Empress is chio, very chio, pretty in a classy, elegant, tasteful sort of way. Not common word associations with Chinese restaurants in Sigapore.
Located in the iconic Asian Civilisations Museum, Empress by the Privé Group offers Cantonese-styled dishes in a contemporary setting.
There are options of alfresco dining by the Singapore River waterfront, or indoor within the colonial building with vibes of a living brasserie. Seating arrangements are varied, with a few typical round tables, long tables with heightened chairs, or bar side sitting.
From a quick glance, the crowd here during lunch generally comprises of business people for corporate meals, with a fair mix of both Asian and Westerners.
The group of us were initially partially sceptical, wondering if it is yet another mish-mash eatery in disguise under a Chinese restaurant that appeals mainly to the Westerners (my Hong Kong friend would say “gwai lo).
“My ang moh ex-date brought me to this XXX restaurant on the hill saying it serves authentic Chinese food. It was tough to survive that meal.”
After the meal, I am glad to announce Empress is actually legit.
We were served by a waitress from Romania. When she brought the yusheng out, we were half-suspecting if she would be the one saying the Chinese New Year greetings.
“Of course it is me.” She wasn’t kidding, and more fluent than some people I know.
Empress’ signature items include Triple Roast Platter ($28, $42, $56), Seared Angus Beef Tenderloin Cubes ($32, $48, $64) with black pepper sauce and garlic, King Prawn Dumpling in Supreme Broth ($14 per person) and a vegetarian Fried Brown Rice Medley ($20, $30, $40) with hon Shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, goji berries and pine nuts.
There are some parts to nick-pick about the Roast Platter of char siew, crackling roast pork and sticky sweet pork ribs. But overall, it was a respectable plate – the saucy pork ribs in good proportions of lean meat and fat; siew yoke with delectable crisp skin; and roast pork though slightly meaty tough, was still decent.
Other food wise were a mixture of hits and misses, some hovering about 6-7 points over 10.
The Dragon’s Breath Angus Beef Hor Fun ($22, $33, $44) was ironically short of that ‘dragon’s breath’, ie no wok-hei (wok-heat) and Poached Amaranth with Trio of Eggs could do with deeper flavours in the stock used to cook.
The desserts though, turned the tables around.
We liked all of them to varying degrees, from the Peanut Coated Black Sesame Mochi Balls ($12), Sticky Date & Logan Pudding with vanilla swirl ice cream ($12), Jasmine Tea Poached Pear ($12), and the seasonal special of Lucky Orange – mandarin orange filled with orange granite and soymilk panna cotta.
There were some hiccups – during the initial reservation when they almost wanted to cancel our table despite having an earlier confirmation, some wrong orders that came, and long waiting time between dishes.
Otherwise, Empress quite successfully brings together a Chinese dining experience with friendly Western dishes. Except this may not be the restaurant to bring a demanding Chinese mother-in-law. Ang-moh boyfriend, can.
1 Empress Place, Asian Civilisations Museum #01-03 Singapore 179555
Tel: +65 62388733
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, Last Order 2:30pm (Lunch), 6pm – 11pm, Last Order 10:45pm (Mon – Sun)
Empress Bar: 4pm – 12am (Sun – Thurs), 4pm – 1am (Fri – Sat)
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