Xi Yan prides itself for its private dining concept. One sitting policy for both lunch and dinner. Reservations only. Contemporary Chinese cuisine with an emphasis on creativity was key. Menu is carefully crafted by the chef and changes on a weekly basis. Was here for lunch on 23 April 2011.
It offers a selection of three menus for lunch, namely Premium, Popular and Power. Our choice of Popular set was the result of elimination. Two of the three main courses from the Power menu ($48) had carbos. The additional appetizer on the Premium menu ($68) was also carbo. We did not want to overstuff ourselves, hence decided on the Popular Set
($58 per pax).Green House Tomatoes
in wasabi sesame sauce is a house specialty. Tomatoes are briefly cooked in hot water and then submerged in cold water before the skin is peeled off. Taste of tomato is subtle, barely a hint of sweetness. Sesame taste dominates, while the wasabi played second fiddle. This reminds me of Japanese salad. 7/10Chicken Soup with gingko nuts and beancurd skin
looks plain, but smells great. Am certain that I will be able to pick up the fragrance of chicken broth and beancurd skin even if I was blindfolded. Flavourful soup, but monotonous. I wished it had more textures, like shredded chicken, or beancurd skin. 7/10
The first main course was Cherry Pork
with wintermelon. This is just like braised pork belly. In fact, I found the big chunk of meat too tough to the bite. Reckon smaller pieces will be more supple. 6/10Braised Beef Brisket in Sichuan hot & spicy sauce
fared better in my opinion. This dish was served with dough fritters and sweet potatoes, which were a delectable pairing.
I thought the sweetness of the tuber and mild spiciness of gravy soaked dough fritters goes very well together. BSW however prefers the sweet potato and beef combination. 7/10 for taste, 8/10 for choice of ingredients.
The third and final main course was the Golden Fish in lemongrass sauce
served with dragon fruit. Batter used here is light and nice, and does not over power the dory fish filets. The plum-like sauce with a slight tinge of spiciness spruced up the mild tasting fish. Coriander enhances this dish further. Of the three mains, this exudes the most poise. 7/10
We were expecting Palm Sugar ice cream on pandan rice with glutinous rice for dessert, as indicated in the email confirmation. But the printed menu on our plates today was Chef’s milk ice cream with wafer cookies. We were a tad disappointed when the wait staff informed us that the planned dessert had turned bad and had to be substituted. Milk ice cream does not drive me crazy. So I asked if there were other choices, and was offered Water Chestnut sorbet with birds’ nest shooter ($6 top up). BSW made the brilliant decision to have one of each.
Water Chestnut Sorbet with Birds Nest Shooter was unique, but it ends there for me. Tastes exactly like water chestnut blended with water. 5/10
Chef's Milk Ice Cream with wafer cookie fared marginally better, but still did not impress. Wafer cookie was of mass market quality and will not be surprised if it was sourced from Tanjong Pagar market just a stone’s throw away. 5/10
We opted for free flow of drinks ($10) which included Honey Kumquat, Lemongrass, Iced Sparkling Lychee and Iced Sparking Sea Coconut. Honey Kumquat was nice, and tastes like a less-citrus version of korean citron tea.
Not usually a fizzy drink person, I found myself enjoying the light sparkle of both the Lychee and Sea Coconut. Refreshing.
At the end of the meal, I will remember Xi Yan for the sweet potato-dough fritters combination, and the delicate fish in plum sauce. Food here is good overall, but failed to blow me away. Cooking style is refined and mild. Not "contemporary and creative" or "robust and hearty".
Dining room made me feel as if I was having a meal at an art gallery. Music was a tad cheena for me, but I suppose it blended with the image of the restaurant. They were playing "Ye Lai Xiang", "Wang Bu Liao" and "Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin". Service was alright, but with only two covers for lunch today, this was the least I would expect. Portions were bigger than I expected, the two of us were full mid way through the second main course.
And if Xi Yan wants to position itself as an exclusive dining venue, they need to pay more attention to details (ie stop using cheap-transparent-coffeeshop straw, and use more upmarket wafer cookie – or skip it altogether!).
For full review, and more photos, please visit http://sightsmelltaste.blogspot.com/2011/04/xi-yan-private-dining.html