Wan Hao –
After my trip to Crystal Jade, I developed a gradually intensifying craving for yum cha and Wan Hao's weekend dim sum a la carte lunch buffet provided the perfect means to sate it. I've always preferred a la carte buffets to regular buffets because you don't have to jostle with other hungry souls, call me a snob but it adds a touch of refinement. The Marriot's Chinese fine-dining restaurant offers excellent, intuitive service and a mind-bogglingly extensive menu at $55++ per pax.
The first 5 items are from a list of chef's specialties limited to one order per table; the following 3 are soups limited to one order per person.
The sweet and crunchy Drunken Prawns were thoroughly infused with the potent flavour of Chinese wine and bittersweet tang of ginseng. Peeling them was a messy affair though!
I could not get enough of the Scallops and Asparagus in Spicy XO Sauce for the tender young asparagus spears and super-soft scallops were utterly divine with the rich, smoky sauce of chillies and dried scallops.
The Beef Tenderloin with Black Peppercorns presented a conundrum of painful pleasure. The meltingly tender chunks of beef were napped in a gorgeous, glossy glaze that I spent futile minutes trying to deconstruct. Caramelly and fragrant with spices, I would be forever indebted to whoever gives me its formula.
The buttery, flaky Sea Perch Fillet with Garlic actually got an equal measure of flavour from an amazing gingery sauce in addition to the already potent topping of fried garlic.
I absolutely adored the US Kurobuta Pork for the muted flavours of the viscous sauce allowed the natural porcine flavours to be the sole focus of this course. A surprisingly lean cut was the perfect balance of bite and softness as well as deliciously juicy.
For my choice of soup, I could not help but be intrigued by the Shark's Fin Dumpling Soup. I was quite surprised to find it closer to a massive dumpling in gravy, rather than a soup per se. The silky sheath held within it a complex, explosively flavourful filling comprising shredded chicken, shitake mushrooms, shark's fin and dried scallops.
The Shark's Fin Soup with Crab Meat & Bamboo Pith was a more conventional option but still impressed with its excellent execution. A liberal amount of quality fin was the obvious highlight, the generous chunks had a lovely crunch.
For those seeking something even more luxurious, Wan Hao offers a mean Miniature Buddha Jumps Over the Wall; named as such because it supposedly put a monk in such ecstasy that he vaulted over a fence. The abalone and fish maw in superior stock are so good it almost makes that story believable.
The Chilli Prawns with Crispy Buns wowed with extremely fresh, sweet and crunchy prawns. The glossy, egg-thickened sauce was rich yet not too overpowering with generous garlic and healthy spice accorded an extra edge by bell pepper chunks.
An order of three kinds of roasted meat quietened my insatiable inner carnivore. The super crispy Roast Pork had neat layers of crisp crackling, a thin sliver of rich fat and tender meat; it was divine with a thick smear of sharp mustard. The Roast Duck had a lovely crisp skin, a generous layer of decadent fat and moist meat. The Honey Glazed Pork or Char Siew was lean yet tender but was a tad too sweet.
The Har Gau had a skin that held everything together without being too thick. As before, the prawns were amazingly crunchy.
The Siew Mai fared less well, coming across as dry and a little bland.
The Char Siew So had a rather thick pastry layer though it was so light and delicate that one almost doesn't notice it. As with the earlier char siew, the filling was quite sweet.
I much preferred the Char Siew Bao which had the same filling in a fluffy cloud of a steamed bun.
The Shrimp Wanton in a Spicy Broth squeezed 3 delicious prawns into EACH dumpling. The simple spy-chilli sauce served to accentuate the sweetness of the crustaceans.
The Prawn Dumplings with Mayonnaise were extremely crisp and not smothering them with sugar-sweetened anaemic-white mayonnaise would be blasphemy.
If a little musty, the Beancurd Skin with Shrimp and Oyster Sauce had lovely strong flavours.
While never my favourite dish, the Phoenix Claws in Spicy Sauce shed new light on the unglamorous chicken foot with its sweet, smoky glaze.
The Beef Tendon with White Radish illustrated how vegetables can take meaty flavours to a whole new level. The beefy notes rebounded off the equally strongly-flavoured root vegetable for an effect both robust and refined.
After all the single-serve portions, I was shocked when a massive plate of Yang Chao Fried Rice was placed in front of me. That said, it was one of the best I've had with the delicate individual grains full of flavour from being lightly charred, according it a lovely smoky-sweet fragrance too.
Chilled Soursop refreshed the palate with a natural tartness given a touch of flowery mystique by jasmine jelly.
8 Treasure Hashima always bowls me over with how snow frog egg sacs can be rendered such a delectable dessert with a little rock sugar.
A yum cha brunch would not be complete without a Mango Pudding and this one was studded with actual chunks of sweet mango!