Ujong, the modern Singapore restaurant featuring new interpretations of local classics, is the latest restaurant on scene that has gotten attention from many. Located at the stately Raffles Hotel and within the premises of the former Empire Cafe, the restaurant fits the bill perfectly in being part of the country’s wider heritage. The name Ujong is by no means a Korean word. It is instead drawn from Singapore’s historic name “Pulau Ujong”, which means Island at the tip of the peninsula. Helmed by Executive Chef Shen Tan (famed from her Wok & Barrell, and Mdm Tan’s Nasi Lemak days), Ujong at the Raffles Hotel promises an exquisite delight of Singapore flavours re-envisioned with modern touches while retaining the full, robust flavours that makes Singapore cuisine so distinctively unique.
Ujong at the Raffles Hotel
With the sweltering heat encapsulating Singapore these days, you might find respite with that simple Mojito cooler. Available standard or as a virgin concoction, the cocktail is made even more refreshing with the use of Kaffir lime leaves to inspire a grassy fragrance that is quintessentially delightful.
Guests familiar with Chef Shen’s cuisine would be glad to find traditional favourites on the menu. However, a new presence also demands a new, upbeat take and refreshed creations. First up, go for the Yusheng Salmon Ceviche and Salad ($25.90 – tasting portion depicted). The salad is made with fresh cucumber, coriander leaves, lettuce and shredded carrots, a side of salmon sashimi, and finally the secret and special lime and plum sauce mix. Zesty, tangy, with that right amount of spice to tickle the tastebuds in little leaps of flavour, this was an excellent salad to go for.
Flavour fanatics would relish in this offering from Chef Shen. The Hae Bee Hiam Mentaiko Capellini ($25.90 – tasting portion depicted) features the good ol’ Italian pasta with 1) Mentaiko, 2) Hae Bee Hiam (chilli fried dried prawns), and most importantly 3) lard. No holds in flavour to this dish. Madam Tan loves a good amount of lard and butter to bring out flavours and satisfying goodness. This was an absolute favourite!
Chef Shen’s Nasi Lemak is given 8 different renditions at Ujong. Ranging from Beef Rendang, Curry Chicken, Lamb Curry, Five Spice Roast Pork, Crispy Fried Chicken, Crispy Fried Pork, Banana leaf wrapped grilled fish with otak rempah, to a pair of chicken wings, these are varieties that aim to please almost anybody.
I give a thumbs up to the fragrant coconut rice for its fluffy, subtly sweet and buttery texture, that is marvellous presented with a simple topping of thin omellete, ikan bilis and a side of sambal belachan and sambal tumis. If you go for the Beef Rendang ($19.90 – tasting portion depicted), revel in the savoury rich rempah that is a mix of intense heartiness coupled with a decadent lightly sweet aftertaste. Still, while the rempah was good, I would have prefer a slightly fatty or tender portion of beef. The ones I had was a little too dry for my liking.
For a classic, I highly recommend going for the Crispy Fried Chicken ($16.90 – tasting portion depicted). The chicken is truly as its name suggests – crispy. The first bite is almost heavenly with the distinct crinkle of crisp skin, only to be followed by bursts of tender, slightly fatty flavours from the chicken. I could not stop, and wished for more.
Guests looking for a substantial main to share will enjoy the Claypot Rice with Five Spice Pork ($23.90). Claypot rice cooked with salted fish, goose liver sausage and Chinese sausage is topped with a good amount of lard, artisanal sesame oil, soy sauce. and finally the five spice pork confit. The pork is dry marinated for a good two days, subsequently cooked in its own fat for all that intense sweet and savoury flavours. Although the claypot rice lacked that distinct smoky flavour reminiscent from a good charcoal fire (an institutional restriction), this option was an excellent rendition.
The Fish Curry Laksa ($23.90 – tasting portion depicted) was a surprise for the table. Mention laksa and the immediate visual thought would be a hearty portion of rice noodles, portioned in a bowl full of spicy coconut gravy, and topped with classical, old fashioned ingredients. In this re-creation, laksa is reimagined to a thick, spicy gravy that is ladled over the rice noodles. The flavours are rich and succinct, with each portion of the dressing speaking volumes of its intended flavour than the quantity presented. The crispy fried dory by the side was a divine pairing.
Singapore’s most well known crab dish, the Chilli Crab, is given a simple reinterpretation with the use of deep fried soft shell crab, mantou and the sauce served by the side. The Softshell Chilli Crab with Deep Fried Mantous ($25.90 – tasting portion depicted) was decent, though I reckon guests would probably want to go for the real deal and get their hands all messy.
This serving of Har Zi Meen ($17.90 – tasting portion depicted) deserves a special mention. The prawn flavoured noodles are given an Indomie inspired dressing of kicap manis, onion and garlic before being topped with either crispy pork or crispy chicken. The noodles were simply flavoured, with a delicate use of kicap manis to bring in some sweet and spicy touches. It almost reminded me of my NS and now University days, where Indomie was probably one of the most popular instant noodles to indulge in. But to make the dish worthy of its presence at Ujong is the Crispy Pork that comes as a beautiful topping. Thinly sliced pork belly is marinated for two days and then deep fried for that perfect texture, and decadent sweet savoury flavour. I was taken aback by its nutty fragrance that reminded me of a cross between bak kwa and bacon. Imagine that!
And yes, as I mentioned Bak Kwa earlier, Chef Shen has also kindly prepared her take of Ba Kwa Pork Ribs ($35.90 – tasting portion depicted). Baby Back Pork Ribs that are fall off the bone tender is given the all too familiar Bak Kwa marinade, and slowly cooked for all that essence to be steeped within. Sweet, savoury, with that thin layer of fat too take the dish up to the next level, this is a worthy option for all the calories you’ve been saving.
The venerable and humble Mee Pok is taken for a spin with the use of handmade tagliatelle, tossed in a spicy piquant sauce, and topped with a good serving of 5 Spice Pork Confit. A signature from the Wok & Barrel days, the Ba Chor Mee Pasta ($25.90) was in all its portion sizes, hearty and delectable. The pork confit was good, though it might be a touch sweet and overshadowing the more delicate savoury, slightly crisp flavours from the sauce that coats the noodles.
Dessert fans will rejoice as Chef Shen is bringing back her Shendol ($15.90). The classic Chendol is given a twist with Coconut Pannacotta with a gula melaka syrup, and topped with red bean ice cream. This gets another big thumbs up from me. With each slice of the pannacotta, simply indulge in the flavours that make chendol oh so memorable. I absolutely loved the nutty, sweet fragrance coupled with a distinct caramelized and hearty aftertaste accentuated with the notes of palm sugar. The touch of red bean ice cream rounds up the flavours on a refreshing, sweet note.
For something a little sweeter, go for the Puloh Hitam Pudding with Gula Melaka Butterscotch served with Coconut Ice Cream ($15.90). The traditional sticky date pudding is given a local infusion of flavours with pulot hitam (black glutinous rice), sweetened with aromatic palm sugar and the always popular coconut ice cream.
Kueh Balu Tiramisu ($11.90) and Banana Crack Parfait ($11.90)
Me and Executive Chef Shen Tan
Dinner at Ujong is an amazing affair if you are out to see how Singapore culinary classics can be taken for a spin. While the regular favourites will always remain a stalwart on the local scene, Chef Shen Tan’s bold take on these dishes are refreshing and inspiring. Although there were a couple of dishes that could do with a little more refinement, I’m glad to highly recommend highlights like the Crispy Chicken Nasi Lemak, Hae Bee Hiam Mentaiko Capellini, Har Zi Meen with Crispy Pork and the good ol’ Shendol. This truly is a dining experience that showcases what else Singapore cuisine can be in a constantly evolving dining scene.
Thank you Ujong for the invitation.
|Ujong @ Raffles|
328 North Bridge Road
Raffles Hotel Arcade
Reservation: 6635 6502
Mon to Fri 8am – 10pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays 10am – 10pm