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More budding than blossoming
Marina Bay Sands Hotel Lobby
Tower 2, 2 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: 6688 7799
Open daily: 11.30am to 11pm (11am to 11pm on weekends and public holidays)
IF you think only crazy rich Asians flock to Marina Bay Sands, you're right, sort of. They may not be crazy but they're certainly rich enough, and so good at hiding it that they always look like they just came off a tour bus heading to a factory outlet.
You can never get through the Marina Bay Sands lobby without having to fight through a sea of them, brandishing cabin bags like weapons and designer shopping bags as proof of their credit rating.
If you can't beat them, don't join them and find relative solace in a meal of Cantonese cuisine at the newly opened Blossom in the lobby itself.
The restaurant space is not new with its signature booths that sit prominently while the dining area itself is discreetly hidden behind an elegantly curved frontage.
In its last life it was named Jin Shan, but the new owners have given it a makeover and new name. More important, they have installed a couple of chefs in the kitchen with quite promising credentials. One of them is chef Fok Kai Yee, ex-Summer Pavilion, and Jason Lau, who must have brought over his roasting skills from Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck, but more of that later.
Blossom doesn't quite have the finesse of a Chinese restaurant in a five star hotel in terms of service, with staff that are rough around the edges although very pleasant in demeanour and efficient. The pricing is mid-to-high and the food leans towards straightforward Cantonese albeit with some attempt at modern presentation.
We start off with a home-style daily soup (S$15), a piping hot pork and melon clear soup that hits the spot. Nothing fancy, just a comforting brew.
Its double-boiled fish maw and fish cartilage soup (S$28) tries but fails to replicate the robust, uncomplicated flavour of the original shark cartilage soup. It's a commendable attempt to be environmentally-friendly, but this gummy, thick broth just overcomes you with the gaminess of too much Chinese ham and gluey consistency. It gets a little better with subsequent sips but it's going to need a few more rounds to get right.
What we think is going to be a ho-hum meal is saved by the arrival of the Peking duck (S$40 for half/S$80 for whole). The manager comes by, rolling the half duck with some flourish, and from where we sit, it looks beautifully burnished and golden brown. Whereupon he hacks into it - with a bit of pent-up aggression, if you ask us. It's especially unnerving when he does it with some enjoyment.
Nonetheless, all that hacking manages to yield a fair portion of decently sliced skin - and if you refrain from immediately devouring it wrapped in a pancake, try it on its own and savour the way it crumbles in your mouth like a sheet of glass laced with rich fat. The pancakes are excellent - chewy, pliable sheets of dough that stay moist and resilient. Besides hoisin sauce, the chef adds a secret sauce - looks like chilli but it's a sweet, fruity, plum-like dip that works well with the hoisin.
Bamboo clams from Scotland (S$20 per person) are lightly poached but still a tad rubbery, in a simple, milky fish broth with tender braised cabbage and crunchy black fungus. It's a bit of a one-note dish that is more predictable than wow.
If you're a fan of giant prawns with heads so big you can stick a spoon in and dig out rich creamy coral, then the tiger king prawn (S$34) might be worth the price. The hefty specimen is split into two so you enjoy the bouncy flesh on its own, sauteed and wrapped around a stick of asparagus and showered with crispy sakura ebi which are more of a distraction with its pungent aroma. The prize is the head - deep fried so it just easily crushes and reveals its precious loot within.
We end off the meal with intense, briny seafood broth (S$24) served two ways - one with fish noodles that have a good bite in them, with some crispy rice for texture, and the other with rice instead of noodles, and some crispy rice as well. It's really a case of personal preference because the strength of this dish lies in the broth. You'll need to like your soup quite strong and prawny though - this is no dainty clear broth.
Dessert is just so-so. There's hot almond cream with snow swallow (S$15), perhaps a euphemism for bird's nest like jelly strands that don't make an impression. Avocado puree with tiramisu ice cream (S$10) is a take on Indonesian avocado and coffee, with chilled blended avocado surrounding a scoop of not-quite-coffee ice cream, which again, doesn't resonate.
The restaurant is a couple of weeks old, but there are flickers of promise in the menu. The chefs still need time to hit their stride and when they do, the restaurant will literally blossom.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.