was impressive. but my problem was the lack of excitement in the dishes.

thenomadgourmand, glad you liked the pic, yo! ;D

jason, yeah. in fact, the peanuts were kinda soft as well. :(

mimi, it's a shot of the wall. the fish is actually stuck to the wall and since it was dim, it gave a
"nightly" effect. ;D

GFAD said...

The noodles look really good. Sometimes a plain bowl of noodle can hit the spot. :)

HairyBerry said...

GFAD, i agree! especially on those cold nights, a simple bowl of fishball noodles will make me really happy. ;D