Grand Mandarin: I'm so fancy

Grand Mandarin, located in a inconspicuous building just off Outram Park MRT (inside joke: take heed that this IS in fact the nearest mrt station to the restaurant) houses a somewhat dated, dark and sophisticated dining room serving elaborate Chinese dishes that appeal the mid-tier diners and up. If you're got money to splurge and want to avoid the usual suspects hailing from large culinary groups, then Grand Mandarin would be a good pick of an underdog.

Take for example the empura fish that swims with such a lavish aura around it, as if it has come to self-awareness of it's prized existence from watching itself on television re-runs. The price on its' head escalating above the mortal thousands. I imagine the creamy sweetness of its flesh in my mouth and swiftly shut it down. It's not something worth dreaming about...

For the common folk, like me, Grand Mandarin does offer a wide range of impeccable Cantonese cuisine ranging from the customary dim sum to the homely doubled boiled soups and finally to the more extravagant roast duck. And just like so many new restaurants, the Grand Mandarin isn't strong across the board; for starters, service can be lackadaisical and not exactly polished. Requests for tea top-ups were forgotten and dirty plates not cleared with structured procession. The appetizers got the ball rolling with a delectable gleaming Deep Fried Prawn coated with creme lemon sauce ($32++ per order),  earning points for its unparalleled flavor combination. The prawn still retaining a nice bite, melded well with the welcome rays of sunshine derived from the lemon sauce. The rest of the items, I was disagreeable with there after. Famous as it is, the Honey Glazed Barbecued Pork Loin ($15++ per order) with its pudgy rings of uncaramelized sugar on its exterior went down with a fight, the crunch exposing a figurative circle of refined white sugar that was slow to disintegrate compared to the pork loin that was melt-in-your-mouth tender - an addition that I found added unnecessary heft and calories to the dish. The Crispy Soft Shell Crab coated with Chicken Floss and Curry Leaves ($18++ per order) was a tad too sweet for my liking, the inclusion of curry leaves not providing any flavor profile assistance to the dish.

The Double-boiled chicken soup with cordycep flower ($9++ per person) was pedestrian with a general lack of seasoning. Though, I did enjoy the cordycep flowers which provided a crisp and chewy factor.

Another dish that didn't knock my socks off was the Steamed Silver Cod with pink ginger topping in bonito sauce ($22++ per person). Yes, the cod was supple and fresh, but the random jolts of piquant cured ginger layered like a mossy green carpet on a polished parquet floor was again haphazard and excessive. The bonito sauce working wonders to revive the umami of the rather neutral tasting steamed cod. I would suggest making a beeline for the baked version with lemongrass infusion sauce instead.

Tofu with crabmeat and egg white in carrot broth ($24++ per order) caused many quizzical looks round the table as the use of firm tofu failed to accentuate the luscious qualities of the crabmeat and eggwhite mixture. 

A quintessential dish at every Cantonese food fest would be the roasted duck. Here at the Grand Mandarin, things are kicked up a notch with their Roasted Duck with Perigord Truffle ($28++ per order). At the very mention of truffle, I was afraid of the assault on the taste buds, however, contrary to that, my first bite had me on a wild goose chase for the lingering note of truffle. None. Where is it? I felt cheated.

The last dish on the tasting menu was a Stir fried Crystal Vermicelli with Pork Collar in X.O. chili sauce ($22++ per order), an adventurous carb offering with short plump strands of vermicelli tossed in a divine sauce forming the base of a bejeweled bowl of ingredients. The pork collar came in the form of decadent silvers of pearlescent fatty meat perfectly cooked and curled into submission. I revelled in the successful execution of the dish. 

Liu Sha Baos were our next order of business. Fluffy balls encapsulating a torrent of sickly sweet salted egg yolk custard that flows out without much persuasion. Still, Mouth Restaurant's version has stolen my heart.

A more worldly dessert rounds up the meal. The Refreshing Green Apple Jelly with Lime Sorbet ($8 per serve) with it's tangy notes and cold construction had its desired felicitous effects and I greedily slurped up the stray bits of aloe vera earnestly. Definitely a humble but sensuous way to end the meal.
Notably, Grand Mandarin prides itself on being one the few solo establishments devoid of links to the big leagues. And serving such cuisine in Singapore, it certainly makes it a dime in a dozen. That being said, food standards with its price relativity leave much to be desired from this restaurant and unless improvements be made to befit the slightly heftier pricing, clients are likely to pack up and go after a one time experience.

Grand Mandarin
325 New Bridge Road
#01/02-00 S(088760)
t: 6222 3355

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