If you’re old enough, you might remember the giant neon signboards that fronted the Furama RiverFront hotel annexe, advertising its somewhat seedy entertainment options. After some extensive refurbishment, the [email protected] has recently undergone a complete transformation and now offers shopping, dining and kid-friendly entertainment options.
The newly opened Orient Palace is the latest addition and touts itself as a first-of-its-kind one-stop destination for dining, spa and even live entertainment. Occupying 26,000 square feet, the restaurant is prominently situated on the first floor of the building and comes with a stage where a band provides live entertainment nightly.
The restaurant section of Orient Palace prides itself on serving Nanyang-style cuisine. What exactly is “Nanyang-style” cuisine, you might ask. Put simply, it is the type of food we eat right here in Singapore but known to overseas visitors, especially from China, as food from Nanyang i.e. Southeast Asia.
The food at Orient Palace is no ordinary hawker fare though. Instead, Orient Palace is the type of place where you may host an overseas visitor with little time and yet would like to try the various delicacies Singapore has to offer. Typically, you might have to bring your visitor to the seafood restaurants at East Coast Park for the famed Chilli Crab, or Balestier Road for Bak Kut Teh, etc. Orient Palace seeks to bring together under one roof several of our well-known local delicacies so that you really only need to bring your visitor to one destination.
The restaurant is divided into different ‘stalls’ with each section helmed by its own head chef who is an expert in that particular cuisine. It evokes a sense of a Chinese-style Marché and is certainly a unique concept for a Chinese restaurant.
The section that commands your attention the moment you step into the restaurant is the charcoal pit area. This is where the restaurant owners are proudly seeking to revive the lost art of charcoal spit-roasting and where whole suckling pigs are expertly roasted to perfection through careful control of the heat.
The moment of truth comes as the chef is about to chop up the suckling pig. The sound of the knife as it first makes contact with the skin will tell us whether we are in for a treat. As he sinks his knife into the crispy skin, the crackling sound is so deeply satisfying it heightens our sense of anticipation immediately. We can’t wait to make that same crunching sound in our mouths.
Sometimes with roast pork, not every piece is crispy due to the uneven application of heat. This is certainly not the case here. Every single piece of crackling is wonderfully thin and crispy. When you order the Traditional Charcoal Roasted Crispy Suckling Pig, which you really should since it is not commonly found elsewhere, skip the sweet sauce that accompanies the dish. The suckling pig has already been marinated in special homemade sauces and by not drowning the meat in more sauce, you get to really appreciate the complexity of the flavours and especially its smoky taste.
We were in for a treat as we got to try the Braised Whole 24-Head Middle Eastern Dried Abalone with Mushroom and Vegetables. The dried abalone used is of the highest grade; it is first soaked in water for a day, and then braised for at least 48 hours to achieve a smooth and springy texture. Such quality of abalone could easily cost S$200 to S$300 elsewhere. For its Grand Opening Promotion, Orient Palace is offering its La Mian with Braised Whole 24-Head Middle Eastern Dried Abalone (Dry) at just S$58 (usual price: S$98). The promotion is available from 1 to 30 November 2017.
Taking pride of place in the seafood section is a massive giant grouper that weighs a whopping 41kg! This monster of a fish is highly prized (and also extremely pricey) and Orient Palace is apparently one of the few places outside of China to serve this delicacy. The Giant Grouper Porridge with Skin is cooked by infusing the rice in the broth using the fish’s bone and simmered for four hours. The porridge is interestingly served in a potpourri container complete with its own tea candle to ensure that it stays warm, just how porridge should be.
I am not a huge fan of chilli crab, but only because of the invariable mess I would make with the chilli crab sauce all over my hands and clothes. The Nanyang Steamed Crab with Chilli Dip served here was therefore perfect as the crab is served separately from the chilli dip. Orient Palace is so confident of the freshness of its crabs that it is served steamed, and you know only the freshest seafood is reserved for steaming where no sauce can mask any hint of it being past its prime. I must say the crabs served here tasted fresher than any I’ve had elsewhere.
The highlight of the evening for me was the deceptively simple looking Premium Dragon Rib Bak Kut Teh. This was not your typical peppery run-of-the-mill variety, however. The soup comes served with sea cucumber and king garoupa fish maw. Not only do these ingredients add a different dimension to the taste, they are also full of protein and collagen to help nourish the skin and improve blood circulation. The use of premium dragon rib meant that the meat falls off the bone effortlessly. Post-clubbing nourishment has just gone up several notches of lux.
If at the end of it all you can still find space in your stomach, the Chendol Panna Cotta offers an interesting east-meets-west take on dessert, with the smoothness of the panna cotta blending nicely with the chendol jelly and Azuki beans.
After you’ve blissfully entered into a food coma, you can adjourn to Spa Nes on Level 2 where they offer Southeast Asian healing therapies, luxurious spa facials and polishes, body massages, TCM consultation and even barber services. Their signature Singapura massage uses orchid essential oils and techniques inspired by Swedish, Thai and Chinese acupressure massage styles.
P.S. No service charge at Orient Palace.
Orient Palace & Spa Nes
Furama Riverfront, 407 Havelock Road,
Annex Building, Level 1
Tel: +65 69318888
Operating hours: Monday – Friday and Sunday: 11.30am – 3pm; 5.30pm – 1am; Saturday and Eve of Public Holidays: 11.30am – 3pm; 5.30pm – 2am