Empress is one of the two new eateries that had opened within Asian Civilisations Museum, injecting life into the newly-revamped museum.
Owned by the Prive group, this is also the first time they are entering into Chinese F&B market. Serving up signature roasts and other familiar Chinese dishes, the menu serves a wide range of items such as communal dishes and dimsum. There is also a dedicated bar area, also known as the Empress Bar which is not in operation during the time of our visit.
Ordering a couple of dimsum items which is only available during lunch, the first item to land on the table was the Har Gow. The dumplings had a translucent skin which was not too thick nor thin; just the right thickness and was not sticky as it came off the paper easily. Encased within is a plump prawn; fresh, chunky and juicy. Indeed one of the better Har Gows out there.
(Crispy Bacon and Prawn Rolls)
Crispy Bacon and Prawn Rolls are made in-house. Covered in a fried vermicelli-like layer, each roll comes crunchy, without being too hard nor cuts the gum. Each of them come with a succulent, plump prawn within and drizzled in fresh, sweet Mango sauce. It was also surprisingly clean on the palate, especially when it comes almost free from grease.
As mentioned, one of the dishes that Empress prides themselves for are the roast meats. We went for the Crackling Roast Pork, which uses pork flown in from Duroc, Spain. Coming in ten chunky pieces, each piece comes with a crisp, crackling skin which was savoury and meat that was in a good lean-to-fat ratio. You could really chew through the soft firmness of the lean meat, before hitting to the jiggly fats. Coming with pickled vegetables on the side, dip each morsel in the accompanying Mustard dip for a shiok numbing sensation before having a slice of pickled vegetables to refresh the tastebuds.
(Pan-Fried Turnip Cakes)
We have had better Pan-Fried Turnip Cakes before, but this was actually pretty stellar in its own right. The turnip cakes were soft, and it carried a significant savoury flavour from dried shrimp. If there is anything that was lacking, it was the lack of fibers to chew on, and the pan-frying could really be improved upon; the charred bits seem to carry a little charred flavour, but failed to make the turnip cakes crisp somehow.
(Steamed Molten Lava Egg Yolk Bun)
Steamed Molten Lava Egg Yolk Bun is pretty much one of the better ones we have tried. The steamed bun was light and fluffy without feeling too thick, and a bite reveals the salted egg yolk custard within which was of the perfect sweet-salty balance which makes it indulging.
(Traditional Claypot Rice)
A dish good to share, the Traditional Claypot Rice here comes with mixed Chinese sausages, and the small portion is great for four pax to share. Upon serving, the rice would be served up first, and subsequently the Chinese sausages and vegetables and the light soy sauce is served thereafter separately; you would have to mix everything up yourself. Being an upscale joint, the Traditional Claypot Rice served here is more refined than the usual hawker fare, so manage your expectations if you were to order this dish. We were impressed with the smoky flavour within the rice, and there were even some charred bits to chew on as you scrape them down from the sides of the pot. The Chinese sausages used in here are also of premium quality; they did not feel at any point greasy, and there was no traces of unchewable bits of fat within the sausages. Skin of the sausages were also removed, hence making them easier to chew. Light soy sauce flavoured up the rice adequately; it is not going to be as flavourful as the hawker variants, but the rice carried a light, savoury flavour that compliments the sausages than overwhelm them. Perhaps an area of improvement for this dish would be on the wax meat included in the dish; they were no doubt delicious, but the meat being what it already is seems to be hard to chew apart. A suggestion could be to shred the waxed meat away from the bone so as to make it less stiff and more easier to chew on.
Prive is known for their Sticky Date Pudding, and Empress serves up a slightly modified version of the classic. The Sticky Date & Longan Pudding comes with Gula Melaka Butterscotch, Walnuts and Goji Berry & Vanilla Swirl Ice-Cream. The infusion of longan into the Sticky Date Pudding adds chunky bits to nibble on for the subtly sweet sticky pudding, which is doused in a lightly flavoured Gula Melaka Butterscotch which compliments the pudding perfectly without trying to overwhelm it. I was intrigued by the Gouji Berry & Vanilla Swirl Ice-Cream; an interesting twist to the usual Raspberry ice-cream with a Chinese element; sweet with a touch of oriental flavour from the Gouji Berry yet sweet and aromatic from the creamy and smooth Vanilla ice-cream speckled with vanilla bean. If you prefer more familiar flavours and love Prive’s Sticky Date Pudding, this is the dessert you should order.
An ode to the local Cheng Tng, the Jasmine Tea-Poached Pear comes with familiar elements such as “Cheng Teng” Ice, Longans, Dates and Black Sago Pearls, while a whole poached pear sits in the middle of the bowl. Poached in jasmine tea, the poached pear carries a light floral scent with is own natural sweetness and soft to the bite. Cheng Tng would be poured into the bowl upon serving, and it helps enhance the subtle flavours of the “Cheng Teng” ice alongside the other ingredients. A pretty light tasting, yet uplifting dessert that perks up the tastebuds after a hevay tasting meal.
(Crispy Red Bean Pancake)
Crispy Red Bean Pancake comes with a red bean popsicle, drizzled in red bean sauce and coconut milk. While the red bean popsicle had a stark resemblance to the Potong Ice-Cream sticks that we have grown up with aesthetically (it was finished before I had a chance to taste it), the red bean sauce and coconut milk gave a flavour reminiscent to Pulut Hitam; something which I liked upon the first taste. Crispy Red Bean Pancakes were not too greasy, crisp and well-filled with sweet red bean filling that does not leave an aftertaste. Quite interestingly, the sesame seeds did not give the pancake a gritty texture and does not get stuck in between the teeth, but yet gives off its signature aroma which complimented the pancake really well.
Empress might be Prive group’s first Chinese F&B concept, but from the quality of food alongside with the extensive menu, one could easily tell that they are certain of the concept. With a view of the Singapore River, this chic spot that is definitely suitable for all sorts of occasions; a place for family gathering, a date night over Chinese fare or even for celebrations. Service was genuine and prompt, with the waiters fast on refilling tea, and patient on explaining the different elements in the dishes, making you feel comfortable throughout the meal. It would be interesting to see how Empress would be once Empress Bar kicks into operation, but for now Empress is a spot that one should visit for its quality dim sum and chillax ambience. A place that I would not mind visiting again.
Asian Civilisations Museum
1 Empress Place
Telephone: +65 6238 8733
Web Page: http://www.empress.com.sg/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/empressasiancivilisationsmuseum