There was once a famous building in Singapore that everybody affectionately called the Glass Hotel. Standing at the junction of Outram Road and Havelock Road, it was in fact Concorde Hotel, which was a landmark around the Tiong Bahru area until recently, when it underwent a makeover to become Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium.
Despite the change of hands, there was one restaurant that remained: Xin Cuisine Chinese Restaurant (新故乡, which literally translates to “New Hometown”).
Like many established restaurants that I had visited, Xin Restaurant is known by many, but does not have a raving existence on social media; people know that it is the Cantonese restaurant to go to for reliably good Cantonese cuisine or dim sum buffet, yet it does not have the buzz surrounding the likes of Sin Hoi San or Liao Fan Hawker Chan. In other words, it is those slow and steady names that does not seem to fall out of favour, ever.
On most times, the restaurant serves dim sum buffet. On weekends, they serve a la carte items during dinner time, and that would be when one will be able to taste good quality Cantonese cuisine without the crazy crowd.
N and I went conservative for our orders (since that was the first time we were there). We looked up the few popular food blogs that did talk about the restaurant, and decided to try some of their new menu items.
- Poached Rice with Seafood in Superior Broth served with Crispy Rice （海皇泡贵妃米）
- Deep-fried Prawns Coated with Yuzu Mayonnaise (柚子虾球)
- Xin’s Signature Home-Style Roast Duck with Tea Leaves（故乡茶皇鸭）
- Braised Home-Made Beancurd Topped with Assorted Mushrooms（什菌扒菠菜豆腐）
- Pu-er with Chrysanthemum （普菊）
Poached Rice with Seafood in Superior Broth served with Crispy Rice （海皇泡贵妃米）
As the signature dish, we had high hopes for this. The English name of the dish is practical, but does not represents the grandiose of the dish. Literally translated to “Concubine-Rice poached in Seafood Royalties”, one would expect rice bathed in a generous serving of seafood.
Instead, the best of seafood was in the soup – the seafood based soup was totally infused with the fresh and tasty-ness of seafood, which was also absorbed by the rice “bathing” in it. The seafood was not as generous, but their essence in the broth was sufficient! The crispy rice was served separately; they added a different texture to the dish, through the crispiness and also the wok-hei resulting from the rice being wok-fried to crispiness. If you ask me, the dish was good enough without the crispy rice, though the latter added another dimension to the whole gastronomic experience.
Deep-fried Prawns Coated with Yuzu Mayonnaise (柚子虾球)
A crowd favourite, 虾球 or “Prawn Balls” never fails, with its thick succulent prawns wrapped in light crispy batter to give a burst of flavour with every bite. Xin Restaurant gives it twist by adding Yuzu Mayonnaise (which in actual fact, was just Yuzu sauce drizzled over the dish, which already had mayonnaise). In our opinion, the yuzu was redundant, to the effect of making the prawns taste metallic.
Xin’s Signature Home-Style Roast Duck with Tea Leaves（故乡茶皇鸭）
Another signature, the roast duck was Peking Duck minus the frills. The skin was roasted to heavenly light crispiness, while the meat sports a balanced mix of fats and tender meat. The sauce (which I assumed was where the tea leaves were infused) brought back memories of the food we had in childhood.
One special thing to note was that after eating the prawn balls, the lingering yuzu taste totally destroyed the flavour of the duck. Remember the metallic taste I mentioned earlier? That was magnified when mixed with the duck sauce. Therefore, remember to take a sip of the tea after eating the prawn to wash the yuzu away.
Braised Home-Made Beancurd Topped with Assorted Mushrooms（什菌扒菠菜豆腐）
Last, but not least, this braised tofu was surprisingly pleasing. The tofu “patty” was made up of 2 halves – the tofu and minced spinach. That was on top of the bed of spinach, topped with assorted mushrooms, bathed in gravy oozing with umami.
Spinach, as most would know, contained its own metallic/bitterness. That was balanced out by the mushroom and sauce. This provided a good undertone for the refreshing flavour of the tofu. Texture wise, the soft tofu was complemented by both the bouncy mushroom and crunchy spinach. A classic, but good concoction of ingredients!
This restaurant oozes with old-time charm – you would mistake it for anything else other than a good old Cantonese restaurant, minus the rude servers! Another factor that sets it out from the other new restaurants was how spacious they set the tables apart. Though we had a la carte dinner so that we need not move around like that during a buffet, I couldn’t help but notice how far apart the tables were, which actually gave the restaurant this sense of zen-ness you can rarely find in modern restaurants.
Therefore, if you have time, take the effort down to Tiong Bahru to revisit the charm of 1970s Singapore, in a cosy, modern setting. I mean, if you can make the effort to go down to hard-to-reach hipster cafes in Seletar Airport or Kallang, then Xin Restaurant would be no mean feat.
In fact, make time to have a weekend dinner at Xin Restaurant for the coming Mother’s Day!
Xin Cuisine Chinese Restaurant
317 Outram Rd, Holiday Inn Atrium, 169075