This was an invited tasting. Deep gratitude to the hosts and fellow tasters.
One of the smaller problems of traditional gender roles, with its demands on men to keep things to themselves, is that there is little consensus about how best to treat a father on ‘his’ day. (I already told you it’s a small problem.) Seen another way, though, this is the best thing for restaurants – a gap they can fill.
So here comes Crystal Jade Prestige to fill this gap with a champagne brunch option. The terms are as follows – for $58 ($48 for DBS/POSB cardholders), you get a choice of ten courses in total from the menu. Another $98 ($88) gets you free flow bubbly. The ten courses include 5 dim sum options (out of a list of 10), an appetiser, a wok-fried dish, a soup, a roast meat and a dessert.
It’s a simple idea, which is a good thing; limiting the choices allows them to bring out the kitchen’s best, including dim sum options that are mostly classics with small, effective tweaks. In that sense it is all aligned with the restaurant’s look as well – a classical yum cha joint with hints of other cultures, from the abstract art on the walls to the English style tea cups (with handles).
By far my favourite dim sum of the five we chose is the black garlic dumpling, whose Chinese name is a lot more poetic – ‘Phoenix Eye Dumplings’, from the black garlic/goji topping. While the dumpling itself is a well-executed prawn and scallop affair, with a properly chewy skin. And the black garlic is not just there for decoration but also a quick lick of sweetness.
The addition of luxury seafood is, like the black garlic, calculated for maximum effect. Caviar on siew mai turns the normally marginal factor of shrimp roe into a key factor, the roe popping and bursting eagerly.
Another pleasing surprise is the chicken puff. Flaky pastry at the bottom and a cap of boluobao sweet crust sandwich a velvety stew of chicken chunks – and also little slivers of abalone which are a joy, bouncy and juicy and stretching out the umami of the filling.
Meanwhile, from among the ‘appetisers’ (the portions are very generous for appetisers), we choose the cod option – dainty bricks of fish in an airy batter, coated with passionfruit sauce. The fish has been relegated to texture beneath the tangy, almost floral sauce – but it’s still a nice, flaky texture.
After the relatively light flavours of the earlier courses, the pan-fried kurobuta with wild fungus is a late-coming climax to the meal. The slices – or rather generous slabs – of pork, threaded through with fat, are meltingly tender, but the pepper sauce and earthy mushrooms keep it from becoming cloying.
Similarly, dessert is an interesting mix of colours and textures, with coconut milk above and black sesame paste beneath, topped with a sprinkle of candied pine nuts that surprise with a tinge of salt.
So the quality of the dishes is not in doubt, and there is (almost) never such a thing as bad champagne. But quality comes at the expense of quantity, which is an issue when we’re talking about dim sum; the 5 choices of dim sum are per table, not per diner. Mind you, for the price point, that’s really quite fair. But I don’t see an option to top up and get more plates on the table either, which – given how good it was – I’d gladly take if I was paying.
For a festival celebrating the generally hungrier sex, it therefore seems that Crystal Jade Prestige has missed an opportunity. I do leave the restaurant satisfied in terms of taste, but I also hurry over to the city to find something – a bowl of rice, a ramen set – something substantial to fill up with. Prestige is nice, but it needn’t really be so dainty.
Crystal Jade Prestige
8a Marina Boulevard
Marina Bay Financial Centre, #02-01
Weekends to 26 June, 11.30am – 3pm