National Gallery Singapore has a bevy of interesting restaurants that I wanted to try; have checked off Aura, the Italian representative, and the Peranakan stalwart National Kitchen by Violet Oon. I recalled passing by Yàn Restaurant on my last visit to National Gallery, so off I went for my Saturday lunch with my Mum, niece Melissa and Alan. Yàn faces the new Supreme Court and offers a great view of the disc-shaped structure that is supposed to house the Court of Appeal – the highest court in Singapore – designed as a modern interpretation of the Old Supreme Court Building’s dome.
In the evening the disc-like structure looks uncannily like a hovering flying saucer.
Yàn is managed by the Park Hotel Group, and headed by master chef Chan Kung Lai who brings more than 20 years of culinary experience with him. The Chinese character for Yàn “宴”means feast.
The warm wooded decor of the restaurant is aesthetically pleasing, with see-through oak screen, splashes of colours presented by silk-embroidered panels, with designer lighting fixtures dangling from the ceiling.
Comfy rounded booths line the walls of the restaurant; the side of the restaurant facing the Supreme Court is a full-glass panel shielded by wooden slats that allows the sunlight to stream in gently, providing a pleasing ambience.
Yàn’s menu features classic Cantonese fare but we decided to focus on the dim sum lunch menu – concise but with quite a number of creative-sounding dishes. I’m not a fan of siew-mai but the Steamed Prawn and Chicken Dumpling topped with fish roe (魚子焼賣皇) here is pretty good, with succulent blend of seafood and chicken meats .
The Deep-fried seafood dumpling served with superior consommé (上湯炸粉果) was nicely done too, with tasty fillings in a crispy shell that go well with the dip; I like the juxtapositioing of the crunchy and the moist parts of the shell.
For some healthy bites, we ordered the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling filled with mushrooms and cordyceps (蟲草花石榴球); finely done and delicate in taste. You can tell how well the dim sum chefs are trained by the fine balance between the translucency, thinness and firmness of the dim sum wrapping; they have a good Dim Sum Jedi master here.
The Xiao Long Bao with minced pork and superior stock (上海小籠包) can’t beat Din Tai Fung’s but comes pretty close.
The Deep Fried Beancurd sheet with shrimps and chives (鮮蝦腐皮卷) was well-executed too, with the skin a perfect golden colour and encasing fresh prawn meat,
The signature dish has to be the Dim Sum Combination Platter (六小點心合), comprising of 6 different dim sums and so artistically plated. I would suggest ordering 2 portions of this to share, get a sense of the items you like, and then order additional portions from the menu.
The Steamed Glutinous Rice with Mini Abalone came with chicken and a small abalone in an abalone sauce wrapped with egg pancake; a filling yet engaging dish which we all love.
A rather innovative creation is the Deep-fried Eggplant stuffed with squid paste, shredded carrot and spicy sauce (帆船茄子卷) – very elegantly plated and delectable at the same time.
We decided to try a few items from the main menu, and was seduced by the visual-appeal of the Fried Live Prawn with Crispy Noodle Ball (鲜蝦繍球面). This dish is created for Instagram, with the broth poured table-side. Sadly in this instance, form trumps over substance; the broth and prawn were rather bland and the noodles too hard to gel everything together; a disappointing dish unfortunately for one that looked so pretty.
The Fragrant Rice Soup with Crab Claw (生拆蟹鉗泡饭 ) fared a little better, although the soup was not robust or piping-hot enough. I prefer the Sizzling Rice Soup version at Tung Lok Signatures.
We needed some fibre, and fortunately the Stir-fry (清炒) Hong Kong Choy-sum we ordered was cooked well; sautéed quickly at high heat with a smoky wok-hei.
As we were dining, I spied Violet Oon – I’d just dined last week at her eponymous Peranakan-cuisine National Kitchen in the same building, – and went over to chat with her. Such a lovely lady, my fave food critic when she was a journalist with The New Nation paper when I was young (and handsome??).
We didn’t try enough of the main menu items to be able to gauge the standard of Yàn, but our lunch experience was very good and prices are very reasonable for such a prime locale – dim sum items hovers around S$8 for 3 pieces. It is certainly a place I will return for dim sum, especially if I’m at the National Gallery Singapore.
#05-02 National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew’s Road
Phone: +65 63845585