Yhingthai Palace at Purvis Street, which was awarded the Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide, was first open in 1993. That’s 23 years of history, surviving in the cutthroat city area of impossible yearly rent hikes. It serves Thai and Thai-Chinese cuisines in an opulent setting of palatial gold and deep red with high ceiling, giving a sense of space and luxury.
I must have passed by a thousand times and each time it was at my blindspot, mostly because I thought since the decor is so lavish, the food must be expensive. And nobody eats expensive Thai food, right? The last time I ate at Thanyang at Amara Sentosa, I spent about $100/pax on Thai food, and I thought I could eat better Thai food at a cheaper price. As All Saints sing, “Never ever again will I make the same mistake again” or something like that.
Enter the Michelin Guide. FINE. I shall try it.
The first thing that caught my eye as we entered was that we entered directly into the restaurant. Usually at restaurants, there is a reception counter to greet us and bring us to our seats, but as the photo above shows, we had to stand awkwardly at the entrance beside other seated diners. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just strange. But I have no issues with that.
The service, from when we were greeted till we left, was excellent. Every time we looked around for wait staff, there was always someone available. They were swift, efficient, and polite although there was once when we hadn’t finished our meal, and they already presented us the dessert menu, as if rushing us.
Like the service and the decor, the food is exemplar, really fantastic. Even the phak boong fai dang ($12/$16/$20, above), or otherwise plebeianly known as kangkong, is delicious with a wonderful crunch, and a well-balanced savoriness.
We liked the tingling spiciness of the green curry ($18/$25/$40), not like most places which serve no-spice green curry. There is a choice of fish, pork, beef, or chicken, and the pork we had was tender. The crunchy stringbean and Thai eggplant provide a nice textural contrast to the soft meat.
The star of the night must be the humble olive rice ($15/$20/$30). It is accompanied by things like cucumber, dried shrimps, and a sweet, almost candied chicken that has a nice chewiness. But it’s the rice, as it should be, that shines. It has bits of tiniest garlic with the rice to give it fragrance, but yet the garlic isn’t overwhelming or pungent so that you can still frenchkiss after the meal.
There are also sparing bits of very crunchy stuff. When I asked the staff, she said it is just hae bee. But come on, I know hae bee when I eat it. I think the very crunchy stuff is ikan bilis (anchovy), which gives a slight saltiness and pungency to the dish. LOVE IT.
What just pass as average are the chicken dishes. Unlike other places where the stuffed chicken wings ($4/pc) is stuffed with appetizing, piquant minced meat and vermicelli, Yhingthai does a savory version of it. There is no minced meat in the stuffing; the chicken is deboned, and stuffed with mushroom and asparagus. Not too bad, but I thought it missed out on the fun texture of minced meat.
The pandan chicken ($4/pc) is also nice, but the fragrance of pandan does not stick to the chicken, and the chicken isn’t marinated long enough so the flavor depends solely on the sweet black sauce.
The mango sticky rice ($8) is amazing. I do wish they give more rice, because the rice is warm, comforting, creamy, sprinkled with crunchy mung beans (the traditional way of sticky rice is to add mung beans). The warm rice goes so well with the chilled mango, tangy and sweet at the same time. This may be the best mango sticky rice I had.
By the end of the meal, I asked Ms Atas, who is a knowledgable foodie, if there is a better Thai restaurant in Singapore than Yhingthai. She said no. I think Long Chim at MBS, by David Thompson who also operates the 7th best restaurant in Asia, has a similar standard. Long Chim is loud, brash, and hard, whereas Yhingthai is comforting, homely, feminine, and delicious. Long Chim is a tattooed nerd-turned-hipster with a dirty mouth, and Yhingthai is a mother with kind words.
I prefer Yhingthai. It may be the best Thai restaurant in Singapore.
We spent $82 for two persons.
36 Purvis Street #01 – 04 Singapore 188613
T: +65 6337 1161 / +65 6337 9429
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.