Silk Road restaurant at Amara Hotel is thus named because it serves Chinese provincial food along the Silk Route, focusing on Sichuan cuisine. Chef Andrew Chong leads a team of cooks, and recently Inner Mongolian chef Jack Huang has joined the team. While Chong focuses on Sichuan dishes, Huang makes noodles, both complementing each other. Huang is currently presenting his new noodles and dumplings menu until 31 May, after which the promotional menu will end.
I’ve read in a New York Times article that the popularity of Sichuan cuisine has paradoxically diluted the tradition of the food. These few years, Singapore has seen an increase in the popularity of Sichuan food. Anyone who has taken a stroll along Chinatown will witness the plethora of casual Sichuan restaurants. Then, there is the one Michelin-starred Japanese-Sichuan restaurant, Shisen Hanten; and the modern Sichuan restaurant, Birds of a Feather.
What differentiates Silk Road from them is that Silk Road insists on serving traditional Sichuan food, that is, they do not diminish the spice level although you can request for less spicy or more spicy. Not only are their noodles handmade, they make their own sauces including the red oil.
For starters, their chilled chicken in homemade spicy bean sauce 口水鸡 ($11) is smooth and appetizing. Chilled cucumber in red oil ($8), done in the Northern style, is addictive and crunchy. My favorite starter, sliced pork on rack 架子白肉 ($14), comes with thin slices of pork belly, cucumber, and homemade “crepe” skin. It is refreshing, sweet, crunchy, and soft. I can’t get enough of it.
For their mains, they are really spicy. Traditional Sichuan spicy diced chicken 辣子鸡 ($22) is a must order. They use meat from the chicken thigh to ensure there are no bones and that it is tender. It’s also crispy, and ma la (numbingly spicy), and it would go well with beer. Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐 ($16) is chokingly spicy, which goes well with rice.
You’ll be fine if you stick with the more famous dishes. The wasabi prawns, coated with crispy deep-fried potato bits, are hard and the flavor is strange. The french beans ($16) were old and could be crisper.
Ok, now for their promotional menu by chef Huang with 17 years of culinary experience. The Shanxi dumplings 山西锅贴 (8 pcs, $14) are dumplings that are opened at both ends so that when it’s pan-fried, the juices flow and spread out and become waffle-like. They are divine! I didn’t expect them to taste crispy and soft, sweet and delicate from their appearance.
However, I didn’t like fish paste dumplings (8 pcs $12), which is a traditional dish for celebrations. It’s made from stretch. The orange-skin is tinted with fresh carrot extract. The filling is packed with fresh fish paste, but it is bland for me. The texture is too soft.
I don’t know which of the three noodles I like better: they are all excellent. The homemade noodle 如意牛腩面 ($12) is a Shanxi speciality, using homemade longevity noodles, eaten during celebrations. The noodles are thick and chewy, and some may find it hard, but I love the texture. It comes with two types of beef, brisket and shank, which are braised in 30 spices for more than 2 hours. Very tender and tasty and surprisingly delicate, not at all heavy.
The knife-shaved noodles 刀削面 ($10) comes with pork belly braised in Sichuan chilli pasta for 2 hours. It’s just slightly spicy, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most people. There is a piquant vinegar that makes it addictive.
The chilled noodle 麻辣凉面 ($8) is tinged with matcha, eaten during warm weather. It tastes a little like dan dan mian because it has peanut and cashew paste, but it also has Sichuan pepper oil, chilli oil, and sesame oil, so it’s only slightly spicy. Very lovely, sweet, nutty flavors.
To end the meal, the chempedak (jackfruit) creme brulee ($10) hits every spot. When you break through the caramelized surface, the inside is not the texture of a creme brulee; it is molten with bits of jackfruit. The aroma of jackfruit pairs exceedingly well with the creme brulee.
On the whole, this is a delightful meal. Most dishes are delicious, and better than average. The prices are inexpensive, and it’s worth coming here.
Silk Road Restaurant
165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Amara Singapore Lvl 2, Singapore 088539
Tel: +65 6227 3848
Overall rating: 3.5/5
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–Jiang Nan Chun, Four Seasons Hotel: Revamped and One of the Best Chinese Restaurants in Singapore
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.