Tag Archives: San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best

28 HuBin Road, Hangzhou


Chef: Colin Yu   Website: www.hangzhou.regency.hyatt.com  Cuisine: Traditional Hangzhou

Described by Marco Polo as the finest and noblest city in the world, the city of Hangzhou is synonymous with its UNESCO world heritage site of the West Lake, scenic beauty and Dragon Well tea. It is also the location of the restaurant, 28 HuBin Road! The restaurant, located at the Hyatt Regency, is considered to be the best restaurant in China by many notable local food critics and the like. Located only an hour’s train ride from Shanghai, it would have been sacrilegious to miss this opportunity. We were famished from some early morning tourism around Hangzhou and arrived with an appetite!

20111109-IMG_0944The cooking here celebrated the traditional and diverse cuisine of Hangzhou and the surrounding region. It is not only a favourite spot amongst local Chinese people but also attracts foreigners from afar including ourselves of course. On this occasion, rather than dining in the main dining room, we made a reservation for…

20111109-IMG_0950… the private dining room, which had a lovely view out on to the bamboo garden. Before getting stuck in our meal, we were welcomed with a traditional tea ceremony. It was apparent from the first few minutes that the quality of service here was far more superior to any other restaurant we visited during our trip. The front of house were engaging, insightful and most importantly made you feel at ease. Despite the 2,500 bottles of wine on offer, we decided to make the most of the varieties of tea to go with our meal.

20111109-IMG_0967As were were aiming to catch the last train back to Shanghai that evening, we had to request for our meals to be served at a slightly faster pace. Straight after the ceremony, a plate of appetisers were brought to each of us. Starting with the left going clockwise, there was aromatic beef with a sesame sauce, sweet and sticky rice cubes with lotus root, a delicious slow poached quail egg where the yolk had been replaced with a rich foie gras mousse, crispy fried radish, smokey fish and finally a parcel of crunchy enoki mushroom. It was a modern twist on classic dishes, but most importantly all were delicious.

20111109-IMG_0976Rather than serving everything simultaneously or as the dishes were ready, the food here came steadily in a paced speed, allowing us to savour each course separately. Our next course was Lady Song’s Sweet and Sour Fish Soup, an 800 year old dish made from a rich broth and the tender meat of the mandarin fish. Everything in the soup tasted fresh and given the complexity of the flavours I could see why it gained the nickname of the luxurious ‘crab porridge’ despite containing none of the crustacean.

20111109-IMG_0981The Longjing Xia Ren (Dragon well shrimps) was similarly impressive. The fresh water shrimps had been coated and marinated in a mixture of egg white and potato starch for a couple of hours before being ‘velveted’ (flavours sealed through medium heat) and combined with a simple sauce infused with premium quality Dragon Well tea. Additional tea leaves were scattered for finishing touches to really infuse the herbacious flavours of the tea to the moist and tender shrimp.

20111109-IMG_0985The highlight of the menu was undoubtedly the Dongpo Pork served with bamboo shoots and chestnut pancake, which looked as impressive as it tasted. The pork belly was carved out into a pyramid shape…

20111109-IMG_0992… but what was more impressive was the knife skills that then went into slicing meticulously along the edges of the pork belly, keeping the piece together as one long strip. It was then braised in its pyramidal shape, revealing the skills that went into the dish only as you unfolded the meat from the base.

20111109-IMG_0997The bamboo shoots and pork belly slices were then wrapped with the sweet chestnut pancake. The thin layers of pork belly melted in your mouth, releasing a flood of sweet and savoury flavours. This dish alone justified our trip to Hangzhou, and even China.

20111109-IMG_0998This was also my first time trying the West Lake poached Marble Goby in sweet vinegar sauce. Other than the benefits we’d heard on the rumour mill around the fish having life prolonging and healing properties, the marble goby fish was tender, smooth and sweet, but not flakey. The flavours from this fresh water fish was amazing and as far as I could remember one of the best I’ve had in a very long time.

20111109-IMG_1006We hesitated on ordering the Beggar’s chicken, given none of us had ever enjoyed the dish, often due to the meat being too dry or bitter from the stuffing, but a trusted food source had advised us to reconsider the dish here. So we gave it a try…… and boy were we glad we ended up not missing out on this dish. A stuffed whole chicken was wrapped in layers of lotus leaf and covered in clay before being baked for an hour.

20111109-IMG_1008It was brought to our table still in the clay and with a wooden hammer. The chef prompted us to pick the hammer up and break the mould for good luck.

20111109-IMG_1021This dish was the result from experimenting with over 200 recipes over a number of months. The juicy meat fell off the bone with ease and was packed with flavours and fragrance from concoction of rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, star anise, ginger and stuffing (which remained a secret), resulting with a sweet after taste. Impressive stuff.

20111109-IMG_1023A rather unadventurous Honey glazed ham followed the preceding three amazing dishes.

20111109-IMG_1024And when we thought the best dishes were done and dusted, a fairly unassuming Braised cabbage with crab roe appeared in front of us. However, the execution of the dish was exemplary. The cabbage had been prepared with precision to allow enough flavours of the crab roe to be soaked up, yet maintain some bite. It was like a blank canvas painted in crustacean. All we could taste was the delicious crab from Yangcheng Lake.

20111109-IMG_1029Just in case we didn’t get enough of the beautiful crab flavour the chef prepared us a bowl of Mixed Noodles and bean sprout with crab roe. I personally preferred the braised cabbage as the flavours of the crab roe was comparably lost here.

20111109-IMG_1033A Crab roe dumpling soup was then served to finish our meal, abruptly, as we realised we had only 15 minutes before rushing back to the train station.

20111109-IMG_1034Fortunately, we had just enough time to squeeze in an assortment of desserts. Showcasing traditional and modern flavours and techniques from the Dragon Well Tea crème brûlée and Osmanthus ice cream, to the Jasmin mousse cake, what a perfect way to end our meal. Thoroughly delightful.

20111109-IMG_0955There were some amazing restaurants in China but 28 HuBin Road was the only place that offered a fine dining experience that went beyond amazing food. As a foreigner, I appreciated the front of house taking their time to go over many of the tales and anecdotes behind the dishes that have now become synonymous to traditional Hangzhou cuisine. In retrospect, it would have been far more sensible to have stayed overnight in Hangzhou. I won’t be making the same mistake again next time. You have been warned.

Tippling Club, Singapore

P1150149Chef: Ryan Clift   Website: www.tipplingclub.com   Cuisine: Modern European

Vive la revolution (a culinary one that is), for the fine dining scene in Singapore is in the midst of an explosion. In a city where fine dining has traditionally involved lavish interior fittings and expensive ingredients limited only to the period of the Chinese New Year, the odds have been stacked against success for modern chefs. However, for those who persevere with unfaltering motivation like chef Ryan Clift, the reward is plentiful. Tippling Club’s belated but deserved landing on San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2014 guide at a respectable 23rd position is certainly one of them. But Clift is not one to sit on his laurels. At the age of 35, he has already been the head chef at Vue de Monde and he doesn’t seem to be running out of steam.

P1150160I was fortunate enough to dine at their original site a week prior to their move to Tanjong Pagar. A part of me felt saddened that they were moving to the city, as the current location was sublime. The original premise, a bungalow cocooned in the forest atop Dempsey road, could not have been more far removed from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, but I could sympathise with Clift. Unfortunately, the locals found the 20 mins cab ride and its remoteness as a serious obstacle; first world problems. Inside their original restaurant, Clift had done away with the traditional tablecloths and indeed, most of the tables. The majority of guests sat at the kitchen counter and was able to observe the brigade of chefs and mixologists do their magic. Clift was quick to point out this concept was going to be kept in their new location. P1150154At Tippling Club, the conventional matching wine option is replaced with cocktails. As this was what attracted me first to the restaurant I naturally felt obliged to try one of their cocktails before tucking into the meal. Suffice to say, they lived up to the expectation. However, it didn’t take long before my delicious gin-based concoction disappeared and their wine selections caught my eyes. Whether for the right reason or not, the conservative side in me pushed for the wine instead. Personally, I was quite happy with the decision but I would most certainly look to try their cocktail matching option on my next visit. P1150163The meal kicked off with a delectable series of amuse bouche starting with the Gin cured ocean trout from New Zealand laid over a bed of pine needles soaked in vodka. A lovely flavour of the sea with the nori cracker and the yuzu jelly cut through the fatty fish and the avocado mousse, making this a very well balanced dish.

P1150164 Clift’s take on a Singaporean curry (aka Hainanese curry though the name is misleading as it only exists in Singapore), which contained puffed rice, deep fried curry leaf and dessicated coconut over a curry espuma. Having lived in Singapore previously for five years, I thought he truly captured the flavours of this popular local dish and I particularly enjoyed the texture of the puffed rice.

P1150167A beautiful glass of Markus Huber’s 2011 Berg, Grüner Veltliner especially bottled and exclusively made for Tippling Club only. A lovely peppery nose and aromatic spiciness, perfect for fish and spicy Asian food.

P1150171Their signature amuse bouche of the Charred and smoked green pepper tempura with a soy-wasabi dipping sauce. Beautifully crispy batter and a deliciously salty sauce with a slight instantaneous kick. Humble ingredients and umami rich flavours. I could see why this dish was so popular! P1150173I did it again! The fourth amuse bouche of the white truffle styrofoam had such an inviting aroma that I wolfed it down before realising I had forgotten to take a photo. My friend chuckled as the next treat of the Smoked quail egg on a nest of kombu was being served. Again, great use of the umami-rich kombu to enhance the flavours oozing out from the egg that bursted in my mouth with only an ever-so-slight amount of pressure.

P1150175My least favourite treat was the Black pepper beef tendon crisp as I found it a tad bit too oily and perhaps one dimensional in flavour compared to the other dishes.P1150178The finale to wash it all down was a Freeze filtered tomato water and basil acid in a straw served in a test tube. A very refreshing shot concluding the first segment of the meal. My tastebuds were now stimulated and impatiently waiting for the main courses.P1150179The first course of the evening, Spot Prawn, oba, soy, sudachi was visually beautiful, light and most importantly delicious. The sweet and creamy Japanese spot prawn (or amaebi) was delicately balanced against the minty oba (shiso leaf) velouté and shavings of the Japanese citrus, sudachi. The prawn cracker provided that necessary textural contrast. Perfect use of the produce and ingredients.P1150181The next course of the Cauliflower, Mrs Potter’s cauliflower cheese, truffle was inspired by Clift’s mum. The dish comprised of truffle infused milk, micro cauliflower, cep and cauliflower chips, shimeji mushrooms, and sprouting tendrils. A heart warming dish with an irresistable aroma. I’m sure his mother would approve of this dish. I certainly did.

P1150185Third course of the Foie gras, cherry, spices, cocoa,  served with home made bircher muesli and apple blossom incorporated a new technique previously alien to me. The mixture of the cocoa nibs, butter and spices had 20,000 sound waves per second passed through it to create a perfect blend and interesting texture with the foie gras. The classic combination of the cherry and foie gras worked well with the slightly bitter cocoa and spices, making the flavours here more interesting to a tried and tested dish. P1150186The wine of the evening was without a shadow of a doubt the 2009 Toolangi Denton, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria. Grown across at Yarra Glen and vintaged across at Oakridge, this was a very elegant style of chardonnay, with gentle mineral complexity and fragrant peach flavour. Sommelier Marcus Boyle was generous enough to offer this beautiful wine by the glass to go with the next course.

P1150188The fish course of the evening, sourced from Brittany which despite its complexity appeared deceivingly simple, was the Monkfish, apple, fennel, amaranth, walnut milk. The fish cooked sous-vide was plump and moist. I enjoyed the intense sweet flavour from the fennel pollen dusted over the fish and the acidity of the compressed granny smith apple juice. The slight pepperiness and nuttiness from the amaranth and walnut milk completed this dish.

P1150193Next up was Scampi fry, chefs interpretation of his favourite pub dish. The langoustine sourced from Western Australia was juicy and substantial, and the caper / cornichon mayonnaise worked well. It was perhaps not the most exciting dish that evening in terms of flavour.P1150194A true authentic Sicilian wine, 2010 Azienda Agricola Cos Pithos, Italy to go with the next course. Lovely floral notes and cranberry flavours, with a minerally acid finish.

P1150198The next dish took me back to my home in Spain. Almost everything from the Iberico pork belly, cod cheeks, beans, wild herbs was sourced from Spain; the Iberico ham from Cinco Jotas, arguably one of the finest Jamonero in Jabugo, the Iberico pork belly and even the cod cheeks from Barcelona! The culmination of the salty cod, fatty pork belly, black beans and the acidity of the tomato water was just spot on.

P1150201For our last savoury course we had Venison, onion nettle, salsify. The venison sourced from New Zealand as expected was cooked pink, the way it should be, and what amazed me most was the way in which the venison was caught. Apparently a helicopter is used in order to gain the advantage of surprise (perhaps Deer are a little on the deaf side) to ensure the animal did not tense up, thereby spoiling the quality of the meat (Not sure whether it really made a difference but it certainly tasted good). The onion ring covered in nettle was crispy and unique, although perhaps slightly overwhelming in flavour.

P1150205The cheese of the day, a daily creation from the pastry kitchen was the Monte Nebro, a tangy and floral Spanish goats cheese, served with preserved artichoke and covered with some more delicious.P1150207Similar to the round of amuse bouche, we had some more tasty surprises prior to the two dessert courses. First up was Pineapple meteorite which was simply superb. Perfect balance of sweet and tartness from the chocolate and pineapple, and a refreshing act to follow the cheese course.

P1150211Some Cheesecake prescription for the addicts, which were actually dehydrated cheesecakes made to look like pills. I always enjoy a bit of humour!

P1150213A touch of Clift’s roots with the Strawberries and cream Brighton rock. If you grew up in England you would have come across these ‘Rock’ candies at most seaside resorts, but rather than the traditional peppermint or spearmint flavour, it was replaced by another classic English flavour combination of strawberries and cream.

P1150219Clift’s take on the local ice cream sandwich, Dehydrated milk and guava sandwich.

P1150223 A wholly edible Fizz Bomb that literally fizzed and cleansed your palate, preparing you for the next course. Very creative and brought a smile to both myself and my friend. We felt like kids but it was fun!

P1150226The last stretch of our meal began with Pumpkin and Mandarin. The butternut was cooked in a mandarin juice and served with a mandarin and pumpking sorbet on a bed of pumpkin seeds, which bizzarely went well together.P1150228The finale of the White chocolate and beer. The pillar of airy goodness was made using dark beer from Treviso, Italy, and served on a bed of caramelised white chocolate. Light, airy and very unique. I’ve (surprisingly!) tried white chocolate and beer combination before but unlike the last experience, this one was delicious and a perfect way to end the evening.P1150230We sipped on a delicious glass of Ron Zacapa as we chatted with Chef Clift whilst we were waiting for our cab back to “civilisation”. As I glanced at my friend who was in the midst of showering Clift with praises, I think it was fair to say that the meal was a success. On a personal level I could relate to all the dishes because of my background, having lived in the UK, Spain and S.E. Asia, including Singapore, for a significant part of my life. Clift’s food was a juxtaposition of whimsical presentation and serious cooking; something many chefs have difficulty in balancing, yet he has got it spot on. What’s more, he made it look easy! However, given his experience and technical finesse, I have no doubt that countless hours of sweat and hard work has got him where he is today. I found it scandalous that they had been omitted from the inaugural San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best guide in 2013; thank god this injustice has since been rectified in the 2014 ceremony. I truly hope that his move and expansion at the new premise will not compromise the quality of cooking.