The former Bayview Inn at 30 Bencoolen Street — Bayview International’s flagship property in Singapore — has been revamped and reopened as the modish and stylish 30 Bencoolen hotel.
But it’s not just the hotel that is bringing the “new” to Bencoolen Street. Occupying a prominent expanse of the lobby is LOCAL Restaurant & Bar, and their specialty is bringing a new twist to otherwise traditional cuisines. In view of the imminent Chinese Lunar New Year, perhaps it will tickle your fancy to usher in the new year with some traditional CNY dishes — remixed.
Every Chinese New Year meal has to start with the Yu Sheng. Executive Chef Elvin Chew’s “ Sure Huat” Yu Sheng sets itself apart in more ways than one. The smoked Norwegian Salmon that replaces the raw salmon normally found in Yu Sheng is encased in a Tomato Liquid Jelly and shaped into a Koi. It’s not just any jelly though; Chef Chew uses Konnyaku, a type of jelly that does not crumble so easily, so you can Lo Hei in peace. Shout your blessings as you drizzle the Spring Onion and Ginger Dressing which replaces the usual plum sauce dressing. This sauce cuts down on the sugar, and yet is so beautifully infused with herbs that it complements the entire dish.
Another customary course is the Suckling Pig. LOCAL’s Special Stuffed Whole Suckling Pig has been stuffed full with fragrant glutinous rice and roasted as how you would a Peking Duck. Its even tan makes the piglet seem almost too good to be true; the way your knife crunches and glides into the meat, you can tell it’s quality pig. Chef Chew makes his own Caramelised Pineapple Sauce to go with the dish, which can be a main course by itself, or a starter in a course meal.
The sauce mimics pineapple tart fillings and together with the oranges used to add flavour, this is a dish that will surely bring in the festive spirits.
Normally, a braised pork trotter or pork belly dish will be served, but Chef Chew keeps things traditional. He goes with the pork knuckle for his Braised Five Spice Pork Knuckle. It has a fatty layer coming together with the lean meat which makes the dish less overwhelming. This dish is sure to be a hit with the elders, with the wild forest mushrooms and chestnuts bringing an earthy flavour to the pork. Bacon is used to wrap the knuckle in cooking, so you get the western smokiness that adds another depth to the wonderful flavour.
The fried yam cake is also a popular dish amongst the Chinese. Chef Chew introduces his 8 Hours Braised Angus Beef Cheek in Crispy Yam Ring, as a lucky charm for the new year (because of the auspicious ‘8’). Although it is a very traditional Chinese dish, the beef is braised western style and it works, because the beef simply falls apart in your mouth at the first bite. While the beef is delicious, the crispy yam ring is the show stealer. It puffs up slightly like a pastry, which is unlike other fried yam cakes that are starchy through and through.
The secret? Baby yams are used instead of adult yams, which results in a crispier and lighter puff.
Lastly, for dessert, we had the remade Bubur Chacha. The warm yam paste was topped with the yellow gingko nuts, looking like gold nuggets atop a pile of coins. It is served with coconut milk ice cream and a glutinous rice ball. When mashed together, the warm paste with the cool ice cream gives a startling explosion of flavour. It throws you off that Bubur Cha Cha could be such a chameleon — especially when you plop in the accompanying glutinous rice ball to mix in the black sesame filling and peanuts. All of a sudden, the dish changes into something different altogether, giving another profile and dimension to its taste.
LOCAL also has a take-out option for customers who still prefer to celebrate CNY in the comfort of home. If you’re entertaining at home and wish to impress this year, ordering from LOCAL would be a fantastic idea, for it saves on the preparation time as well. Bringing back the old and traditional, LOCAL adds their own take to the dishes and the resulting creation is familiar and yet novel.