Look for the heritage building in the heart of Singapore’s Clarke Quay and you cannot miss VLV Singapore. Refurbished with a princely sum, the building houses a stylish modern Chinese restaurant and a plush ultra-lounge inside. Outside is an alfresco courtyard bar with live music and the VLV Riverside, a dining enclave serving fresh seafood. It is a lovely setting, fronting the historic Singapore River.
The lovely river front ambience and the excellent service (based on my previous four dining experiences at VLV) had already raised my expectation for a great zi char experience. Imagine a zi char that is specially curated by none other than VLV’s executive chef Martin Foo, winner of the Chef of the Year Award in the inaugural Best Asian Restaurants Awards event organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.
I was raring to discover how this VLV’s zi char à la Martin Foo comes up against this ubiquitous food culture in Singapore. For the benefit of my non-Singaporean friends, zi char (煮炒 in the Hokkien dialect for “cook and fry”) food stalls provide wallet-friendly dishes which are similar to home-cooked meals.
This plate of Crispy Bull Frog with Ginger came creatively plated. The dish is a great appetiser for me but I had a little concern. My wife does not eat frog. Period. I had tried many a time to assure her that its meat is finer than chicken and is tastier too. I had even shown her that frog, which in Chinese characters田雞, literally mean “rice field chicken” and thus is premium chicken! It didn’t work. But ginger is her perennial favourite. And as a bonus, the ginger came in the form of long thin slices and was deep fried to perfection. All the five of us liked the ginger crisps (chips to my American friends) and I had an additional share of the tasty “rice field chicken”. Now I have chef Martin to thank for. I can now order this frog dish when I dine with my wife!
Next came the Stir Fried Pork Belly with Salted Fish consisting of thinly sliced pork belly with salted fish. As a gesture of good neighbourliness, I restrict the frying of salted fish at home due to its “unfriendly” aroma. And when I wanted to have salted fish dishes, I eat out. Eating rice with them is very appetising. Generally, dishes cooked with salted fish are on the saltier side and they pair well with cold beer or rice.
I hope to find my other favourite dish added to the menu – Minced Pork Steamed with Salted Fish and julienned ginger (Ideally using pork that is minced by chopping and not machine-minced & the salted fish is the Kuantan ‘mooi heung’ variety.).
This Stir fried Sambal Prawn with Petai dish stirs up fond memories of my Mom, who though a thoroughbred Teochew, has acquired the taste for petai (stink bean) in her later years for its many health benefits. The prawns used in the dish here are the best I have tasted in a zi char and with the right spiciness. I am keeping this dish in my mind for my next Family Togetherness dinner. Like the salted fish dish, this dish goes well with rice.
The Crackling Pork Belly Ginger Scallion XO Noodles come fried in the traditional pork lard. It has good wok hei in the best of Cantonese-style frying. Die-hard foodies in this genre could find this dish hard to resist!
It is my first time tasting this Roasted Truffle London Duck creation by chef Martin. His signature VLV Peking Duck creation uses only select 45-day-old duck. I have introduced this alternative to friends and the more health-conscious ones amongst them like the leaner duck used. My new-duck-loving friend actually said this…”the duck could do with more fat, like those at London Fat Duck.” I agree with her on this point. I am neutral to OK with truffle. It does carry a sense of food snobbery I think. C’est la vie
This quintessential dish Congee with Flower Clam & Prawn is one where we gave a unanimous thumbs up. The fresh prawns and the flower clams imparted their umami to produce a sweetness in the congee. By itself it can be a meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner! And for the clubbers, it makes a great supper. Delicious to the last mouthful!
The Chairman’s Crab ~ Steamed Sri Lankan Crab with Bonito Egg White has to be the best. And I am saving the best for last, this pièce de résistance culinary masterpiece of VLV’s zi char. The one kilogramme crab is as fresh as it can get on a restaurant table. Steamed uniquely in the style of VLV, the crab was presented with the dashi-infused egg white silky smooth, with toppings of bonito flakes and ikura. An A* creation. I think my friend quoted me at the end of the dinner – “After eating this zi char, how to eat any other zi char?”
There is no dessert item. I think VLV’s osmanthus jelly which I have enjoyed before, will make a perfect wrapping up for this extraordinary great zi char experience…in the heart of Clarke Quay. Certainly VLV is scaling greater heights and forging ahead – as it slogan proclaims: VLV Singapore – the global destination for lifestyle connoisseurs.
You can extend your experience at the Alfresco bar and relax over a drink or two:
It’s time to experience this uniquely Singapore zi char style food and experience “Possibly The Best Zi Char in Singapore.”
Reservations: +65 6661 0197
3A River Valley Road #01-02 Singapore 179020
*All images courtesy of Hearted Moments Photography