Taste flavours of China’s past at Circa 1912
Simple, bold, delicious food
The idea behind Circa 1912 was to hark back to an era where deliciousness was about boldness and simplicity, food for the palate and tummy, not for the eyes.
So Mr David Yip rewound to 1912, showcasing a culture of forgotten great flavours in Chinese kitchens.
To me, that is storytelling, which is so important in today's food culture and business.
He is also a chef and a stern kitchen overlord, which gives such chef-owner restaurants an edge over the corporate rote operation-type eateries.
Mr Yip took over lock, stock and barrel from the previous Chinese restaurant owners and plunged right into the kitchen work.
"I had only one month to R&D (research and develop) the menu," he said.
He roped in his consultant chef Xu Jing Ye, a young hotshot from Guangzhou specialising in old-school cuisine, and chef Ai Fei, former head chef of Dragon Phoenix Restaurant.
The menu does not sound nor look as complicated as the dish is made out to be.
Take the Fried Milk with Seafood and Chicken ($38) for example.
The thick creamy white blob is made by gently frying up egg whites and milk with umami seasoning, slowly, consistently and smoothly over low to medium heat, with bits of seafood and chicken.
It reminds me of baby food but has a comforting feel to it.
Not quite Instagram stuff but it will give instant gratification.
For the Iberico Cha Siu ($24) and Golden Coin Chicken ($5 for three pieces) platter, a fatter cut of the soft Iberico pork was used and another layer of the caramelised sugar was coated over the already sinfully sweet and savoury porky chunks "just to give it crystal-crunchy texture".
You can feel your heart beating harder after a few bites, and you will become a born-again char siew lover.
A piece of braised lard, slice of liver and honeyed sliver of roasted chicken is what people once called Golden Coin Chicken, and I think barely five restaurants serve this in Singapore today.
These little cold bites are perfect with hot Chinese tea or cold beer.
Then a Fried Lard Dumpling ($5 each) appeared.
On closer inspection after the first bite, the skin is actually a thin slice of lard, with minced pork stuff inside.
The eatery battered and fried it up, like how a proper gastro sin should be committed.
I had chef Xu's strawberry Sweet and Sour Iberico Pork ($38) before in his private kitchen in Guangzhou and again he delivered it the way I remembered - the fatty chunk is boiled then battered-fried till crispy and tossed in that sweet sour fruity sauce.
It sings in the mouth and is devoid of the intense vinegar used in many places.
The Steamed Silverhill Duck in Plum Sauce ($28) warrants more attention.
The braised duck is seared and simmered in a plum sauce and served in a claypot. The intense gaminess is all locked in but is somewhat calmed by the plum sauce.
If you cannot handle duck, this is not for you. Oh, and you must have this with steamed rice.
Desserts are not a strong suit but the Red Bean Soup ($10) with aged tangerine peel and lotus seeds is comforting and the old tangerine flavour lingers perfectly.
I sense Mr Yip will dig deeper into history and roll out more "ancient wonders" from the kitchen.
#03-07/11, Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road
11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 10pm daily