At Cassia, Capella, the moment I bit into the char siew bao, I asked in surprise, “Is the chef from Hong Kong?” I asked because the bun transported me to Hong Kong. It isn’t the honey-saccharine char siew Singaporeans usually eat; it is light, subtle, and you could relish the integrity of the true taste of the kurobuta pork.
Indeed, Chef Lee Hiu Ngai is from Hong Kong, and the bun is indicative of the Cantonese Hong Kong style, consistent throughout the course of our meal. This style works well for most dishes, but not for some.
The style works for the black pepper Australian M9 wagyu beef. Like the char siew bao, the black pepper sauce isn’t overwhelming and heavy-handed like Singaporeans eat it; the black pepper sauce is a tinge, a hint, a memory. What you taste as you chew is the juices, the meat tender with a nice bite.
Inspired by peng cai 盆菜, the new dish here, Treasure from the Sea, carries on the distinct style of lightness, emphasizing the freshness of the ingredients. The braised dish consists luxurious ingredients in a pot: fat Australian abalones, fish maws, sea cucumber, dried scallops, plump Hokkaido scallops, flower mushrooms, spinach, and prawns stuffed with minced meat.
We didn’t like the texture of the prawns stuffed with minced meat because it is limp, brought down the bounciness prawns are supposed to be. But wow! the abalones, scallops, and everything else are super fresh, of superior quality. The sauce isn’t as heavy as pengcai, so it can be an accompaniment to the steamed rice, vey fragrant, with lup cheong and shreds of Sri Lankan crab. (The rice comes with the seafood pot.)
The lightness of style continues for the signature dessert, Double-boiled Tianjin Pear, infused with Tangerine Peels, but not as well for salted egg yolk bun. The bun here is a light jam-like texture, whereas I think that salted egg yolk bun is an invention that should be brash, unapologetic, in-your-face, and flowing.
The top chefs all have their own distinctive styles of cooking; when you eat the food, you will know it is by them. Cassia’s chef is like that; when you eat the food, it brings about a distinct Hong Kong feel. The Cantonese style is subtle, elegant, understated, reflected in the decor of the restaurant: quiet, peaceful, and chic. If you look closely, you’ll notice the lamps have butterfly motifs that form a square. If you don’t, then it is just a square.
The “looking-closely” is a metaphor for the food. If you are more casual and more careless, and like heavy-handed, loud, super salty food, you won’t like Cassia. But if you taste carefully and prefer refined and exquisite food, you’ll find it here. Expect to spend about $100/pax.
Cassia @ Capella
1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island, Singapore 098297
T: +65 6591 5045
Service: NA (tasting)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is an invited tasting. Thanks, Melissa, for being such a wonderful host.