Non-Chinese festive fix
The options for Chinese New Year food go beyond Chinese restaurants.
Indian, Japanese, French and Italian restaurants are offering their interpretations of festive dishes such as yusheng (raw fish salad) and pencai (a "treasure pot" filled with seafood) by embellishing them with ingredients such as slow-cooked Boston lobster, chargrilled beef patties and pancakes.
Some have also come up with dishes that feature festive goodies such as bak kwa (barbecued pork jerky) and Mandarin oranges.
Most business owners say that demand for these themed dishes is high, given the celebratory mood of diners.
D'Good Cafe in Holland Avenue has introduced a Chinese New Year version of its Deutsch skillet pancakes by topping them with bak kwa, pork floss and sour plum sauce.
A spokesman says it makes business sense to adapt to the occasion.
"We were surprised that more than 100 customers visited us when the cafe opened on the second day of Chinese New Year last year. Customers want a place to chill out and are in the festive mood."
Indian restaurant The Song of India in Scotts Road serves an Indian Yu Sheng platter jazzed up with tandoor-cooked smoked salmon and chivda (roasted flattened rice).
A spokesman says: "More than half of our diners during Chinese New Year season are Chinese and all of them order the yusheng to go with Indian dishes as they want to try something different."
These novel offerings also allow eateries to stand out.
The Hard Rock Cafes in Cuscaden Road and Resorts World Sentosa offer a deconstructed beef burger with a yusheng platter for its Huat Rock Burger dish.
Mr Mark Chan, general manager of Hard Rock Cafe Sentosa, says: "We have been offering traditional yusheng over the past decade, but it is not unique. So we decided to create an adventurous Eastmeets-West dining experience this year."
Some eateries are banking on a more relaxed dining ambience to draw customers.
Mr Matthew Mok, 40, chef- owner of Western contemporary restaurant Rabbit Stash in Outram Road, says: "As up to 60 per cent of my customers are foreigners, showcasing a modern take on Chinese delicacies eases them into the tradition without having to deal with the hustle and bustle in Chinese restaurants."
Takeaway joints are also gunning for a slice of feasting fervour.
Pizza chain Pezzo has 18 outlets selling yusheng on a thin pizza crust.
Mr Wyman Chan, 43, its group sales and marketing director, says: "We remain open on the first and second day so customers can buy food for home gatherings and having a yusheng pizza fits the celebratory theme."
Seafood and soup supplier Fassler Gourmet offers ready-tocook pencai packages, which come with frozen ingredients, including pre-cooked fish maw, chicken and yam slices, mussels and scallops. It has sold more than 300 sets over the past three weeks.
Its chief executive officer Mellissa Chen says: "Besides offering fresh ingredients, we take away the time-consuming parts of preparing pencai, but customers can still feel that they have cooked part of this meaningful dish."
Diners are spoilt for choice with the array of Chinese New Yearthemed dishes.
Dashboard engineer Melissa Yeo, 27, who has up to 10 lohei sessions every year, says: "I want to try the fun and interesting versions of yusheng with my friends, but I will stick to the traditional version when I am dining with my parents as they find it difficult to accept these new dishes."
Education consultant Marcus Lim, 31, says: "I am quite keen to try these new creations as I already like pizzas and burgers and it can get quite boring to toss the typical yusheng with vegetables and plum sauce all the time."
The cafe's puffy Deutsch skillet pancake gets a Chinese New Year makeover with toppings such as bak kwa, Mandarin orange slices, pear, wolfberries, pork floss and salad greens, all drizzled with a sour plum sauce. Pair it with a citrusy grapefruit green tea ($7).
Where: 02-01, 273 Holland Avenue
When: Till Feb 29, 10am to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday), 10am to 11pm (Friday and Saturday), 10am to 5pm (today). Closed tomorrow
Info: Call 6219-9807 or go to www.dgoodcafe.com. Available for dine-in only
Head chef Marco Guccio gives the roast duck an Italian twist. The 2.2kg roast Challans duck is stuffed with herbs such as rosemary and sage as well as orange slices, before being flambeed in front of diners with Cointreau. On the side are tangy apple compote and wild berry sauce, sauteed vanilla-scented Charlotte potatoes, and buttered brussels sprouts.
Where: Level 43 Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay
When: Till Feb 29, 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30 to 11.45pm, (Monday to Wednesday), 5.30pm to 1am (Thursday to Saturday), closed on Sunday, tomorrow and on Tuesday
Info: Call 6509-1488 or go to zafferano.sg. Available for both dine-in and takeaway, order at least three days in advance
VERRE MODERN BISTRO & WINE BAR
Consultant chef Masashi Horiuchi shapes chicken liver pate to look like a mandarin orange. The pate, which is seasoned with port and madeira wine, is coated with a layer of mandarin orange gelee.
Where: 01-05, 8 Rodyk Street
When: Till Feb 22, 4pm to midnight (Monday to Thursday), 4pm to 1am (Friday and Saturday), 4 to 11pm (Sunday), closed tomorrow and on Tuesday
Info: Call 6509-1917 or go to verre.com.sg, available for dine-in only, order at least three days in advance
THE SONG OF INDIA
New this year is the tandoori spiced roast duck ($78++). The 2 to 3kg bird is marinated with low-fat yogurt, yellow chilli, lentil flour, garam masala and mustard oil for 24 hours before being roasted in a tandoor for 11/2 hours. The Indian restaurant also offers an Indian Yu Sheng platter ($36++), which features tandoor-cooked smoked salmon, chivda (roasted flattened rice), masala crushed peanuts, radish, carrots, white pumpkin and water chestnut, served with a sweet and sour dressing.
Where: 33 Scotts Road
When: Until Tuesday, noon to 3pm, 6 to 11pm daily
Info: Call 6836-0055 or go to thesongofindia.com. Available for both dine-in and takeaway, order two days in advance for the duck
Chef Matthew Mok presents a five-course menu that celebrates both Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day. Two dishes carry elements of Chinese New Year. One of them is a sleek yusheng appetiser, which features cured Norwegian trout, ginger jelly, sesame crackers, grated baby carrot and grapefruit, all drizzled with plum sauce. Another dish, braised duck and sticky glutinous rice scented with angelica root, is a nostalgic tribute to the chef's grandmother and a musthave festive dish for his family.
Where: Rooftop level, Wangz Hotel, 231 Outram Road
When: Wednesday to Feb 15,
Price: $148++a person (without sparkling wine) or $168++ a person (with sparkling wine)
Info: Call 6595-1380 or go to www.therabbitstash.com.sg
Can't get enough of curry? Sprinkle some curry powder on the Prosperity Curry Abalone Yu Sheng, which comes with ingredients such as sun-dried tangerine peel, preserved melon strips, red ginger and taro strips, all topped off with a sweet and sour sauce. It is part of six- and eight-course set menus that include dishes such as fried spring chicken with chicken rice balls and golden crispy curry prawns (from $128++ for four to six people).
Where: Four outlets, including B2-51 Changi Airport Terminal 3 and 01-70 One KM mall
When: Till Feb 22, various opening hours, go to www.currytimes.com.sg. Only the Changi Airport outlet is open from today to Tuesday, 8am to 11pm.
Info: Go to www.currytimes.com.sg. Available for both dine-in and takeaway
This ready-to-cook pencai package helps you cook a treasure pot of seafood in just 30 minutes. It comprises 14 ingredients, including pre-cooked yam, fish maw, smoked duck, scallops, prawns, braised abalone, and chicken and dried scallop broth. It comes with a cooking guide. Other festive dishes include yusheng with salmon floss ($33.80) and mango pomelo soup ($8.80).
Where: Two outlets, 01-55, 55 Tiong Bahru Road and 46 Woodlands Terrace
When: Till Feb 29, 8am to 5pm except Sunday (Woodlands) and Monday (Tiong Bahru). Today: 7am to noon (Woodlands), 8am to noon (Tiong Bahru). Closed tomorrow and on Tuesday
Price: $128 (serves four to six people) and $188 (serves eight to 10 people)
Info: Call 6221-3055 (Tiong Bahru) or 6257-5257 (Woodlands), order from fasslergourmet.com
HARD ROCK CAFE
A grilled beef patty and two toasted burger buns accompany classic yusheng ingredients such as julienned greens, pomelo, papaya, pickled ginger, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds and "golden pillow" crackers served with a side of plum sauce.
Where: Hard Rock Cafe Singapore, 02/03-01 HPL House, 50 Cuscaden Road; 01-209 Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway
When: Till Feb 29, 11.30am to midnight daily (HPL House), 11am to 1am daily (RWS). Today: 11.30am to 4am (HPL House), 11am to 11pm (RWS)
Info: Call 6235-5232 (HPL House) or 6795-7454 (RWS) or go to www.hardrock.com/cafes/singapore or www.hardrock.com/cafes/sentosa, available for both dine-in and takeaway
This Western restaurant offers two pencai dishes. The "Wealth" western lobster pencai features a slow-cooked whole Boston lobster, while the "Bloom" braised duck pencai has sous vide duck breast. Both feature scallops, baby abalone, tiger prawns, sea cucumber and fish maw.
Where: 16 outlets, including 04-66 Nex mall, 23 Serangoon Central, and 04-15 Jem, 50 Jurong Gateway Road
When: Till Feb 19, various opening hours, go to jacksplace.com.sg
Price: $288.80+ (lobster pencai), $188.80+ (duck pencai), available for takeaway only, order three days in advance
PINCE & PINTS
New this year is Lobster Yusheng ($88++), with 70g of steamed lobster meat on top of salmon sashimi, strips of carrot, preserved cucumber, preserved melon and lime and sprinkled with cinnamon powder and crispy crackers. Making a comeback is the steamed lobster in X.O. Sauce ($68++, 20 portions daily), which comes with glass noodles. It is served with rice, stir-fried broccoli, carrot, shimeji mushrooms and celery. Wash them down with a Monkey Ball mocktail ($15++), an ice-blended concoction of orange, berry syrup and mint served in an orange.
Where: 32/33 Duxton Road
When: Till Feb 22, open 5 to 11pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday, tomorrow and on Tuesday
Info: Call 6225-7558 or go to pinceandpints.com. Available for dine-in only
Like pizza and yusheng? Try this Halal-certified pizza chain's Auspicious Yu Sheng Pizza. Instead of pok chui crackers, use your chopsticks to break up the 14-inch crispy pizza crust and toss the pieces with 15 ingredients including smoked salmon slices, white and green radish, red capsicum and citrus peel. Also new this year is spicy chicken bak kwa pizza ($5.20 a slice)
Where: 18 outlets including B1-K9 Jem, B2-K5 Seletar Mall and 01-20A Hougang Mall.
When: Till Feb 23, various opening hours, go to pezzo.com.sg
Price: $28.80 (for four to six people). Order one day in advance
POTATO HEAD FOLK
Its burger joint Three Buns has launched a new burger, The Chewbakkwa, which features slices of the barbecued pork jerky from neighbouring bak kwa shop Kim Hock Seng in Keong Saik Road. A 120g aged beef patty is topped with a char-grilled pineapple slice, smoked applewood cheese, pickled chilli and scallions, slathered with X.O. sauce-infused aioli and sandwiched between two rice-flour buns.
Where: 36 Keong Saik Road
When: Till Feb 28, 11am to midnight (Tuesday to Sunday), 11am to 4.30pm (today), closed on Monday and Tuesday
Info: Call 6327-1939 or go to www.pttheadfolk.com
Raise your chopsticks to this creative yusheng, which features a deconstructed burger. Unusual ingredients on the platter include char-grilled wagyu beef patties, candied bacon, pork floss, onion fritters, pickles and shoestring fries. The beef patties are sliced on the spot before getting tossed with barbecue sauce, ketchup, croutons, sesame seeds, truffle oil, melted cheddar cheese and mayonnaise.
Where: 13 Dempsey Road
When: 9am to 11.30pm daily
Price: From $48 (for three to four people)
Info: Call 6476-2922 or go to www.roadhouse.com.sg. Available for dine-in and takeaway, order one day in advance
The Abundance Yu Sheng comprises Boston lobster, salmon, and white fish (snapper or amberjack) sashimi. The salad is topped with a trio of sauces - sesame, shiso leaf and sour plum. The platter is adorned with a peeled orange sitting on an inverted champagne glass.
Where: 3A River Valley Road, 01-04 Clarke Quay; 01-09 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue
When: Till Feb 22. Clarke Quay: 11.30am to 3pm; 6pm to 1am (Sunday to Thursday), 6pm to 3am (Friday and Saturday); Esplanade Mall: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5 to 11pm (Sunday to Thursday), 5pm to 1am (Friday and Saturday)
Price: $68++ (serves four to five people)
Info: Call 6333-0100 (Clarke Quay) or 6333-0012 (Esplanade Mall), go to www.facebook.com/tomoizakaya. Available for dine-in only
NAPOLEON FOOD & WINE BAR
Tuck into its three-course Chinese New Year menu, which opens with an appetiser of deep-fried scallop with wasabi mayonnaise. Choose from mains such as abalone pasta or roast pork belly and end the meal with mango panna cotta or deep-fried banana spring roll with vanilla ice cream. It also offers a Prosperity Yusheng ($38), with cured salmon and shredded vegetables.
Where: 206 Telok Ayer Street
When: Till Saturday, 11.45am to midnight (weekday), 6pm to midnight (Saturday), closed on Sunday
Info: Call 6221-9282 or go to www.napoleon.sg
Photos: D'Good Cafe, Curry Times, Fassler Gourmet, Hard Rock Cafe, Jack's Place, Pince & Pints, Pezzo, Potato Head Folk, Roadhouse, Tomo Izakaya, Zafferano, Verre, The Song of India, Rabbit Stash
For more Chinese New Year stories, go to http://str.sg/ZHe7
This article was first published on February 7, 2016.
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