The hype: Xin Divine brings modern Chinese cuisine to Duxton Hill, in a three-storey shophouse unit with an elegant aesthetic to match. The concept is a branch-off from owner Jolin Lee’s first business—Divine Palate, a bespoke private fine dining business. At its Duxton Hill shophouse, Lee and her team of chefs whip up exquisitely plated dishes that will completely change your impression of Chinese cuisine.
The vibe: From the get go, Xin Divine exudes effortless elegance. But don’t let that scare you off; the chic white table settings and cushioned chairs in powder blue are inviting, and create the perfect setting for a cozy lunch or tea with your mates. High ceilings and arched windows make the place bright and airy; a private dining room that seats 18 even has its own VIP entrance. The restaurant occupies the upper two floors, while the ground floor is home to sister entity Divine Bar.
The food: Enter the dream team of culinary experts—Xin Divine’s three head chefs combine their individual expertise in Szechuan, Cantonese and French cuisines for a refreshing new take on Chinese food. Every dish is inspired, from its fine-dining approved plating to the artful fusion of international styles and ingredients, and truly there is nothing on the menu that will disappoint.
Start your meal with the Egg Royal amuse-bouche, a silky Cantonese steamed egg custard served on the house, with a jelly-like gelee made from prawn head stock that adds a pop of flavor to an otherwise regular egg dish. Next, we’d recommend the Szechuan Style Tortellini ($18), which substitutes gyoza skin for wanton, and is topped with Szechuan chilli oil made into a foam—so you get the kick of the chilli without the greasy aftertaste.
What’s a Chinese restaurant without a soup? For something unique, there’s the Angelica Roots Porcini Mushroom Broth ($16) that combines four different types of mushroom—fresh shiitake, dried Chinese mushrooms, white button mushrooms, and a foamy porcini espuma done the French way.
The French influences show also in the Poulet De Bresse ($35)—essentially French “drunken chicken” marinated in Nu Er Hong Chinese wine. The chicken is sous vide before being wrapped with foie gras and coated in tempura batter, then deep-fried for an exotic, boozy finish. If you prefer your mains from the sea, order the Chilean Seabass ($32), which comes drenched in sour and spicy soup, and topped with deep-fried enoki for that welcome crunch.
Other must-try dishes include the Chinese Polenta ($8)—a porridge-like treat of thinner consistency, made from millet and grits cooked in chicken stock and steamed pumpkin; the XO Carrot Cake XO ($12); and the Szechuan Chicken Karaage ($16), a classic dish with Japanese karaage twice-fried to maintain the juiciness of the chicken. The latter two are available as bar bites at Divine Bar as well.
For dessert, keep it simple with a palate-cleansing Osmanthus Sphere ($12), an orb of chilled winter melon and rock sugar soup sprinkled with gold flakes for the requisite razzle-dazzle.
The drinks: Because Lee herself is a wine enthusiast, you’ll find over 200 labels of wines in the restaurant’s adjoining wine cellar. Prices start at $22 for a glass and $68 by the bottle, while house pours down at Divine Bar start from $12. Otherwise, there’s the selection of Chinese teas (think Hawthorn, Roselle and Chrysanthemum for starters) from $8-$12, for anyone who wants to keep drinks old-school to pair with a very modern meal.
Why you’ll be back: We do say this a lot, but it’s Chinese cuisine like you’ve never tasted it. If you’ve ever found yourself dreading the idea of a Chinese meal (because it’s bland, boring or predictable), make a trip down to Xin Divine for some proper culinary creativity, food from the heart, and a classy new space to bring the rest of the family back to next time.