Saturday, February 6, 2010
One on the Bund
Once dingy and old, Clifford Pier has been transformed almost beyond recognition. It's now part of the Fullerton Heritage waterfront dining and entertainment precinct. You may feel like you've stepped into a five-star hotel lounge cum cultural museum once you enter the glass doors.
The 10,000 square feet upscale dining establishment here is One on the Bund, but you won't see any signboard outside as various parts of the venue does not belong to them, including the very spacious walkway down the whole length of the building. There is, however, a small reception flanked by two giant warrior statues. You can't miss those.
Restaurant owner and executive chef Calvin Yeung wears many hats - he's a self-taught interior designer and fashion designer (he makes qipaos and cheongsams with a modern edge). He conceptualised the interior of One on the Bund but had to keep the arched trusses that are probably the strongest reminder of what Clifford Pier used to look like.
Let's take a quick tour of the place before we delve into the food. There's just so much to see here, we could not stop being in awe and just kept snapping photos.
This is the main dining hall with unusual curved walls and partitions. It's decorated with paper lanterns, bird cages, plus an assortment of antiques and vintage luggage. All meant to evoke the feel of old China.
Private dining is available in the far right corner of the restaurant. It seats up to 30 pax. Much of the furniture on the this side of the restaurant is traditional and ornately carved.
The noodle bar, where we ate, is on the left side of the walkway. I love the nostalgic feel of stepping over the wooden threshold.
Seating within the noodle bar is modern with clear glass tables and hauntingly beautiful oil paintings of a lady underwater. Apparently it's actress Zhou Xun, if you'd like a closer look here.
The dessert bar with its elegant white seating gives you a view of the upcoming Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. There's an al fresco deck outside too.
Near the entrance to the al fresco deck is a small showcase of the restaurant's Asian-influenced Western desserts.
Now for the food. The cuisine here is largely Shanghainese but not limited to that. We began with Vegetarian Buddha Jumps Over the Wall - double-boiled soup with three kinds of mushrooms. From the aroma alone, you could tell this was going to be good. Even then I was surprised at how PURE and potent the flavour was. These mushrooms literaly taste better than meat! I guess Buddha can jump back over to the vegetarian side of the wall now.
It was explained to us that One on the Bund focuses on "yuan wei" or original flavour of ingredients. People who are expecting the typical Chinese restaurant and super-seasoned food may not take well to the cuisine presented here. Some may find certain dishes bland.
Signature wood-fire roasted duck in Peking style (S$88, order in advance), dusted with gold for the festive season. This is roasted in an open flame oven, using apple wood chips imported from Beijing.
There is an unusual way of eating the Peking duck skin at One on the Bund. Dip it in sugar. Yes, it sounds odd but try it. The skin comes with a fairly generous layer of fat, and I worried about that a little. But this is what happens when you put the whole piece in your mouth - the fat melts almost magically and immediately as you crunch the sugar, allowing the crystals to cut into the fat. It all blends very well, and tastes amazingly good. Fat + sugar = joy!
The Peking duck is also served with a salty bean paste sauce. It's a change from the usual plum-based sauce but the opaque flavour tends to overwhelm the duck. We still prefer the thrill of the sugar dip.
A waitress then arrived to prepare the "Eastern Sea Dragon" (S$48) - braised fish fillet in chili broth - right at our table. Watching your food being cooked sure whets the appetite.
The fish was fresh, firm and delicious! It's a little bit like the Sichuan "Shui Zu Yu" or water-cooked fish, but much more toned down. Two pieces for each left us wanting more but the huge pot had disappeared.
The noodle-masters started making our noodles, transforming dough into silky threads of noodles.
These are called red thread noodles, although they're really just stained a light orange from carrot juice. That's fine, as I certainly don't want to be eating artificial red dye. The noodles were good enough to eat on their own, but they were rather too soft for my liking and tended to clump together. The egg soup seemed to be devoid of salt or seasoning. Again the "yuan wei" emphasis is at work, requiring appreciation of ingredients as they are.
The signature crispy lamb ribs (S$48) are divine! The gamey mutton taste is not too evident (for me, but I do like mutton, so maybe I'm not a good judge!). This was a symphony of crispy skin, gorgeous aroma and tender, juicy flesh. It's like roast suckling pig, but done with lamb. Served with a lightly spicy soy dip, but I quite liked it on its own.
East meets West desserts - raspberry chocolate mousse and two pastries with red bean and lotus paste within. All three desserts have the Chinese characters for double happiness imprinted on them. I'm normally not big on Chinese sweet treats, but I have to say the two humble-looking buttery pastries completely beat their Western counterpart here. Not in a huge in-your-face way, but with subtle and sophisticated flair.
After the dainty trio, we went for more hearty desserts! This giant slab of tiramisu is their standard serving (all yours for just S$16). Decent amount of alcohol and loads of cocoa powder make this a decadent dish. There are also little crispy chocolate beads embedded within, which add crunch to the creamy texture.
There are more than 15 varieties of desserts here. They recommend their macarons (S$2 each) which seem pretty well done. And they have various truffles - we tried ginger, chili and Baileys. The chili ones are RAGING HOT, so bewarned! But strangely a little addictive. The heat is strong but mellow, not harsh and biting. Still, the Baileys one is my favourite.
On the whole, One on the Bund is an experience worth having at least once. But go with an open mind and be ready for tastes unlike those at a usual Chinese restaurant.
Many thanks to Fullerton Heritage for arranging this dinner. It was lovely meeting Calvin and Mabel. Thanks also to Mryshale for being such a kind host. Check out Ladyironchef (not up yet) and The Little Teochew for their reviews.
ONE ON THE BUND
80 Collyer Quay
Mon-Fri: 12 pm - 3pm for lunch; 6pm til late for dinner
Sat-Sun: 11am - 5pm for brunch; 6pm til late for dinner
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