When I first read Gastronaut's account of his fabulous dinner at Red Star, I was filled with fascination, and curiosity to try the dishes he enjoyed. My friend Andrew must have felt the same, because he met up with the restaurant owner and their master chef to arrange a similar dinner which will turn out to be the best meal of this year. Granted, we are only in our first month, but I doubt that anything else will top this experience. My only regret was that I forgot to bring a camera, so all I have to share are the images from my mobile phone. I posted the pictures on Instagram as I took them, and the "likes" came in fast and furious. Enjoy!
The restaurant is huge, and the decor largely unchanged since it was opened decades ago. No black plastic chandeliers or artfully lit mirrors, but lots of carved murals, rosewood fixtures and, for our dinner, they brought out their special gold serving ware that are embellished with carved dragons and phoenixes. Sharks fin made a nomimal appearance as Osmanthus Fin, I remember eating this when I was very little. You take a bit of the scrambled egg mixture topped with fin and wrap it in a crunchy cos lettuce leaf. Fun and delicious.
I loved these. Crab meat, liver and pork. It's like a super-deluxe scotch egg, minus the egg white. We had some magnificient wines to go along with our food, and this was just perfect to accompany them.
A river carp, complete with dorsal fin and whiskers (one missing because I clumsily swept it aside). So artfully composed we didn't want to eat it, and when we did, we realised that there was no fish inside., instead there were strips of ham, slices of roast ducks, chunks of chickens and slivers of mushroom.
This was the most stunning dish of the evening. A whole chicken, deboned, gutted, and stuffed with bird's nest, then double boiled. A dish to excite the most jaded palate.
Served in two parts. The first bowl with quail egg to bind the bird's nest.I had two because husband doesn't like bird's nest. In a way, I am glad I have the Instagram filter, it really shows the mood and opulence.
Another double helping of bird's nest. The broth was light and clean, pairing elegantly with the tender bird's nest. Truly luxurious, and probably much nicer than having a shot of Botox.
Most of us only know bird's nest cooked into a sweet soup, but someone at our table reminisced that when she was a little girl, this dish would be served at very special occasions, like her grandfather's birthday banquet.
Another favourite at the table. A whole duck deboned and stuffed with glutinous rice and then deep-fried. The rice was meltingly rich with hints of dried shrimps and a beguiling, mellow sweetness from the duck juices.
There was also a 2kg soon hock fish, and this- braised, stuffed sea cucumbers. Husband loves sea cucumbers, so I gave him my portion. He said it was very delicious. The final course of fish- braised beehoon was very good too.
So I didn't think I could manage desserts, but this was what was rolled out on a trolley. Water chestnut ingots and a kueh straight from my home economics textbook- ondeh ondeh.
I loved the ondeh-ondeh so much I ate two pieces. The kueh had more sweet potato than flour, unlike so many commercial versions which inverses the ratio so much it has conditioned consumers to think that that is the norm. One bite and the warm gula melaka syrup oozes out for a satisfying sweet treat.
Most of the recipes are multi-stepped and labour intensive, not really feasible in today's restaurants' high wage/labour crunch environment. Only a few people know how to cook these, or are willing to. . Much as I am wary of romanticzising the past, regretfully, we will not have much chance to repeat the experience. Today most Chinese restaurants seem to think it's okay to fob off customers with (mostly synthetic) truffle oil and foie gras of dubious provenance and call them luxury dishes. A bit sad really. What we had was more heartfelt, a glimpse of the delicious past and a rare treat. I will remember it always.