Been wanting to check out the insanely popular Yan Tin a la carte Buffet Weekend Brunch (12pm-3pm) for the longest time. We tried to make reservations a few times but it was always fully booked. Eventually, the PR helped us arrange and yes! we finally tried it!
The moment we stepped in, the luxuriousness hit us. A narrow corridor leads you into a secret enclave – exclusive with limited seats. A room of warm colors, beige and brown, it is filled with broad armchairs and plush carpet. We were very lucky to be assigned booth seats for two persons so we got a lot of privacy. If you come in a big group, you can request for private rooms (probably with a minimum spending).
Shark’s fin soup has been getting a lot of bad press lately; 25% of Singaporeans refuse to eat, making others feel guilty for eating it. But if you read this research by Dr Giam, a member of United Nations body on endangered sharks, his research shows that it is not true that sharks are endangered and most of the times, sharks are humanely killed, just like your poultry and cattle. Dr Giam argues that shark’s fin soup gets such bad publicity because of cultural discrimination. Other countries, such as Germany, France and Australia, have eaten sharks for a long time too, yet it is Asian’s shark’s fin soup that gets the blame. Don’t be racist, save your tradition, eat a bowl of shark’s fin soup today!
At the buffet brunch, each person can only order a bowl of shark’s fin with crab roe and crat meat, a huge bowl that is! It was as huge as my face and my face is as huge as the moon, as huge as 3 to 4 normal rice bowls. It had so much fin, crab meat and crab roe that this bowl alone must at least already cost $60.
Not only did the soup have quantity, the quality was fantastic, the most delicious shark’s fin Chiobu and I had. By itself, without adding any vinegar or pepper, it was already extremely savory with the right viscosity of broth, not too liquid and not too starchy. A slightest bitterness, imperceptible to most, enhanced the flavor, adding dimensions to the soup. Very superior. We slurped up the entire bowls.
Like the shark’s fin, each customer can only order one lobster. But there are three styles to choose from: wok-baked with superior stock and spring onion (pictured below); gratinated with cheese and bacon (pictured above); wok-baked with garlic and butter (not pictured). The cheese lobster was very Q, very zingy and the saltiness of the cheese went well with the sweetness of the lobster. The garlic lobster appeared as if it was deep-fried, topped with bits of deep-fried garlic; it looked hard. But when we bit into it, it was moist and the garlic had crept into the crevices of the segmented abdomen, infusing into the meat.
Although the cheese lobster and the garlic lobster were excellent, if you have one lobster to order, you have to pick superior-stock lobster. The superior stock was thickened into a sauce-like (tasting a bit like fish sauce) and was extremely flavorful. I thought it might be a tad salty but Chiobu was fine with it.
We simply had to order the quintessential dim sum dishes, “Har Kao” 鲜虾饺 and Siew Mai 蒸烧卖. While the siew mai was run-of-the-mill, the har kao is Yan Ting’s specialty. An open-faced dumpling of lucent skin wraps a prawn, topped with a scallop. The skin, Chiobu said, had a nice, fresh chewiness even though we left it for some time. You can really taste the luminosity of the skin. But I thought it might be a tad salty.
Wherever there is salted egg yolk bun, we’d always order it. (Is this a Singapore invention?) The popularity of this bun has really risen over the past few years. Look at the smoothness of the liquid. When Chiobu just cracked the smallest hole, the liquid spurted out! Yan Ting’s bun was very delicious and very unique I finished it in two bites. It was sweeter than other restaurants’ and the tastes of salted egg yolk and milk are distinctive, providing a layered taste. Our only bleat was the skin could be thinner.
Another excellent dim sum. When you bite, you can see shreds of radish within, giving a texture to the dish. It was very soft and tender and sweet. Perfect.
If you give me a blind tasting of the salted egg yoke bun and this char siew pastry, I could tell you for sure which one is Yan Ting’s and which ones are not Yan Ting’s. The char siew su was very distinctive because the pastry was sweeter than other restaurants’ and almost tasted like Polar’s chicken pie, buttery and flaky. However, we thought the filling could be more ample.
Another classic dim sum dish we didn’t try is cheong fun. Stomach no space.
Besides dim sum, there are also other cooked dishes for the buffet.
Traditional Cantonese Pig Trotter Vinegar 猪脚姜醋 is one of Yan Ting’s speciality and this was the only dish we didn’t like. Although the meat melted in the mouth, the taste was overly sweet and not vinegary enough. Our expectations of vinegar trotter are (1) it must have a choking quality, so sourish that it is appetizing and (2) a wine-like fragrance. But this dish failed to meet both criteria.
Under the Cantonese favorites, there are porridges but no carbs in buffet please!
By this time, we were already very, very stuffed so we requested that the salmon sashimi, which the server recommended, to come in two slices. It was light and refreshing, a nice change from the rest of the dishes.
The name of the dish sounds so special that I had to order it. It was calling out to me. When it came, we were quite shocked because it didn’t look very appetizing: a cold white (steamed?) piece of deboned chicken wing wrapped around a thin slice of century egg and ginger. But contrary to its appearance, it was actually quite appetizing; the chillness and sweetness were refreshing.
Another interesting sounding dish is Poached duck in osmanthus sauce 桂花盐水鸭. I want to try it next time.
The last of the appetizers we tried was the BBQ combination 烧腊拼盘, consisting roasted pork belly, char siew, roasted duck and soya sauce chicken. Our least favorite was the roasted pork belly. While the skin was crackling, the meat was tough because it was very lean, very healthy, and lean meat is usually tough. The taste was excellent with mustard. Ranked third was the char siew. When I was at a food tasting with the esteemed Camemberu, she mentioned she prefers char siew with a bite, so this would be perfect for her. But we the lazy like our char siew to melt in our mouth so this didn’t score with us.
However, we liked the roasted duck very much. Chiobu commented that this was well-cooked that it wasn’t the kind to stick to the teeth. There was a slight liver taste to it, almost foie-gras-like, with a crisp skin. Dipped in the sour plum sauce, the iron taste, the sweetness and sourness were complex.
Our favorite had to be the soya-sauced chicken. Everyone knows the famous shop at Chinatown selling this dish. The Ex used to buy it for me every Sunday, and I’d said, “Why you buy for me? I told you many times I dislike it. It has an ‘injection’ taste.” But at Yan Ting, the chicken was so smooth and delicious without an injection-hormonal taste. Yan Ting’s soya-sauced chicken must be something to be able to change my opinion of a dish.
Cantonese are famous for their soups but since we had the Shark’s fin, we decided to give this category a pass. Fish maw broth with conpoy 黄焖干贝鱼鳔羹 is highly recommended by the server.
RERG is all about deep fried prawn in wasabi mayonnaise but we couldn’t appreciate the dish here. It was battered, deep-fried and had only a few strands of wasabi mayonnaise. We suggest to change it to deep-fried without the batter and then roll it all over with wasabi mayo.
The dish came in a gorgeous plate. Instead of just a depression in the middle, it’s a vortex like a whirlpool. The fish was fresh and bouncy without a hint of fishiness and the broth was light. This dish was delicate compared to the other heavy dishes but if you like your broth to be saturated with essence, then perhaps this won’t be up your alley.
Other dishes we wanted to try are deep-fried “soon hock”; steamed “soon hock” with preserved vegetables; sze chuan steamed scallop with bean curd 川汁带子蒸豆腐; cereal prawn. We want to go back and try them.
Named the Yan Ting chicken, you know that this is their specialty of specialties, 招牌中的招牌. Everything was superbly executed with its paper-thin crispy skin, almost fat-free but very tender and smooth meat, so smooth it would slip down your throat if you’re not paying attention.
Although on its own the chicken was already excellent, the specialty came from the sauce. It was the duck rice sweet sauce but other ingredients were added. We tasted a slight licorice bitterness (anise?) and and plum sauce. Dip the chicken in the sauce and eat it: the taste explodes in your mouth.
Beef, Lamb & Pork
We love braised pork belly with man tou 杭州东坡肉 in general. While the fats melted in the mouth, the meat didn’t. And the taste differed from other restaurants’ in that it was sweeter, almost tasting like a no-vinegar version of the Traditional Cantonese Pig Trotter Vinegar 猪脚姜醋 we had earlier.
From the dishes we ate so far, we applaud how Yan Ting is innovative and reinvents Chinese dishes to be cutting edge. However, we can’t say for sure that we liked the substitution of bread sticks for man tou. The purpose of man tou is that wrap round the meat, so that the sauce and juice of the meat can interact with the man tou, giving a textural and taste contrast. So the bread sticks didn’t work for us.
When we come back, we will try the tri-egg spinach, braised homemade spinach tofu, steamed tofu stuffed with prawn or crab meat and braised eggplant with roasted duck in claypot.
Rice & Noodles
On our list to try: Yangzhou fried rice 扬州炒香苗 and Hokkien Braised fried rice 福建炒饭. Sounds special, never tried hokkien fried rice before.
From left to right: Mango and pomelo 养枝甘露, passionfruit in jelly and Honeydew Melon and Sago 蜜瓜西米露. Chiobu was delighted with all of them. She said they are unique and different compared to outside. The mango and pomelo wasn’t the sourish kind (as compared to outside) but had a mild pleasant sweetness of mango. The passionfruit jelly (not on the menu, recommended by the server, my favorite) was extremely fragrant like freshly cut fruit, with just a mild sweetness and very fruity. The honeydew melon and sago, Chiobu said, was very unique because it was blended honeydew with sago. In general, they didn’t have any ice to dilute the flavor and they were just rightly sweet and refreshing after a heavy meal. Thumbs up.
But I thought the crispy dumpling with salted egg yolk paste 流沙煎堆仔 was the bestest dessert. It was sooo awesome. Hot from the frying pan, it was crispy outside, molten within; the skin was gluey and sweet, the liquid egg was salty; the sesame seeds provided a wonderful, irresistible fragrance.
Service: excellent and friendly. Water, tea and champagne were frequently topped up. Dishes came out hot. We laughed and chatted with our servers who are proficient in both Mandarin and English.
The Yan Ting Weekend Brunch buffet costs: $98++ a person, $48++ for child between 4-12 years old. If you want free flow of sparkling wine (reserva de la familia cava brut nature 2006), it is $138++. Free flow of champagne (perrier jouet grand brut): $148++. We are not fans of alcohol but we tried and liked the champagne and it was very light and lively with a strong smell of green apple. Very appetizing.
Given the cost, I’d said that it is very value for money. The shark’s fin alone would cost $60 at least. Throw in the lobster (+$20) and the other dishes. You’d definitely get your money’s worth.
When the executive chef Lau Yip Lam said hi, we asked him what his specialities are. He said, “Every dish is a specialty.” And we agreed with him for most dishes. We don’t usually go for buffets because we believe in quality over quantity but here at Yan Ting, there are both quality and quantity. This must be one of the few times that we didn’t manage to taste all the dishes. You can request for half portion for your dishes to ensure that you try a variety. Yan Ting aspires to achieve breakthroughs in Chinese cuisine and the efforts show in the innovation of the dishes. We were extremely satisfied with Yan Ting and will recommend it highly to everyone. No wonder it is so popular. Make reservations early to avoid disappointment. Just when we said in the Bistro Du Vin entry that we are very strict about our grading system and haven’t given out more than 4/5 in a long time, we have two outstanding and deserving restaurants in a row that receive such rating.Yan Ting 宴庭
29 Tanglin Road
The St Regis
T: 6506 6887
Weekend champagne brunch: 11.45am-3pm
Rating: 4.228/5 stars
PS: We thank Vera and Yan Ting for inviting us to the tasting. It was a wonderful experience.