Summer Pavilion has been my pick for the top Chinese restaurant in Singapore for a long time, even before Michelin was a twinkling in the Singapore Tourism Board’s eye. (It currently has one star.) I grew up eating in Chinese restaurants long before I set foot in a European fine-dining restaurants, but the consistency of Summer Pavilion’s excellence has always impressed me more than its hotel/corporate competition. I’ve had stunning execution of classic dishes at many, but there is always an intelligent and forward-thinking touch at Summer Pavilion.
I recently had an incredible dim-sum meal there this week that cut through my recently apathy towards blogging:
- We had lychee-oolong tea from Taiwan, which was flavored with “The Eight Treasures”
- Congee with fish slices
- It was made with red snapper, a firm neutral-tasting fish that would be seen as a blank canvas for chefs, except for a delicious and visually appealling gelatinous red skin, rather than offcuts or snakehead (toman) fish which is too rough. The thoroughly crisped dough was a nice different touch from the usual soggy cut youtiao.
- Steamed rice skin roll, shredded chicken, mushroom, ginger, spring onion
- I thought this was an amazing dish. Instead of the usual rice skin roll (changfen) with a mix-and-match meat filling, this was a harmonious composition of silky rice skin, the piquant aroma of shallot oil, and a mix of textures from both vegetables and meats. The shallot oil was a wonderful companion to the light soy that usually goes with changfen.
- Steamed vegetarian dumpling, lily bulbs, water chestnut, sweet pea, mushroom, preserved vegetable
- I decided to go with dumplings primarily for lunch. I would not have ordered this, had it not been for the mention of lily bulbs, which is an absolute favorite ingredient of mine. The dumpling, bursting with sweet flavors, was a wonderful summary of the best of nature’s light ingredients.
- Steamed prawn and bamboo-shoot dumpling
- This “har gow”, had a juicy and firm prawn, well coated with a crystal translucent skin. The bamboo shoot diversified the crunchy prawn texture.
- Steamed lobster, fungus, onions and carrot dumpling
- Reprise of har gow with a different ingredients – again, juicy and firm.
- Baked abalone puff, assorted mushrooms, carrot, onions
- A perfectly tender abalone, with the concentrated mollusc taste, on a sweet bed of pastry, with textural contrast from chopped mushrooms. This was a perfect bite, served at a perfect temperature.
- Chilled aloe vera, kiwi, strawberries, lime juice
- Chilled cream of sago, mango, pomelo
The meal ended up being comparatively short at an hour, but what a meal! I conveyed my feelings to the server, who was justly proud of the chef’s cuisine and the restaurant’s Michelin star, and this meal reminded me again how brevity and a few excellent courses can form an indelible culinary memory.