Generally, the word omakase is used for the Japanese dining experience where the chef of the restaurant picks what you will be eating for the meal. But Yàn at National Gallery Singapore is not a Japanese restaurant. In fact, it is a traditional Cantonese restaurant in a modern setting, incorporating the omakase concept but still keeping essential Chinese ingredients and styles of cooking.
Yàn is designed in a very Chinese manner but with modern elements in its decor. It is a very family-friendly place and is popular for Chinese reunion dinners. We hear that for Chinese New Year, reservations open as early as October. Better get your kiasu on and make that reservation early (like the year before!!) if you want to dine here during CNY!
Our tasting menu started with a golden pumpkin broth with scallop accompanied by a deep fried minced fish roll, and a tomato stuffed with cheese, onion, garlic and diced celery. The pumpkin broth seemed like an unconventional twist to the usual thick broth based soup we tend to have at wedding dinners like shark's fin soup. It is a very appetising but filling soup. The fish roll was very crispy and flavoursome on its own, but once we dipped it into the pumpkin broth, it seemed to enhance the overall starter dish.
The portions here are sizeable and as we were told, there are quite a number of businessmen who come here for lunch, and the portions seem to be fitting for that crowd.
Our next dish was a beautifully prepared, steamed slice sea perch fillet with pickled chilli. The fish was incredibly fresh and we were also told that the chef heads down to the market on a daily basis with his team to pick out the freshest ingredients for the omakase menu. This is very evident in the taste of the fish and of course, with the chef's expert execution in preparing the dish, it made it a very well-rounded dish.
Our next dish proved to be quite a heavy one but definitely one of our favourites of the omakase menu. Huge, almost palm-sized scallops are served on a glass plate. They are pan fried king scallops stuffed with shrimp paste and black garlic. It is slightly sweet and the scallops are perfectly cooked. It reminded us of a sweet and sour rendition of the seafood but with more complex notes to it, of course.
To ensure that the meal is a balanced one, we were served a very healthy poached baby tien shin cabbage with dried conpoy. The soupy base of the dish is light and a good palate cleanser after the scallops. It also prepared us for our last main dish before dessert, which was fried noodles with bean sprouts and chives.
The fried noodles are cooked in a typical Cantonese wok-fry style. While the noodles tasted absolutely heavenly in all of its springiness and perfect balance of flavours, we were so stuffed at this point. We sent compliments to the chef for a wonderful meal but we simply couldn't finish the bowl of noodles. I joked to my editor that you know when a Chinese wedding is about to end because that is when they serve the carbs - and similarly to wedding dinners, the omakase's mains ended with the noodles.
We were treated to two kinds of dessert. One was chilled mango cream topped with vanilla ice cream and oats, served in a coconut. The other was a deep fried custard bun filled with salted egg yolk.
The mango cream dessert is a pretty one with dry ice providing a very mystical visual effect from the bottom. The mango cream itself was not too sweet and went well with the icy cold vanilla ice cream (which was actually more like milky snow ice that you would find in bingsu) and oats.
Annnnd of course, the salted egg yolk craze continues in Singapore, even in fine dining. But this deep fried custard bun is worth every cholesterol-filled bite. The bun is not too oily, it was very soft inside and the salted egg yolk filling was the perfect consistency, oozing out slowly in all of its golden glory.
Prices for the omakase menu start at $60 per person.
Yan #05-02 National Gallery Singapore 1 St. Andrew’s Road Singapore