Whether you’re looking for handmade noodles, traditional dim sum or classic Cantonese roasts, there’s definitely no shortage of Chinese eateries across the island – which makes it that much harder to choose one! We’ve rounded up a selection of good ol’ mainstays and newer kids on the block so you’ll have plenty of inspiration for satisfying your next Chinese craving.
Cantonese, Shanghainese & Sichuan Smorgasbord:
2 Bayfront Avenue, #B2-02 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Cuisine Style: Famous for its signature goubuli baozi (meat-filled steamed buns) with original recipes dating back to 1858 in Tianjin, China, recently opened 9Goubuli (the first location outside of China) presents an extensive menu (and, at over 25 pages, we mean extensive) featuring a selection of Sichuan, Shanghainese and Cantonese dishes – everything from handcrafted steamed buns and dumplings and hand-pulled noodles to soups, stir-fries and Cantonese roast and seafood specialties.
The Vibe: Tucked away discreetly in The Shoppes’ basement, the restaurant is a great place to go for a group gathering or quiet meal with the family. The décor is elegant and traditional, with dark wood panelling, oriental furniture and marble tabletops.
The Food: Though the goubuli buns with pork ($2.20 each) are considered to be the signature stars here, we preferred the savoury, flavourful goubuli buns with wagyu and vegetable filling ($3.50 each), created especially for the Singapore restaurant. Produced by a team trained by seventh-generation baozi-master, Chef Wang, the baozi here are famous for being made from half-leavened dough, giving them a thinner skin than your average bun’s – almost resembling that of a dumpling.
It’s not the only reason to visit, though. Go for the addictive spicy diced chicken with red capsicums ($18 to $27) made with dried chilli and Sichuan peppercorns, or the Sichuan-style fish slices in chilli – delectably spicy grouper with mushrooms and green veggies all mixed in with the piquant marinade; the handmade noodle soup with pork dumplings ($9.80) is also worth a try.
Traditional Dim Sum:
Cuisine Style: For the uninitiated, yum cha refers to tea; and dim sum describes the bite-size morsels of typically steamed or fried Cantonese-style food eaten with said tea in the morning or afternoon. Its popularity means restaurants serve dim sum at any time of the day, and trolley service of the food to the table is a typical part of the experience; waitresses enthusiastically call out their wares as they cruise past. This traditional experience is on offer at Yum Cha’s Chinatown outlet (20 Trengganu Street, #02-01); sadly, there are no trolleys at the Serangoon (22 Kensington Park Road, Serangoon Garden Country Club) and Changi Point (6 Changi Business Park Avenue 1, #01-33 UE Bizhub EAST) branches, but the food remains top-notch.
The Vibe: Think traditional coffee shop-style with round marble-top tables, spindle-back timber chairs and a brightly lit interior. It’s not a place to linger; rather, families duck in and out for a cheap, cheerful and reliable meal. Yum Cha is especially kid-friendly; at the Changi outlet, I counted 10 high chairs, and there’s nothing breakable as the tableware is mainly fuss-free melamine.
The Food: Yum Cha might be traditional, but ordering here is anything but; you use iPads to make your menu selections or tick your choices on a paper menu. However you do it, it’s easy to get carried away with the affordable prices: we opted for barbecue pork buns ($2.80 for two), crystal chive dumplings ($3.80 for three), baked mini egg tarts ($3 for three) and prawn wantons ($8.80 for six). Don’t miss the barbecue meats – chicken, pork or duck – served with rice ($8.80). Crispy red bean and banana ($3.80 for 3 pieces), as suggested by the helpful waitress, was a great choice – it’s not something we would have chosen, but we ate it enthusiastically (after I mentioned to the kids that the red bean was, in fact, chocolate – oops). I’ll definitely be heading back to Yum Cha for quick, tasty food that my kids love.
Mitzo Restaurant and Bar
270 Orchard Road, Grand Park Orchard, Level 4
Cuisine Style: This snazzy new restaurant reinvents the traditional Chinese dining experience by combining gourmet Cantonese dishes with first-class service and knockout cocktails – a winner!
The Vibe: Swanky contemporary interiors, mirrored partitions, plush couches and an aquarium behind the bar – Mitzo feels less like a traditional Cantonese eatery and more like a cool club lounge.
The Food: Must-tries are the delectable barbecued pork ($18) and deep-fried prawn with lemon sauce ($38); and don’t forget the stir-fried wagyu beef cubes with black pepper and red wine sauce ($42). Some of the cocktails also have an Asian-inspired twist: we went for the Garden of Eden ($22), a revitalising martini with a mix of Chinese medicinal flowers.
Need to know: Aside from the fact that you can order yourself a customised tipple (don’t know what you fancy? Just give a few hints to their experienced barmen and they’ll whip you up something yummy), you can drop by for their weekday lunch at $28, which includes four dishes; or opt for the Tiffin Tea buffet on Sundays from $68, and chill out to live music from the in-house DJ.
Classic Cantonese Seafood:
Man Fu Yuan
80 Middle Road, InterContinental Singapore, Level 2
Cuisine Style: Classic Cantonese with a focus on seafood; delicately handcrafted dim sum gives this menu a truly traditional edge.
The Vibe: Set within the charming InterContinental, Man Fu Yuan is a classically understated, minimalist-chic setup where dining is a peaceful and serene experience. Opt for one of the restaurant’s private dining rooms if you’re holding a special group get-together.
The Food: The elegantly presented signature appetiser platter ($28 per person) is a great choice for a larger group, as it’s an opportunity to taste a variety of the signature starters, including crispy sea perch cubes with a spicy lime sauce, chilled sake mirin crabmeat with black fungus and tobiko roe in sesame sauce and eggplant with chicken floss.
Main courses mostly focus on seafood, some highlights being the stir-fried live Australian mussels with homemade black bean sauce (market price) presented in a clay pot, baked sea mantis shrimp with stewed rice ($58) and the signature smoked duck with Chinese tea leaves and brown sugar ($44 half, $70 whole). Remember, this is traditional Chinese cuisine, so bones are left in for presentation and added flavour! The double-boiled seafood soup ($28), served in a coconut, is also worth trying; the silky-smooth chicken and fish broth slipped down like nectar.
To finish, the cream of avocado and Baileys ice cream ($8) was refreshing and of a good size. Slightly richer was the deep-fried purple sweet potato custard ball ($12), which, while naughty on the waistline, was well worth it.
Need to know: The knowledgeable servers can recommend special tea pairings ($6 to $13.80) for your food orders; choose from eight different teas including the popular Wayi Royal Daffodil Tea (best paired with smoked dishes) and the signature Manu Fu Yuan Special Fire Elements Tea (noted for its palate-enhancing qualities).
Traditional with a Twist:
Hai Tien Lo
7 Raffles Boulevard, Pan Pacific Singapore
Cuisine Style: Traditional Cantonese with a contemporary twist.
The Vibe: A casual setting overlooking the impressive atrium of the hotel. The open space meant that, though there were a couple of large groups around us, we were not disturbed by them at all and managed to merrily natter our way through dinner. There are also private dining areas available.
The Food: Despite a big lean toward seafood options (I’m not a huge fan, so was a little bit wary), I was pleasantly surprised by how many delicious non-fish options were available – lots of vegetable dishes, and various duck, chicken and beef items to choose from. In fact, the menu is extensive enough that I would challenge anyone to not find something they liked. We especially loved the classic sliced Beijing duck served with homemade Chinese pancakes ($46 for half), which came with perfectly crispy skin; the staff was very accommodating about what we wanted to do with the meat – half for the pancakes and half for the fried rice. Another favourite was the crispy prawns in wasabi mayonnaise and sesame sauce ($30). We were pretty full by the time the appetisers were done with, but I had to sneak in a sweet and sour pork shoulder ($24), which was perfectly marinated (hence why every last piece was devoured, despite our fullness!).
Need to know: The best thing about this restaurant is the service. The staff was helpful, fast and smiled in response to every request – and drinks were served quickly (I hate waiting for my G&T’s!).