Fusion fare at Qin

The new eatery at Clan Hotel gives an updated twist to local favourites with varied success.

Jaime Ee
Published Fri, Apr 9, 2021 · 05:50 AM


Qin Restaurant & Bar Level 4&5, The Clan Hotel 10 Cross Street Singapore 048417 Tel: 6980 3535 Open for lunch and dinner daily: 11.30am to 3pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm.

WHILE we can't vouch for the feelings of a crab, we can more or less ascertain that if it had a choice, it would pick not being dead over debating the merits of being served whole in classic chilli crab style or as a jellied terrine, ice cream or mantou burger to satisfy the whims of a modern Singaporean chef eager to assert his or her culinary identity.

Yes, we belong to the school of thought that says, if it ain't broke, why spherify it? We grudgingly accept - maybe even encourage - the creative runway our young chefs must travel in order to find said self. But it by no means lessen our disaffection for the seemingly unnecessary deconstruction of something we liked in the first place.

But, if a lotta crabs gotta die for the sake of our fusion future, then so be it.

So forgive the less than happy face we put up at Qin, the latest outpost promising to take us on a 'culinary adventure' of 'especial(sic) creations that coax you into a state of complete euphoria'. To be sure, Qin is housed in the new Clan Hotel so it's probably talking to joy-deficient tourists who haven't come yet. And certainly not to locals of poor disposition and bored enough to read the copywriting on the QR code menu.

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Physically, Qin - which translates to 'kinship' in Chinese - is easy on the eyes with its spacious two-level restaurant and bar dressed in grey-and-neutral hotel lobby chic. Floor to ceiling windows looking out over Chinatown shophouses and scattered office buildings make a nice distracting view.

Qin is by the Tung Lok group, so its innate Chinese restaurant vibe carries through here despite its all-day-dining persona. The uniform and trained efficiency of our very helpful hostess almost makes us want to ask what's the double-boiled soup of the day despite her recommendations of chilli crab crostini and a dubious chicken rice deviation.

The premise of Qin lies in taking familiar local favourites and giving them a new, ie, western twist. You can spin a little social diatribe here about the transgenerational effects of colonialism and its impact on ethnic culinary traditions. But we're kind of hungry so we don't.

In fact, we have no quarrel with the lap cheong potato (S$8) - a cheap and good Spanish tapa of fried potato cubes with a mix of sweet preserved sausages and a salty mala version that tastes like a chorizo sausage which took Chinese as a second language. The piping hot crisp-fluffy potatoes and sweet savoury jolts of cured meat are a no-brainer fun snack.

We would certainly like to know who Qin's prata supplier is since its Thunderclap roti prata ($12) has all the qualities of a flaky, crisp, yielding pancake that's asking for some chicken curry to be dunked into. But here it's presented pizza style with dabs of truffle cream and crumbled hard boiled egg. Prata purists may be slightly offended at this impudent combination, but truffle-scented garlic cream and egg are more enjoyable than we expect thanks to the flaky, resilient but heavy-going prata.

The much-manipulated chilli crab (S$25) is churned through the mind of a woke millennial and emerges as a shotgun marriage with avocado toast. It doesn't taste half bad since the shelled chilli crab is realistic (after all TungLok does specialise in Asian cooking) and has the requisite pomelo segments. It's piled on top of mashed avocado and crowned with a large disc of jellied crab so that it looks pretty with a scattering of greens. Add thin slices of hard toast to scoop up the mixture and you've crossed cultures into chilli crab crostini land.

Three golf balls of not rice but barley

Things take a tumble with Hainan, no rice please (S$30) - which is chicken rice so reverse-engineered that it looks like a French cooking lesson gone awry. Over-salted chicken leg is forced into a roulade shape, flanked by sous vide chicken breast hidden under a quick-softening chicken skin crisp and dotted with a spicy aioli. Three golf balls of not rice but barley are plasticky grains cooked in chicken broth. We could go on but Hainan, no more please.

There is some reprieve with Teochew Jade (S$34) which is similar enough to Teochew steamed fish with firm yet bouncy fillets of jade perch - it tastes like a cross between sea bass and pomfret - in a tangy broth perked up with umeboshi. Cubes of deep-fried wobbly tofu are odd but not a deal breaker. It works better than Sang Mein (S$38) - which has good intentions as claypot braised prawn noodles using capellini pasta and a drizzle of distracting truffle oil. But in its haste to add an Italian accent, it forgot other things like texture, balance and oh, deliciousness.

We've had better Childhood Memories (S$15) of Milo and they would not be of stodgy milo pudding dinosaurs trapped in a jungle of Milo sponge, Milo meringue and possibly Milo ice cream. Whoever made it clearly doesn't know how marvellous Milo can be without all the drama. Finally, the East-West crossover ends with Chinese-Italian cannellonis (S$12) where love letters are filled with a rose-scented cream. We like the idea, but not the artificial scent of rose essence.

Qin may have set off on a fusion route but where it ends up is another matter. Fusion for fusion's sake may work as a marketing concept for a Chinatown-themed hotel. But fusion as a serious culinary theme? Not so much.

Rating: 6


    10: The ultimate dining experience9-9.5: Sublime8-8.5: Excellent7-7.5: Good to very good6-6.5: Promising5-5.5: Average

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.

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