A spade is a spade. And in the case of Mitzo – tucked away in the far corner of the Grand Park Orchard’s candy-coloured lobby – it’s a Cantonese restaurant that needs to quit trying to confuse diners. To start, the Japanese moniker needs to go. There is nothing Japanese about the décor, staff or food. Speaking of décor, the use of red, green and yellow Perspex panels makes for a disorienting lunch, while the Buddha Bar-ish lounge music is devilishly distracting.
To be fair, London’s hugely successful Hakkasan uses similar tricks. But there it works largely because the clientele tends to be style-obsessed Europeans who would be hard-pressed to separate a xiao long bao from a siew mai. In food-obsessed Singapore, the same MO is completely unnecessary. More so when the waitress deposits a plate of mixed nuts on the table and announces, ‘Peanuts are free!’ Classy.
But there’s plenty to admire about Mitzo’s menu. Crisply fried shards of battered and cumin-scented octopus ($18) were superb, as was an immaculately constructed tower of salad leaves that stood atop pulled shreds of good roasted duck, pine nuts and pomegranate pebbles ($26). Large juicy salted egg yolk prawns ($32), a staple of any decent suburban zi char joint, were topped with fried curry leaves – each bite creamy, eggy, lightly salty and sinfully good.
Equally tasty were the stir-fried strands of pale gold vermicelli ($22), fragrant with wok hei, XO sauce, scallions, dried shrimp and crisp beansprouts – though you had to wonder why the kitchen spoiled it with unreasonably large chunks of under-seasoned and undercooked chicken.
Desserts showed unexpected flashes of brilliance. The ubiquitous fried sesame seed ball was extraordinary for its molten filling of chocolate liqueur, though it felt mismatched with the accompanying (though fabulous) avocado milkshake ($10). The small block of macadamia Häagen-Dazs, deep fried with a battered coating, was a wonderful homage to the ’80s favourite. But at $28, it was a rip-off – even after the waitress’s brave attempt to explain it was ‘made with special flour and special butter’. No.
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