This is an invited session
Have you booked your tables for Chinese New Year reunion dinner yet? While my family is fairly traditional such that we always feast at home, it is definitely a growing trend for families to eat out instead. Good food, good ambience, nothing to prepare and most importantly, no plates to wash. What's not to like? And if you have yet to decide on a place, Xin Cuisine might be just the one for you!
It had been a long time since I last stepped into Holiday Inn Atrium (It was still called The Glass Hotel then). Although the hotel itself remained pretty much the same as in my memory, the Cantonese restaurant, Xin Cuisine had undergone renovations about two years ago and was brimming with contemporary Chinese decor. In the open hall, tables are placed spaciously apart and there are also comfortable semi-circular booth seats for small group gatherings.
For more privacy, you can also opt for their rooms (subjected to minimum spending) which are interestingly named after the types of tea served in Xin.
In a media tasting dinner last week, I had the opportunity to try out Xin's creations for the bunny year ahead. Headspeared by Executive Chef Kwan Yiu Kan, who had more than 30 years of Cantonese culinary experience, we were excited to see what kind of fresh ideas was in store for us.
Xin's Gold Leaf Yusheng
Among all CNY dishes, 捞鱼生 is one that is uniquely Singaporean. Using mostly traditional vegetable ingredients, Chef Kwan's version is striking in colour contrast, stacking in the form of a mini pyramid. Consisting of 6 layers, it is finally topped with edible gold foil for that luxurious finishing touch.
I don't usually do overhead shots, but this is too pretty to resist!
Raw Fish Platter ($2011.00 with yusheng as part of a 10 person, 6 course dinner)
If you think that the yusheng is wow enough, wait till you see the way they serve the seafood toppings! Placed on an icy mountain, each of the fish types is also artistically shaped like a flower. The 6 ingredients shown are Japanese Sweet Prawns, Salmon, Tuna, Japanese Cobia, Lobster and Geoduck Clam. Together with the yusheng, they unified Chef Kwan's prosperous concept of 六六大顺.
For ala carte orders, it is also possible to have either/all the toppings for your yusheng at different prices. Mix and match to your own delight!
As much as I thought that it is a pity to mess up the pretty creations, we do have to blend and toss them as we shout out good wishes for the new year!
Visual impact and fun aside, its taste is one of the few yushengs that I actually enjoyed. The house sauce is only lightly sweetened, going really well with the crunchy shredded vegetables and had bursts of refreshing sourness from the pomelo layer.
The seafood ingredients are no doubt fresh with the Geoduck Clam and Lobster standing out for their crunchy texture. If you want to find the gold foils however, you can pretty much forget about it as they are buried, lost and probably melted within the pile. (Though I can tell you from past experiences that it really tasted like, nothing)
Xin's Imperial Pen Cai ($888.00, advance order required)
The second dish that Xin is eager to showcase! For a bit of history (really abit, don't wanna bore you), 盆菜 translates literally to basin vegetables and had its origin in the villages of New Territories Hong Kong, where the poor villagers gathered their best ingredients to welcome a fleeing emperor.
Traditionally, Pen Cai is an art on its own as the ingredients were painstakingly cooked separately before carefully stacked in a wooden basin and further simmered before serving. Layers that are good at absorbing moisture (vegetables) are placed at the bottom, then piling upwards with dryer food or those that need to be consumed first. The idea is that it will be eaten layer by layer with flavours intensifying as juices from previous layers flow downwards and are absorbed.
With that said, Xin's version doesn't quite fit the traditional definition of Pen Cai, because:
1) It is almost a full seafood fiesta with ingredients like 3-head Abalones, Shark's Fins, Dried Scallops, Dried Oysters, Sea Cucumber, Sea Moss, and Goose Web (that's a rare one in Singapore) being the only poultry ingredient, unlike the ones I have seen that have at least some form of duck, chicken or pork in it.
2) It has way too much stock than any other Pen Cai that I have seen. It somehow resembled more of a 一品锅 or as I showed my friend the picture, a Buddha Jump Over The Wall.
3) I took a peek into it after it was taken away to be divided and saw that there wasn't any significant layering, and getting it divided kind of took away the fun for the family to tuck their chopsticks into it and find the hidden treasures together.
But don't get me wrong, this is definitely a very rich and filling pot of goodies, simmering all the best seafood ingredients that the Chinese can offer with a thick superior stock that is brewed with shark's cartilage.
Though it seemed to be priced steeply, it is actually a rather value-for-money splurge considering all the quality ingredients within. Do note that shots taken for the Pen Cai and Yusheng are in tasting portions for 4 only, and the actual-sized ones can feed 8 comfortably.
Bunny Prawn Dumpling
To fit the occasion, they also created a prawn dumpling in the shape of a cute bunny looking for cauliflower! Taste-wise, it was just ordinary with bits of crunchy water chestnuts.
Left to Right: Coconut Rice Cake, Radish Cake, Chrysanthemum Rice Cake
And the last of their new year introduction! Generally, I thought these were nicely done but not really the best I have eaten, favouring coconut over chrysanthemum for the rice cakes.
The takeaway packaging for Pen Cai and rice cakes are really thoughtful as well. Imitating an emperor's robe, the Pen Cai's silk carrier will keep your guests guessing on what's within!
($39/box, 4 pieces)
Continuing the success of their mooncakes, the handbag design is back for the rice cakes. Too pretty to be disposed, you will definitely squeeze out a use for it afterwards!
Roasted Pork ($10.00), Suckling Pig with Goose Liver, Yam and Japanese Cucumber ($30.00)
Besides the new year goodies, we also tried some of their house specialties that are well-received by patrons. With beautiful distinct layers, the roasted pork's skin was light, airy and one of the crunchiest I could remember. Pity that it was just a a tiny weeny salty for me.
The other creation is a mix between new and old. Each component was a pleasure to be nibbled on its own and when eaten together, just as enjoyable that didn't feel overwhelmingly rich. Good one!
Flowing Custard Bun ($4.20/3 pieces), Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean and Chocolate Liqueur Filling ($8/4 pieces)
The content of the first one passed all qualification tests; Hot, savoury sweet and flows like a lava. If I really have to nitpick, it would be the slightly thick skin encasing it.
Now if you are into alcoholic sweets, the sesame balls will be great for you as the champagne taste is evidently strong, so much that it overwhelms whatever red bean and chocolate taste there are suppose to be.
Mango Pomelo Sago with Strawberry Ice Cream ($10.00)
A twist to the usual, this is served in glass cup and with a scoop of Haagen Dazs ice cream, the playful idea is to drink the smooth mixture down your throat. I was told that it is a hit with kids, though it didn't quite win me over as it was too creamy for me.
The real Cantonese master and the fake Cantonese glutton
Dining at Xin Cuisine was a memorable event with new year creations that were set to impress visually and tastefully. A peek at their dim sum menu also urged me to return soon!
As of 17th Jan, while many Chinese restaurants are already fully booked for reunion dinner, it is still possible to get a table here as they are opening up the hotel's ballroom for more seatings. Otherwise, their takeaway options will definitely add more fond memories to your reunion dinners at home!
Edited: I realised that I harped too much on reunion dinners already, heck you have full 15 days to celebrate CNY! More reasons to come!
317 Outram Road
Level 4, Holiday Inn Atrium
Tel: 6731 7173
Special thanks to Fiona and Tracy of Marketing Communications,Holiday Inn Atrium for the invite!
Taken with Nikon D70
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