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Friday, November 21, 2014

Food tasting at Grand Mandarina @ New Bridge Road, Singapore

Strategically located straight outside Outram Park MRT, Grand Mandarina (previously known as Grand Mandarin) is an up-and-rising restaurant that specialises in Chinese fine dining. It incorporates traditional Cantonese cuisine alongside a fine balance of contemporary fusions, merging art and food in unison.

The interiors of the double-storey Grand Mandarina are decked with classic furniture and chandeliers, set aside walls of glossy black - pretty much one would expect from a high-end Chinese restaurant. The 160-seater restaurant also features two VIP rooms at the upper floor with minimal purchases. Perhaps, the most intriguing art-piece was the Empurau fish (also known as 忘不了), a sea-creature so elegant and prized. In fact, it is one of the most expensive freshwater fish in the world. Oh, and the reason I used the word "was", because it is for sale, with a hefty prize tag of approximately S$800/kg. Definitely not for a poor undergraduate like yours truly.

Most of their dishes are not only satisfying to the palate, but are visually appealing as well. Take their tofu (S$24) for example. Served with mushrooms and a mixture of luscious crab meat and egg white, the spongy tofu, which carried a nice amount of "wok's breath" is then savoured with the accompanying carrot broth. Perhaps spinach broth might be a better alternative instead of a dyed carrot broth.

Cashew nuts are self-marinated with seaweed, and baked until a nice colour of golden brown. Could definitely do with more seaweed though.

Grand Mandarin Appetiser Platter was a good start for the things to come. It consists of (from left to right):

1. Deep-fried prawn (S$32 per order) - a tangy rendition of a succulent prawn, coated with a good layer of creme lemon sauce. 

2. Barbecued pork loin (S$15 per order) - beneath the honey-glazed, caramelised crust encapsulates a gastronomical explosion of tender, juicy meat with a nice sliver of fats that literally melts in one's mouth. To say this is a piece of charsiew is an understatement, this is a work of art.

3. Crispy soft shell crab (S$18 per order) - who would thought of tossing soft shell crabs together with curry leaves and everyone's favourite chicken floss? Oh definitely not me, but I'd say it's a fine proportion of sweet, umami and spiciness. 

As a Cantonese, we live by our soups, and that's literally, because rarely a day goes by without me having a bowl of soup. Hence, double-boiled chicken soup with cordycep flower (S$9) was a nice dish to try out, given that they specialise in Canto-cuisine amongst other varieties. The flavour was clear and nicely balanced, yet distinct, soothing and definitely nutritious.

Liu Sha Bao (S$4.80) was a nice surprise, given that it was not part of the tasting menu. Beneath the hot, fluffy steamed bun lies a good combination of salty egg yolk and custard. The image of the luscious and flowing golden custard always make a winning shot. Just check out this baby.

Steamed silver cod (S$22) was definitely one of our favourite dishes. The freshness of the cod was justified by it's nicely flaked and succulent meat, while the garnishes of pink ginger and bonito sauce played a nice supportive role in delivering this dish to another level. According to the staff, the cod was air-flown from Norway, and weighs approximately 300-400 grams per portion for the a la carte, giving diners a bang for the buck.

One of the most highly acclaimed dishes in Grand Mandarina, Roasted duck with perigord truffle (S$28) did live up to its name. The skin was aromatic and crispy with a truffle touch to it, while the meat was tender and juicy. Those are perigord truffles mind you - the most valued truffle in French cuisine, so savour the last bit of that distinct earthy flavour along with a piece of roasted duck, and your life is complete.

Stir-fried crystal vermicelli with pork collar in X.O chilli sauce (S$22) might look like your normal noodle dish. But looks might be deceiving, the tang-hoon-look-alike are made from tapioca flour and moulded into chewy, translucent noodles, while the imported pork collar has just the right amount of fat to meat ratio, forming a succulent, juicy piece of pork. Delicious is an under-rated word for this dish.

What's a food tasting without dessert? After a hefty and scrumptious one, Green apple jelly with lime sorbet ($8) was the perfect dessert to end everything. It's light, refreshing, with a tinge of sourness amidst the sweetness, that was muchly appreciated in the hot and humid weather.

All in all, Grand Mandarina is a great place for meals, including for gatherings and events purposes. Albeit the higher-than-average price tag, diners get to experience authentic Chinese fine-dining, which encapsulates both creativity and depth in their quality offerings, amidst brilliant services and ambience.

On behalf of my buddy, Victor and myself, I would like to once again, thank the restaurant manager, Kenny, as well as the beautiful Jiaxin for hosting us to this food tasting event. It was indeed my honour to get together with other foodies from the local food scene, including JohorkakiPinkypiggu, lirongs, as well as other like-minded bloggers.

*Disclaimer: (1) Dishes are listed without any particular order; and (2) prices stated might not reflect the appropriate portions of each representative dish.