Friday, May 04, 2007

Classic Old Bird

Dragon Phoenix Restaurant (Clarke Quay) Pte Ltd
177A River Valley Road
#06-00 Novotel Clarke Quay Singapore (Liang Court)
Singapore 179031
Tel: (65) 6339 3368
Fax: (65) 6339 3383

Just like Hong Kong’s pop music industry, in our local Chinese culinary circle, we have our own “Four Heavenly Kings” too. They represent pillars of Chinese cuisine from my parent’s generation and have created culinary legacies that have been assimilated into a part of Singaporean Cuisine. The four Heavenly Kings, Masterchefs Sin Leong (formerly of Sin Leong Restaurant in Marine Parade), Hooi Kok Wai (first generation Executive Chef of Dragon Phoenix Restaurant) are now in semi retirement and help to manage the ever popular Red Star Restaurant in Chin Swee which is a joint venture by the magnificent four. The latter two have since passed on in the last few years.

Feeling nostalgic, N and I decided to check out Dragon Phoenix again for old time’s sake after a hard day of three cooking sessions. We picked three classic signature dishes and one new introduction from the menu. On a Saturday night, it was packed to the brim so I guess many people still remember the good old times.
We started off with a Scrambled Eggs with Sharksfin , which is also known as Fuyong Sharksfin or Gui Hua Chi in Chinese. The benchmarks for this dish is not in the sharks fin but basic elements like wok flavour, wine aromas and right doneness of the scrambled eggs. Complimenting ingredients like mushrooms, chilies, carrots and spring onions are also add in for texture and colour. The dish came out rather well executed with the right amounts of wok, wine and seasoning flavours. It’s easy to make scramble eggs but not with Chinese style high powered stoves which could have you easily ended up with an overcooked scramble. As an appetizer, we wrapped the scrambled eggs in lettuce leaves which kept the greasiness part of the dish to a minimum sensation on our palates.
Following on after the scrambled eggs was the Crispy Skin Spring Chicken with Spiced Salt and Lime Chili Dip. The young birds were very well marinated with flavours of wine and the five spice powder in particular. What strikes me was the five spice powder had a flavour blend similar to that of the formula mixed by one of the best known five spice powder retailers in Singapore, Ng Yeow Nam Traditional Medicine Shop in Chinatown. The deep fried birds were also very juicy and tender on bite with the aromas of the spices coming through with the steam. With crackling skin and a spicy sourish lime chili dip, the only missing elements to set the clock back by 30 years were a couple of prawn crackers, parsley and a coloured wafer rose.
Fo Ben Piao Xiang or translated literally means aromas from the monks’ alms pot is a common dish enjoyed by many locally. It is commonly known as the traditional yam ring, which is made from flavoured mashed yam shaped like an alms pot. The ring is then deep fried to a golden brown crisp before being placed on a nest of puffed rice vermicelli. A quick sauté of meat or seafood or both and several types of vegetables with cashew nuts fills the ring to the brim. The waft of aromas is released when the yam ring is cut and floats into the air as the name implies in Chinese. Our yam pot was filled generously filled with shredded chicken, black fungus, bell peppers and bamboo shoots. Slightly deviated from the usual combination, it was nonetheless still good. However I found the dough of the yam ring too dense and heavy. It was not light and fluffy like some of the better ones that N and I have tasted elsewhere. The five spice element was also missing and by the second piece, my taste buds were already tired.
Even as a classical restaurant, menus have to be upgraded with time and as generations passed, taste expectation and demands will change. As such, Dragon Phoenix has also introduced new items on the menus as Masterchef Hooi Kok Wai passes on the reigns to his children. One of the new items we tried was the Thai Style Battered Cod Fish. Inspired by modern Western Cuisine presentations, this dish came plated as a single serving. The cod fish was masked in a crispy batter but we felt that the fillet was too thin to be distinguished between the crusts. The sauce was a little overpowering spicy but the cucumber salsa helped to cool down the spiciness. Desserts were rather lackluster as I found N’s Almond Cream rather bland and watery. My Herbal Jelly was slightly better but nothing to shout about really. There are other dishes that I would be interested to try but overall I am not tempted to revisit this place unless I happen to be around in the vicinity with a craving for classics.

No comments: