August 2016 marked the opening of Chef Janice Wong’s flagship restaurant at the National Museum of Singapore. This 40-seater is located within the museum and prides itself as “the only sweets boutique in Singapore that creates interactive, edible art for imaginative souls, in an era that craves personal expression and embraces nostalgic”.
This description’s accuracy becomes evident upon passing through the doors to the restaurant. The colourful and cleverly designed interior showcases a little playground where Chef Wong is free to create beautiful and intricate desserts that will tantalize your taste buds.
Vibrant chocolate and food art paintings line the walls of the restaurant. Even the tables had chocolate paintings beneath their glass panels. Before the tasting of any food, the restaurant had already transported us into a world of culinary fantasy.
The first dish served was the Signature 5 ($15). This dish showcases five different dumplings that changes every season. The five dumplings provide the diner with an introduction to five different flour textures of elastic, crystal, transparent, matt, and crispy. Each unique textured dumpling housed a filling to match it, giving the gluten the centre stage.
Chef Wong carefully explains her flour-forward approach to all the traditional and contemporary dim sums that she and Chef Ma has collaboratively worked on. Based on their 2013 culinary book, titled Dim Sum, which the restaurant will be serving many scrumptious ideas borne of it.
From the right to left, the elastic textured dumpling had a French Ratatouille filling giving it an Asian-French fusion flavour. My personal favourite was the Scallop Prawn dumpling that had a perfect translucent (nearly transparent) skin, with the right amount of doneness in texture. It was a fantastic rendition of the usual Har Kow. The transparent dumpling skin gave the dumpling a chewy texture that went well with the mushroom inside.
The fourth dumpling was a slightly pan-fried chicken dumpling that was very similar to the Japanese gyoza in taste and texture. The last dumpling on the left was very crispy and light, with a tasty potato cured pork filling. Chef Wong highlighted how a unique process of frying allows the removal of ammonia powder that is used in the usual dim sums without losing the desired texture.
The Signature 5 was followed up by the Mini Pots, or Siew Mai ($15). Not just any normal Siew Mai, but colorful Siew Mai that envelopes saucy fillings. When the basket of Mini Pots was initially served, the burst of colours caught my eye almost instantaneously. ah what a pretty sight to behold!
The Scallop Mini Pot with Olive Oil Caviar was my favourite. The olive oil caviar that topped the scallop Mini Pot was a great match of flavours. For those that love the fragrant portobello mushroom flavour, the portobello rosemary with caviar Siew Mai will blow your mind.
The steaming process retains much of the mushroom flavours and you can be sure to get a whole lot of that in that bite sized dim sum. The shrimp with parma ham was unique with its inclusion of a cured meat. However, the flavour of the parma ham could be enhanced further as it was a little difficult to notice.
We had the XLB Tasting Platter ($20) next. For those that love Xiao Long Bao, this dish is not to be missed. It offers a creative twist with its unique fillings of Whisky Pork, Truffle Cheese Chicken, Foie Gras Pork Cherry, and Shrimp Ebi Kombu. The soup within each XLB, A.K.A. the “Hot Explosion”, literally exploded with four different intriguing flavours that impressed greatly.
The last dim sum item that we tried was the Whimsical Buns ($4 each). These buns had a wonderful texture and fillings. The liquid egg filling was a kind of custard salted egg yolk filling. The braised veal bun came with a tomato base that gave it more of a bolognese twist to this dim sum dish.
There was also a vegetarian option with a light blend of minced vegetables within. Each bun come served its own bed of purée. I felt that these could use a little more intensity in their flavors.
Our first main dish was the Crispy Charcoal Nest ($22). Chef Wong explained that the noodles were made from the same flour used in the Siew Mai but fried to give it its shape and crispy texture. After a quick read through the poem on a mushroom made paper, a pot of slow cooked chicken broth was poured over the noodles. The highlight was how the noodles had a nice chewy texture and a fresh taste that is unrivalled.
We then had the Scallop Somen ($22). If Chef Wong believes in saving the best for last, then this was certainly it. The combination of the scallops, fish roe, ebi, salted egg yolk sauce and noodles will take you to a place like no other. Each has its own unique flavor and yet works in perfect harmony when combined.
After all that savory flavors, it was time for our desserts. Expectations were high but Chef Wong was up to it in every aspect.
The first dessert was the Cassis Plum ($24). This was created to bring a Japanese spring experience through its taste and look. Every component of the dessert played its part to bring joy to our taste buds.
The focal point of a sweet and sour cassis bomb filled with elderflower yoghurt foam was surrounded by a crushed Choya granita. Along with the Yuzu pearls and Yuzu rubies, you can be sure to get a true taste of Japan. If you love Umeshu, it will an added reason for you to try this dessert.
Our last dish was the Cacao Forest ($24) paired with The Mist ($23). This alcoholic dessert sat in a pool of liquor sweetened by a melting cotton candy on the spot. The chocolate flavours went perfectly with the sweetness from the fruits of the forest and cherry. Creme de Cacao Liqueur and Vanilla whisky ice cream brought out these flavours further and a light hint of Miso gave this dish a unique twist.
The Mist ($23) was indeed an ideal cocktail for pairing with the dessert. It contained a well-balanced mix of Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Creme De Cacao, La Cilla Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Fresh Blue Earl Grey Tea. This was poured into a glass filled with earl grey smoke to give it an added unique earthy tea flavour.
The entire experience was certainly a feast for both our palates and our eyes. For modern Chinese food and ingenious desserts that will take you out of this planet, Janice Wong’s flagship restaurant is indeed the place to visit right now.
Expected Damage: $40 – $80 per pax