When we entered Phase 2 in June last year, restaurants and bars all over the city eagerly resumed business, albeit with a whole new set of regulations.
Auntie’s Wok and Steam, however, remained closed. “After Phase 2, our immediate priority was the safety of our colleagues and our guests staying at Andaz Singapore, as well as the necessary safe-distancing procedures and operations for the hotel,” explains Franck Detrait, Director of Food and Beverage at the hotel. “As we have multiple F&B establishments, it was crucial for us to reopen our restaurants in phases in order to ensure smooth-sailing operations with all of the safety measures in place.”
The good news is that the casual Chinese restaurant has reopened in the new year, and we were invited to review its partially revamped menu. And for the first time in my working life, I decided to bring my mother along.
My mother is not exactly a foodie. She rarely strays from flavours that she’s familiar with (read: Chinese), and thinks fancy restaurants are pretentious. But when the kind folks at Andaz Singapore extended a plus-one invite, I thought it’ll be the perfect opportunity to enlighten Mum as to what I do for a living. Plus, Auntie’s Wok doesn’t look too posh, boasts killer views of Singapore’s skyline, and serves palatable tze char plates.
We settle into our table, and Mum whips out her phone to snap pictures of the restaurant and the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows. A good sign, I think. It’s a clear, not-too-sunny day, and Auntie’s Wok, which sits on the 25th floor of Andaz Singapore, offers an almost 360-view of the Bugis district. The restaurant, still in its early days of reopening, isn’t too busy — not that we minded one bit. With bright green and orange seating, dark-wood structures, clean lines, and a glass-enclosed kitchen for guests to observe the action, the warm, light-filled space exudes an easy, tranquil vibe, like an idle afternoon spent in a contemporary restaurant within a beach resort in Thailand.
I ask the manager to recommend some chef’s signatures. We start with the pan-fried chicken and chives dumplings, which come with a side of fermented black bean and chilli sauce. Mum loves the condiment, and makes sure she tops each plump, juicy parcel with the piquant concoction. Then, in prompt succession, the crab fried rice, sweet and sour pork and poached herbal prawns arrive. She finishes every grain of egg-covered fried rice I put on her plate, commending the “excellent wok hei” and saying how she’d use sliced asparagus the next time she makes her own. The chewy sweet and sour pork is “a tad too sweet” for her liking, though the chunks of meat are perfectly sized for a mouthful. (I, on the other hand, thinks the sweet and sour pork is deliciously robust — a bold alignment of sweetness and sharp citrus.) Swimming in a shallow pool of clear, herbal soup, those poached prawns are a feel-good hit, and Mum says they’re cooked just right; if the herbs (dang gui, yu zhu, gui pi and ba jiao) were to steep for longer, the broth would have a bitter tinge.
Curious about Xi’an-born Chef Guo Xiang’s interpretation of the Singaporean laksa, I request for a bowl halfway into our lunch. Teeming with tiger prawns and fish cakes, the coconut milk-infused dish isn’t quite as rich and savoury as I would like, but Mum thoroughly enjoys the bowl, saying it’s easier on her delicate taste buds.
There’s a small selection of desserts on the menu — nothing too over-the-top. As I tuck into my almond silken tofu and lychee jelly and she into her steamed yam paste (“not too sweet”, she says), my favourite dining companion tells me how lovely the afternoon has been. Auntie’s Wok and Steam is a welcoming blend of comfort flavours and a languid atmosphere, mixed with something that will never get old — a full stomach. I can’t agree more.
P.S.: Auntie’s Wok and Steam is heralding in the Year of the Ox with a spate of auspicious dishes such as fish maw soup, steamed marble Goby fish in homemade Nyonya sauce, ginseng-braised French whole chicken, a pen cai filled with conpoy, shitake mushrooms, pork belly abalone and sustainably sourced tiger prawns, and of course, a healthy yu sheng with Scottish smoked salmon, a medley of superfood fruits, vegetables and seeds. The special menu is available from January 25 to February 26.
Auntie’s Wok and Steam, Level 25 Andaz Singapore, 5 Fraser Street, Singapore 189354, +65 6408 1288.
(All images: Auntie’s Wok and Steam/Andaz Singapore)