Spring

Restaurants, Chinese Raffles Place
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Spring

Restaurantsstandorfallononesimplepremise: consistentlygoodfood.Thebellsandwhistles–chandeliers, cutlery, glossymenusandstarchedtablelinen–arewelcomedistractions, butnotattheexpenseofthefood.It’sasimplerealitythattoomanyrestaurantsstillfailtograsp.Becausethemoresensoryhooplaarestauranttriestopileon, themorepressureitputsonthekitchentodeliverthegoods.Springwalksthistightropeawkwardly, teeteringattimes, butrecoveringitsbalanceatcrucialmoments.ThesettingrecallsaCrouchingTigertheme, withoriginal19th-centuryhighwalls, Chinesegabledroofs, anexpansivecourtyardandthewhisperofhistoryseepingfrombeneaththecoatoffreshpaint.Insidethetwo-storeyhouse(sadlynottheoriginal, butrebuiltinthelate1990s), hardwoodfloors, apastelpalette, garishyellowtablecloths, andamish-mashcollectionofstonehorsesandChinesechaisesareasomewhatblandbackgroundforChefLinZhi’scompactsouthernChinesedishes.Aquickscanofthemenurevealssomeintriguingitems, includingfriedprawnsmarinatedinFuzhoutea, cuminflavouredlambribsandapotofbraisedpigstrotterswithduck, chickenandmushrooms.Butwhat’sannoyingfromtheoutsetishowthestafftriestosteerthedinerawayfromthesedishesandtowardexpensiveitemslikelobsterandgeoduckclams.Ononevisit, thewaitresscalmlyrecommendedthefatttiewcheong(Buddhajumpsoverthewall-picturedabove)at$98aserving, whenI’dalreadyindicatedwejustwantedasimplesoup.Wegotsoupanyway, assmallcomplimentarybowlsofclear, sweetish, saltyconsomméarrivedatthetablewithasingle, snowy-whitefishballfloatingdecorativelyinthemidst.Thefishpastewasalittletoosoftformytaste, butthepurityofthestockheldpromisefortherestofthemeal.Butherethekitchen’sinconsistencyisalittleodd, becausewhilesomeofthefoodwasoutstanding, theoccasionaldishshowedcarelessnessandinattentionatthestove;thoughIsuspectthefaultlieswiththecalibreofthelinecooks.Forinstance, thebittergourdsoup–alightandsmoothjadepuréestreakedwithribbonsofeggwhiteandtinyshredsofscallops–wonplaudits.Itwillnotbetoeveryone’staste, butIloveditsvividlygreenbitterness.Yetthekitchenthatproducedsuchavelvety, subtlesoupwasalsoresponsibleforstir-friedkailanovercookedtosuchanextentthatthevegetableswerereducedtodryhusks, notevensalvagedbythegoodoystersauce.At$14foraroundsixsprigs, itwasaveryexpensivefailure.Equallydisappointingwerethesiewmaifromthesmalldimsummenu–threeroundsofover-steamedpastry, filledwithblandporkandtoppedwithaclumpofwhattastedlikeshreddeddriedscallops;andastir-friedbeefwheretheflavouroflittlespiralsofthicklymincedmeatwascompletelyoverwhelmedbythicketsofboringshreddedlettuce.JustasIwasbeginningtogetreallynervousaboutthemeal, alongcamethefriedvegetarianbeehoon–aperfectlymoist, crystallinetumbleofopaquethreads, itswhitemassembeddedwithstudsofgreenchivesandsliversofcarrots.Itwasamasterclassintechnique, andproof, onceagain, ofhowextraordinarilysatisfyingasimpledishcanbewhendonewell.Butthestarattraction–andadishforwhichIwouldreturnagainandagain–wasthedeep-friedspareribs: lightlybatterednuggetsofpork, sautéedinawonderfullygooeytomato-basedmarinadewithpalehemispheresofcrunchychestnutsandashowerofchoppedgarlic.Theresultwasfirst-ratecomfortfoodthatneedednothingmorethanabowlofsteamedriceandanappetite.Withsuchhighs, it’sapitysomanyotherdishesdidn’thavethesameimpact. (Friedricewithabaloneinredvinassepictured).

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Venue name: Spring
Contact:
Address: Far East Square #01-01
130 Amoy Street
Singapore
048773
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30-10.30pm

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