In 2014, when Chef Martin Foo helmed Tong Le Private Dining, it was #1 on our 10 Best Restaurants in 2014. Foo left Tong Le and joined VLV at Clarke Quay, so it comes as no surprise to us that Straits Times named VLV the best restaurant of 2016. After trying the food, we have to say the accolade is well deserved.
Foo specializes in modern Cantonese cuisine and the difference between Tong Le and VLV is that Tong Le serves expensive prix fixe dishes in individual portions whereas VLV serves food in communal style, so it is more affordable.
VLV has recently started weekdays set lunch menu at affordable prices of $98++ or $138++ for 4 persons. In addition, dim sum and other a la carte dishes are available for lunch. On weekends, the champagne brunch buffet is at $138++. Dinner is at the moment served a la carte but there are plans to introduce set menus.
Creations Set Lunch ($48++ per person)
At $48++ per pax, the Creations Lunch Set is the most expensive of the 3 lunch sets, and I find the least interesting. But if you come as a pair, this is your only option. (Then again, you can go a la carte.) The dim sum featured in this set–har gow, siew mai, and even the chilli crab bun–are ordinary.
Foo’s strengths lie in cooked food. If you come as a couple, I’d advise ordering the beggar chicken ($58++) and two bowls of rice. The beggar chicken is wrapped in baked “mud” and fire, and the server would crack it open to be served. Next time, I want to order it.
Signatures Set Lunch ($138++ for 4 persons)
It is best to come in groups of 4, because the signature set lunch is good value and very delicious. Even the calamari ring is delicious; crispy and very Chinese-tasting, almost like the Taiwanese xian su qi.
Crab Meat Spinach Soup
Steamed coral trout head & belly with black garlic & black bean
Another amazing dish on this set, claypot prawns have vermicelli tung hoon at the bottom, soaking up all the umami essence of the seafood. The highlight comes from bits of garlic, ginger, and scallion, giving a wickedness to the dish.
Foo’s roasts are spectacular. The roasted crispy duck is 45 days’ old because any older, it starts to put on fats, which Foo does not want. As a result, it is balanced with meat and fat, it is livery and smooth with a super crispy skin.
A La Carte
From the a la carte dim sum menu (available weekday lunch), the crispy seafood rice roll ($8.80) is fantastic. It’s a twist on the Hong Kong dim sum, rice roll with you tiao, which I hate (carbs wrapped in carbs?!), but this one is something special. The seafood is extremely crispy even after left there for a while, which complements the silkiness of the thin rice roll. The homemade XO sauce, slightly spicy, gives the dish an edge. It’s a must order for me.
Another fantastic dish, Kagoshima kurobuta char siew ($32), is how char siew should be. There is a strip of fat running through the middle; it is glazed with Yellow Mountain honey; and the crispy, bitter char on the surface counterpoises with the tenderness of the sweet fat. There is Taiwanese black bean by the side as a dip, but this is extraneous; the char siew is perfect on its own.
For dessert, the chilled orh nee ($12) comes with coconut ice cream. It is NOT fried with lard, so the taste of yam comes through. It’s as smooth as a John Legend song. Gorgeous.
There is a saying that goes, “Follow the chef, not the restaurant,” and this adage is true in this case. Foo’s cooking is consistent from Tong Le to VLV. It’s umami, smart, innovative, homely, elegant, and modern. He uses ingredients from all over the world–truffles, kurobuta, etc–not restricted to traditionally Chinese ingredients, and yet his food indubitably has a “Chinese”-ness. When I get married, I know where to host my banquet.
3A River Valley Road, Clarke Quay #01-02 Singapore 179020
Tel: +65 6661 0197
Weekdays 12pm-3pm, Daily 6pm-11pm, Weekend Brunch 11.30am-3.30pm
Overall rating: 3.625/5
You may be interested in…
–Hai Tien Lo 海天楼, Pan Pacific
–Janice Wong Restaurant: Modern Dim Sum & Avant Garde Desserts
–Summer Pavilion, Ritz-Carlton: 1 Michelin Starred Chinese Restaurant
–Crystal Jade Golden Palace, Paragon: They All Laughed (at the 1 Michelin Star)
–Jiang Nan Chun, Four Seasons Hotel: Revamped and One of the Best Chinese Restaurants in Singapore
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.