Singapore’s Best Lo Hei Restaurants

Just when you thought you could get back on track with that newly-acquired gym membership, along comes Chinese New Year with a clang. Never one to arrive quietly, Spring Festival ushers in the Year of the Dragon with loads of choices for (ahem) tossing your yu sheng salad. After checking out an endless parade of delicious raw fish and vegetables, we narrow it down to four picks for a stellar reunion dinner.

Cherry Garden
5/F Mandarin Oriental Singapore, 5 Raffles Ave., 6885-3538.
The main event: Executive chef Hiew Gun Khong is the proud creator of our favorite rendition so far. Aside from the customary pomelo sacs, dried orange peel and winter melon, chef Hiew’s Triumph Yu Sheng (from $118, available for dine-in and takeaway) is a winning recipe of julienned cucumber, beetroot, carrot, red cabbage and geoduck. Components such as crispy sweet potato strips, crushed peanuts and sesame seeds add an extra loud crunch, while the dark pink-hued preserved roselle adds a gorgeous color to the plate and a lightly-sweet surprise. The finishing touch brings the entire dish together wonderfully: A duo of house made sauces, sweet and sour, as well as a blended olive oil and spring onion. You can even customize it by adding sliced abalone ($68), salmon roe ($48) Hokkaido surf clams ($20) and crispy fish skin ($12).
Other highlights: A contemporary take on wok-fried spare ribs, in a chocolate-Mandarin orange sauce, and a more traditional braised baby abalone with dried oysters, fish maw, pork trotters, sea cucumber and mushrooms in a rich brown sauce.
To end: If you want something sweet, try the steamed red bean and nian gao layer cake ($26) and signature nian gao dumplings stuffed with macadamia nuts and coconut crumbs ($38). Or grab a box of coconut and pineapple sable cookies to munch on at home ($42).

Min Jiang
Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Rd., 6730-1704.
, Singapore’s Best Lo Hei RestaurantsThe main event: Try as we might, we couldn’t get the chefs to divulge what goes into the top-secret sauce that’s drizzled onto the mountainous heap of fresh seafood and veggies. What we do know is that Min Jiang’s ichiban version uses hamachi (yellow tail), tobiko (flying fish roe), wasabi ebiko (prawn roe), seaweed, rocket, lettuce, shredded red and white carrots, jellyfish, pomelo and Buddha’s hand citron ($108). A medley of pine nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, homemade taro and sweet potato sticks makes for the perfect textural contrast, while a liberal squeeze of lime juice provides that extra tang to counter the overall sweetness.
Other highlights: Noteworthy mentions include braised savoy cabbage-wrapped chicken, stuffed with superior shark’s fin and Chinese ham, sprinkled with plump wolf berries ($248) and Golden Fortune Treasures Egg ($198). The latter is a stunning egg-shaped centerpiece covered in gold foil. When its salt crust is cracked open, it reveals whole abalone, dried scallops and oysters, pork knuckles and mushrooms encased within a lotus leaf wrapper.
To end: Instead of the conventional sticky cake, an absolute must-have is the mango-pomelo and durian pudding prosperity fish ($88). Not only is it pretty (yes, we’re superficial like that), it is also a scrumptiously light alternative to heavy nian gao.

Peony Jade Restaurant
M Level Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Rd., 6276-9138.
The main event: Without a doubt, chef Ryan Shiu’s rainbow raw fish (from $188) is, Singapore’s Best Lo Hei Restaurants tailor-made for all the seafood addicts out there. The stunning array of Atlantic salmon, lobster, tuna, ikan parang, sweet ebi, cuttlefish, fish stomach and Sultan fish mingles with the usual suspects, and is dressed with yuzu honey and plum sauce resulting in a nectarous jumble of fresh, citrus and sweet flavors.
Other highlights: Dragons may be completely fictional, but Royale Dragon Pearls ($388) certainly aren’t. Fine, it’s only dragon-related by name, but it’s divine. Poached chunks of Australian lobster topped with bird’s nest rest on smooth pumpkin puree, while a mix of strawberries and mangoes is piled atop chilled lobster flesh, garnished with shavings of black truffle. 
To end: If you’ve got a second stomach that’s reserved solely for dessert, then theirs should really resonate with you. The Rabbit Fortune gift set ($88) features painstakingly-crafted rabbit-shaped pastries made with the same casing as snow skin moon cakes that hide Peony Jade’s popular salted egg yolk custard filling. Durian lovers will enjoy a multi-tiered Gold Bar Nian Gao ($68), composed of Mao Shan Wang pulp and sheets of sticky cake.

Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant
G/F PARKROYAL on Beach Road, 7500 Beach Rd., 6505-5722.
, Singapore’s Best Lo Hei RestaurantsThe main event: Executive chefs Zeng Feng and James Yau have settled on mushrooms as their featured ingredient. While their Golden Longevity Yusheng (from $70, also available for takeaway) has its fair share of sliced salmon and shredded vegetables, its true appeal lies in the combination of sweet mangoes and papayas that heighten the earthy flavor of deep fried enoki and hajime mushrooms. The curls of crispy fish skin also serve as a satisfying crunch.
Other highlights: A delectable offering for the celebratory season is the Sichuan claypot of treasures (from $268), which includes a mixture of braised pork knuckles, shark’s fin, abalone, sea cucumber, dried oysters, soy chicken, duck, conpoy, yam, white radish, red dates and mushrooms.
To end: Take home their Four Seasons Harmony box ($38.80), which contains a colorful hodgepodge of four different cakes. Aside from the traditional nian gao, there are red bean with red dates, carrot cake with waxed meat and conpoy and sugarcane with water chestnuts (our personal choice).

To the Rescue
If you’ve yet to buy all the CNY goodies that are absolutely vital this time of year, do what we do and head to the food fair at Takashimaya Square (B2 Takashimaya Shopping Centre, 391 Orchard Rd., 6506-0461). This annual fixture is a godsend for us procrastinators, with a vast collection of pineapple tarts, bak kwa and other snacks (and samples too). Head down now through Feb 1, 10am-9.30pm.