EAST BISTRO 東小馆… LETS START WITH DESSERT!

A good Chilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo (杨枝甘露) keeps you wanting more. If it’s too sweet, too sour, too milky, or too mushy? Something’s very wrong! Creator, Chef Tony blames it on pure cost cutting tactics; canned and frozen ingredients instead of fresh, being the most infamous lazy way out! The chilled soupy dessert has 3 main ingredients; freshly peeled sweet pomelo flesh, freshly cooked soft gummy sago pearls, and sweet fresh mango cubes all swimming in a milky mango juice. It’s lightly creamy and just sweet enough to let the teeny bit of tartness shine. The perfect finish to a meal that quenches thirst, refreshes the palate and sweetens the taste buds. After sampling one from Tony’s very own kitchen, I have fallen back in love with this old classic from the 80s! Having spent pretty much his entire career as Head Chef at the legendary Lei Garden Hong Kong and Singapore, Chef Tony Wong has been a strong-standing household name in this fierce industry. We are a fortunate bunch, now that Chef Tony is running his very own restaurant, The East Bistro. The man himself is super friendly, super hospitable and super humble! He happily chats with us about his experiences and passion for food and culinary… excitement escalating with every story he shares. It’s both entertaining and educational listening to this Master Chef who is proud to be serving up more than his renowned dessert!Unlike the flagship restaurant at Sembawang, East Bistro’s newly opened branch at Serangoon’s My Village mall was quieter than expected. It was simply decorated….. almost too plain if you ask me. However, plain is the last adjective I would use on Chef Tony’s culinary skills. We had a meal that screamed originality, authenticity and quality.

We started with not one, but two rice dishes! Waxed Meat Claypot Rice (腊味砂煲饭) and Chef Special Pao Fan (東师傅脆米泡饭). I am obsessed with the latter, a simple rice in soup combo.

Catch the razzmatazz of the Chef Special Pao Fan (東师傅脆米泡饭) ! In goes a plate of golden rice crispies. Listening to it sizzle and pop was exciting enough for us! The combination of fresh and crispy rice in piping hot superior umami broth warmed our tummies and worked our appetites!

The Claypot Rice wasn’t exactly second fiddle, bearing a large amount of perfectly burnt rice! Yes, you heard right, burnt rice! To cook this dish, raw fragrant rice is boiled over a fierce heat in a claypot accompanied by marinated chicken and homemade cured meats. Before serving, a generous dose of sweet caramel dark soy sauce is poured over and mixed til every grain of rice is shiny and black from the sauce. A layer of precious smokey burnt rice sticks to the walls of the claypot, a result of the high heat when cooking. This is the precious black gold everyone’s eyeing!! It adds a bite of crunchy bitterness to each mouthful of delicious savory rice. Eight Treasures Soup in Winter Melon (冬瓜盅)– Trust the Cantonese to make one heck of a soup. Our melon soup was slowed cooked in its own shell together with an array of ingredients. The soup finishes clean and sweet with spoonfuls of prawns, meats and soft melon flesh. All 6 of us had seconds!Salted Garoupa Slices (盐焗星斑球)– Traditionally, you’d be served the entire fish, head and tail intact at any respectable Chinese restaurant. Chef Tony decides to debone the fat Grouper and pressure cook the chunky fish slices within a scorching hot claypot carpeted with ginger. Our server lifts the lid, revealing a puff of hot gingerly steam and snowy white fish chunks sprawled across the surface. The fish was perfectly cooked. Not a second over. Ocean fresh sweet moisture in every piece. The aromatic ginger and scallions flavored the meat subtly. It was exceptional!Signature Baked Chicken with Salt (金牌盐焗鸡)– My last memorable salt baked chicken was around 5 years ago. A bird hand carried back from Ipoh, Malaysia, the land of Salt Baked Chicken. With less than a handful of cooks in Singapore making this, I was eager to try and (fingers crossed) approve this old classic. Beautiful isn’t nearly how I’d quite describe the bird when it appeared at the table. But beautifully cooked is surely fitting! Subtle saltiness penetrates evenly into the free-range chicken whilst retaining moisture. The lean bird is tender in every part, even the breast meat was succulent. This was one of my favorite dishes tonight. East Bistro’s salt baked chicken is definitely a very qualified stand-in til that trip up Ipoh… and no hurry either!Pan-fried Noodles with Prawns in Superior Sauce (上汤海鲜煎面)– I am a big fan of crispy noodles. This was nicely done, topped with rich seafood gravy and split prawns. It isn’t blow-me-away good but it’s still delicious nonetheless. I like how the rich gluey gravy coats the noodles without getting them all soggy and soft. Deep Fried Egg Plant with Salted Egg (金沙茄子)– The mandatory salted egg dish! This time with eggplant. The chunky eggplant stayed firm and greaseless despite being deep fry. The exterior batter is dry and crispy with a rich salted egg sauce that has a nice sandy texture to it.Deep Fried Salad Prawn (沙拉虾球)– One for the kids.Who doesn’t like some crunchy prawn fritters? And with sweet salad cream too! This is above average though it’ll probably fare better on a dim sum menu.

Speaking of dim sum. East Bistro rolls out an impressive list of dim sums for lunch. We tried the customary Har Gao, Siu Mai, Chicken Feet, Bolo Bao, Bean Curd Roll and Rice Flour Rolls. They were all reasonably good. Nothing gimmicky… don’t be expecting no cute panda buns or rainbow colored dumplings; no traces of truffles or charcoal whatsoever. Just good old dim sum made the old fashioned way, with high quality ingredients coupled with the right seasoning. Steamed fresh upon order so you get them piping hot and juicy. What surpassed my expectations were the traditional Mara Cake (马拉糕) and Jin Deui (煎堆). I don’t usually order these traditional snacks… I grew up eating them and they’ve kinda lost that specialness. Every restaurant from the 70s have been making them, and probably from the same old tested recipe, it’s become pretty standard in taste everywhere you have them. So it’s really never on my to-order list, if ever! While Mara Cake (马拉糕)  is a very basic sponge cake, Chef Tony had made his so super fine and airy it literally floats in your hand! If like me, you thought cake would be too much after a big lunch, this felt like cotton candy in the mouth. It isn’t overly sweet either and the texture is just amazing. So soft and light! The last time I had a good Sesame Seed Ball or Jin Deui (煎堆) was in Beijing. Traditionally, Jin Dueis are small, the size of a golf ball; and commonly filled with red bean or peanut paste and sometimes sweet potato mash. The surface is covered in sesame seeds and fried to a crisp. Like the ones in Beijing, Chef Tony’s Jin Dueis are large like tennis balls and have no fillings in them. Unless you’re into bean pastes, I find the hollow balls way yummier! The light crispy shell has a subtle sweetness with fresh nuttiness from the sesame seeds. The exterior is crispy while the inner lining of the shell is chewy. Despite being fried in a gallon of oil, they didn’t feel nor taste greasy one bit. Chef Tony had to force these two items on me and frankly, I am secretly glad he did! They were absolutely delicious!

Clockwise from top left: Stir Fried Green Dragon Vegetables with Bean Sprouts was crunchy and flavorful; The Melon soup with generous amounts of ingredients; Fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce was briny and sweet; Can’t stop thinking about the Salt Baked Chicken; Claypot Rice revealed!

Waxed Meat Claypot Rice (腊味砂煲饭)– Watch as the savory sweet Caramel dark sauce is poured over the Claypot rice.

Pan-fried Noodles with Prawns in Superior Sauce (上汤海鲜煎面)-A thick rich gravy is pours over, lightly coating the noodles so it remains crunchy to the bite.

Clockwise from top left: More dim sum items including the cottony Mara Cake; Chewy and Crispy Sesame Seed Balls; Steamed Dumplings ala Xiao Long Bao; Black Vinegar Trotters which were sweet and tart with a spongy finish and Char Siu filled Bolo Buns.

There’re dozens more creative and traditional dishes I’m eyeing on East Bistro’s menu. I’m gonna have to round up some buddies for another round of Chef Tony’s superlative culinary, plus, his pride and joy dessert of course!

East Bistro 東小馆 @ 1 Maju Ave, #02-01, MyVillage. Singapore 556679 Phone: +65 6634 2998

Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post.

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