Thursday, March 31, 2011

Majestic Restaurant: Still good? Or getting old?

Chef Yong Bing Ngen is one of the local celebrity chefs. I have followed his cooking from his days helming Hai Tien Lo and Jade to now at the Majestic. My last visit was some 4 years ago, and I remembered the cuisine to be excellent. I don't know why I did not think of returning to the restaurant these years, such is the availability of choice in Singapore, even good restaurants are not frequented by those who love the food. But I digress. I returned recently...just before my trip to Hong Kong, so chronologically, this post is to have been the Grand Hyatt Dim Sum meal I posted yesterday.

Chef Yong is owner and chef of the restaurant, tucked within the electic and hip New Majestic Hotel at the artsy Bukit Pasoh area, just a stone throw's away from the traditional Chinatown.

We started with the appetizer platter of 4 of their most popular starters:

From top, clockwise: the sio bak, sharks fin with scrambled eggs, soft shelled crab, and wasabi prawns. The platter is good, and there is nothing to really complain about for it was well cooked, and tasted good. But I felt it did not soar to exhibit the deftness and creativity of the chef. I did not feel the spark of genius I had warmed up to in my last visit.

White asparagus was already in season, and we tried the giant asparagus.

I am a great fan of the huge Konig Spargel in Germany, and indeed this was the season. The asparagus served today at Majestic was tender, and not as fibrous. The cooking was milder than I would have liked, though this probably allowed the flavour of the asparagus to peek through. Another good, but not spectacular dish for me.

The beef tenderloin, pan seared lightly was next:

The beef was tender enough, and cooked just right - medium rare inside. Somehow the same feeling I had with the other dishes surfaced again. Competently cooked, tastes good, but no spark which I had come to expect coming out of Chef Yong's kitchen.

The main lobster noodles were next.

The same thread continues. The lobster, no doubt the fleshy Maine lobster, imported from the US or Canada was rather small. As there were three of us lunching that day, it was cut into thirds, and cooked with the noodles. The noodles were braised egg noodles, and was rather tasty - having absorbed the braising liquid and had a good flavour of crustacean. But I felt the noodles were slightly overcooked, as it was served very soft that all the texture and bite had left it. The lobster too, I felt was a tad over cooked.

For dessert, I had the durian ice cream in a deep fried crispy batter:

The novelty of fried ice cream is not quite there anymore, but this was a dish created during Majestic's heyday. And it still shines. The durian ice-cream was nice, rich, and just right in sweetness. The batter was light, and very crisp, and provided nice contrast to the ice-cream...not only in the texture: smooth, creamy vs crisp, but also in heat/cold. Nice.

Overall, this was a nice meal, but I felt a little let down. Perhaps I had worked up my anticipation of this meal due to my good memory of this restaurant from years ago. But I suspect, Chef Yong has perhaps a bit weary...perhaps burning out, and it shows in the lack of brilliance in the food. I hope he is just stuck in a rut which he will rise from soon, for it is a shame to see a talent like his go to mediocre.

Majestic Restaurant
New Majestic Hotel
31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore 089845

Tel: [65] 6511 4718
Fax: [65] 6222 3379
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