One thing that always gets people excited during Chinese New Year (CNY) apart from the festivities, family gatherings, and of course, ang baos, has to be the seasonal food that makes an appearance. Every year, the Crystal Jade group creates a fresh set of CNY dishes with colours, tastes and aromas that reflect an uplifting mood of celebration, joy and abundance, and this year was no exception. Like any proper CNY affair, the dinner at Crystal Jade was marked by an abundance of festive food, presenting a spectrum of tastes across their impressive stable of restaurants.
Nothing announces the arrival of CNY better than a rousing session of yusheng tossing, and here Crystal Jade shines. Prosperity Yusheng with Abalone & Pomegranate (S$138 – Large, $88 – Small, Crystal Jade Fine Dining Restaurants) is a twist on traditional yusheng, with exquisite abalone in the place of raw fish, and a unique pomegranate sauce that paints the dish a fragrant, deep ruby red. Too often yusheng tends to end up cloying and over-sweet, but the homemade pomegranate sauce here binds the yusheng together excellently, yielding a tasteful and well-balanced mix. Pomegranate proves to be a rather tasty alternative to plum, and marks a well thought out culinary shift that’s bound to invite its fair share of imitators.
Chilled Asparagus (S$20, Crystal Jade Fine Dining Restaurants) is next on the menu; air-flown asparagus are steamed and immersed immediately into an ice bath, giving the green spears a satisfying snap with each bite. Resembling a lucky bamboo plant set amidst a bed of ice, it brings with it a refined festive air to the table. Accompanying the dish is sweet, truffle-scented mustard dipping sauce that pairs surprisingly well with the cool asparagus. Yet, while the dish was much tastier than one might ever imagine asparagus could be, the portion did feel slightly underwhelming given its price.
The Luxurious Abalone Treasure Pot (S$318 for 6 pax, S$498 for 10 pax, Crystal Jade Fine Dining Restaurants) is a mouthwatering display of 15 different premium ingredients, including delicacies such as eight-head abalone (for those who were wondering, the “heads” of abalone refer to their weight, which is often taken as an indication of quality and taste. An eight-head abalone implies that 8 heads of this abalone would make up 1 kati (600g)), sea cucumber, dried oysters, smoked pig trotters, and fish maw. Portioning the dish is like diving into an endless treasure trove, each spoonful unearthing some unexpected wonder hidden beneath. The treasure pot is coated in a luscious, savoury sauce of deep umami flavours, each morsel coming together in an irresistible, bountiful whole.
Steamed Herbal Xiao Long Bao (S$6 for four, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao) are up next; plump, juicy soup dumplings arrive in weaved steamer baskets, each dumpling dressed in impeccable folds and adorned with a single striking red wolfberry. Carry them lightly with the tips of your chopsticks and nip into the skin, and an herbal broth bursts forth, clear, delicate and delightful. The wolfberry injects a pop of sweetness into the herbal bitterness, lending it a complexity not usually found in xiao long baos. One caveat though, this dish tends to draw some mixed reactions—I greatly enjoyed the dish for its contrasting bitter-sweet flavours, whereas some in our group were less keen on herbal elements affecting the purity of what they had thought of as an otherwise well-executed xiao long bao.
The Thai-style Pork Knuckle (S$28, Crystal Jade Kitchen) comes to the table in a burst of colours, casting the space instantly in a vibrant celebratory hue. A sweet-sour salsa of mango, chili and onions rests atop crisp crackling, encasing juicy, steaming pork within.
Following shortly after was the Sautéed Scallop & Coral Mussel with XO Sauce (S$28, Crystal Jade Kitchen), a trio of textures united under the banner of a piquant XO sauce. The corral mussel boasts a uniquely light and crunchy texture that’s almost a cross between calamari and jellyfish, with scallop medallions pocketed in between, firm yet yielding. Sautéed broccoli forms the base of the dish, where it soaks up the fragrant sauce with its vibrant green florets.
Desserts are hardly a one-size-fits-all proposition, and so each Crystal Jade restaurant offers a variety of warm and cold desserts to suit a range of palettes. The Steamed Pumpkin Glutinous Rice Ball with Bean Paste (S$4.80 for three, Crystal Jade Kitchen) presents three golden spheres moulded around a smooth bean paste, making for a great way to round off the meal for those looking for something more substantial. For dessert-lovers who prefer their sweets light, the Double-boiled Water Chestnut with Egg White (Crystal Jade Prestige) is a silky cool soup that makes for some incredibly easy drinking.
With the recent opening of Crystal Jade Prestige at Marina Bay Sands, sampling the best that Crystal Jade has to offer has become an even more exciting proposition. Yet, there’s simply no shortage of fascinating flavours across the Crystal Jade group of restaurants waiting to be discovered, and what better reason is there to do some celebratory culinary exploration with your loved ones than this Chinese New Year?
Thank you Crystal Jade for the invitation