Like that old adage about letting a good thing be, stalwart restaurant Jade’s recent revamped isn’t about reinventing the quality Cantonese cuisine it is known for, or even about distracting from its heritage setting at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore (a gazetted National Monument).

Aside from the obvious visual upgrades, marked by a lively parade of blue-green hues that speak to its precious moniker, much of the hotel’s original structure remains intact. Jade remains one of three spaces guests can appreciate the original ceiling of the former General Post Office.

But why renovate if you’re not planning to include some decorative talking points. Such as its specially commissioned wallpaper, which features nine local bird species. Or, perhaps, it is 51-year-old executive chef Leong Chee Yeng’s collection of 18 handmade ceramic vases—products of the 30 years he has spent dabbling in his favourite hobby—that pique your fancy; there’s even a vase featuring a mountainous landscape that he plans to gift his daughter when she decides to tie the knot, on display in one of the restaurant’s private nooks. 

That said, the menu too has enjoyed a few enhancements, if only to celebrate a decade under Leong’s artful direction. Served with the house X.O. sauce, a signature dish of simmered egg noodles with Boston lobster, for instance, now boasts a more rustic, even nostalgic spin, marked by a flagrant use of fried pork lard and dark soya sauce, reminiscent of the Hokkien noodles the naturalised-Singaporean chef was partial to growing up in Malaysia.

Speaking of refining classics, the roasted pork belly here is a balanced rendering of lean meat, with just the right amount of fat and that all-important crackle—that devilishly crisp top layer that was every bit as decadent despite its comparatively leaner and more delicate disposition. To achieve this, the marinated belly is first roasted until the skin is only slightly crisp, after which Leong would remove it and punch little holes in the skin. He then covers it in salt before placing it back into the oven to continue the one-and-a-half hour roasting process. Leong will remove it a couple more times to scrape the charred top layer off.

A similar nod to deceptively simple pleasures is a familiar dish of sauteed beef tenderloin with crispy garlic in black pepper sauce. This is a more elegant rendition, from the decision to use Japanese Wagyu over the previous choice of US beef, to the lightness of the sauce. Though still distinctly peppery, the use of soya and oyster sauce was pronounced, affording the dish greater complexity.


Room for More
This is not to say little room is left for new classics to shine. One worthy contender is the barbecued lemongrass lamb rib. It is first marinated in the house char siew sauce for about half an hour, before bruised lemongrass is rubbed on and the lamb grilled on a salamander. It may have been a solely practical decision to go with an electric grill, but the result, charred sweet ribs sans the smoky flavour a charcoal grill would have imparted, meant that the dish could be easily included in a multi-course meal.  The meat was prepared close to well-done but remained tender, and not as gamey as I had expected.

Another ingenious reimagining I found irresistible was the deep-fried mantou stuffed with properly spicy chilli crab filling. It is available on the dim sum menu, as is the fragrant steamed char siew pau that featured pork char siew cooked with honey and osmanthus flower.

These dishes can also be had alongside 53 other dishes—from dim sum to soups, mains and dessert—available as part of the restaurant’s weekend a la carte dim sum buffet lunch (S$39++). Now that’s the kind of value that’s getting harder to find.

Jade Restaurant | The Fullerton Hotel, 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore S(049178) | tel: 6877 8911

Tags: Jade, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, Cantonese cuisine