It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype over foreign celebrity chefs that we sometimes forget our local stars. Case in point: Chinese food personality Tan Yong Hua’s out-of-the-way Restaurant HOME – proffering gussied up renditions of mostly heritage Cantonese classics and nostalgia-induced recipes – which recently opened at The Rail Mall and seems hard-pressed to reach its 90-seat capacity, despite the award-winning chef’s 20 years of experience at several top restaurants in town.
That may change soon, given the news of Tan’s victory on Iron Chef Thailand in a Chinese cuisine cook-off. The chef’s smiling visage is now plastered on the glass doors, looming larger than life over diners, with news articles and photos taken with famous names decorating the otherwise unremarkable interior.
Family-style sharing of dishes is the way to play at HOME – to get a range of Tan’s best offerings, try his seven-course Orchid menu ($186/four people). The meal kicks off with a serving of a Tan speciality, lychee wood-barbecued peking duck ($38/ half, $68/whole) – it’s flavourful, with an alluringly crispy and deep golden brown duck skin that’s dipped in sugar, but far from some of the best, melt-in-your-mouth renditions we’ve tried elsewhere.
Another duck dish later in the meal was even more unsuccessful – deep-fried with dried chili and roasted mince garlic, the meat was dry, tough and salty to the point of being unpalatable.
The pan-fried pork spare ribs in coffee sauce were the highlight of the chef’s menu – lightly sprinkled with almonds, the sweet, crunchy exterior with a hint of bitterness yielded moist, soft meat. Complex but not complicated.
Tan’s much-vaunted braised duo rice vermicelli presented in an O Ba leaf was desperately one-dimensional in both texture and flavour. A dessert of chilled roselle flower jelly made for a refreshing respite, but we’re sitting on the fence when it comes to the worrying consistency of the food and service – HOME’s yet to convince us of the familiar comforts so richly promised. Lee Min Kok
Orchid menu $186/four people.
|Venue name:||Restaurant Home||Contact:|
The Rail Mall
392 Upper Bukit Timah Rd
|Opening hours:||Daily noon-3pm, 6-11pm|