Jiang Nan Chun 江南春 is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Singapore. Apart from their regular menus, they will occasionally come up with a special menu to showcase the culinary prowess of their chef. Recently, they offered a special set course dinner which was inspired by the legendary four beautiful ladies of China. The creative minds of the manager and chef at the restaurant were tapped to interpret the Chinese classics. In 2013, they had a dinner organised around the theme of the classic Journey to the West. This time the dinner was planned around the four ladies whose beauty is legendary. The dinner ended on 31 January 2014. We managed to try it just before it ended.
Jiang Nan Chun is located on the second level of the Four Seasons Hotel on Orchard Boulevard. With its soft lighting and dark wood panelling, it feels very cozy and is quite unlike the typical Chinese restaurant. The tables are set reasonably apart so you have some private space. Apart from the Four Beauties dinner, they have the usual ala carte menu and some set menus as well. The Four Great Beauties is a five course dinner.
The first course was a combination platter called the Scent of the Heavenly Beauties 国色天香四美图, an introduction to the four ladies, with each item on the platter representing one of the ladies. The first item on the right, the cherry tomato in lychee martini represented Yang Gui Fei who apparently was fond of eating the freshest lychees while taking her bath. The seafood dumpling represented Xi Shi whose beauty was so mesmerizing that it caused fish to sink in shyness. The fried shrimp paste with minced pipa beancurd represented Wang Zhaojun who played the pipa instrument. The last item on the left was the foie gras with caviar symbolising Diaochan (honestly, we had not heard of this beauty till then and I can’t remember the connection with this dish). The taste of all the items on the platter were great on their own. Weaving a story around them made it that much more entertaining and enjoyable. The foie gras and dumpling were particularly good.
The second course, Dance of the Double-Boiled Soup 贵妃醉舞华清池, is dedicated to Yang Guifei and her liking for taking baths. It was a double-boiled abalone soup with dendrobe and calipash (which I believe are a type of flower and a soft part of a turtle’s shell respectively) which are supposed to taste good and be beneficial to health and to give us Guifei-like skin. The taste of the soup was superb. Having such a large abalone to oneself is always a treat. The texture of the abalone was however slightly hard.
The third course was steamed Atlantic cod stiffed with wild mushrooms and wrapped in rice paper in superior broth and shaved black truffle and named Aquatic Reflections of Beauty Fish Poetry 浣沙俪影赛鱼儿. This dish was in honour of Xi Shi. The cod was placed at the edge of the plate to represent the shy fish, leaving the big surface of the broth to be Xihu (West Lake in Hangzhou) which was apparently named after this beauty. Taste wise, we felt that there was too much of a good thing. Each of the elements the cod, the wild mushrooms and truffle had its robust distinctive taste. Somehow putting them all of them together was just a bit too complicated.
The final savoury course was smoked French spring poussin with crispy rice ball and named Song of Lingering Memories Pipa Chicken 一曲琵琶忆乡思. This course was supposed to remember Wang Zhaojun who was gifted at a tender age of 16 to a barbaric king and she remarried his son after the king’s death. The tender pipa chicken embodies the intensity of her love for her country, your youthful sacrifice and of course her pipa skills. Basically this was a well made chicken rice dish. The rice was rolled into a ball and made crispy on the exterior. Not as exquisite as the preceding dishes but to ensure you don’t leave the restaurant hungry.
Finally, the dessert named Dangerous Liasion 惊鸿一梦镜花情 is inspired by the story of Diaochan who was said to have been used as a political tool to turn a brutal warlord against his lustful son. Diaochan is symbolised by the fruits in the middle, separating the warlord on the left (superior bird’s nest with sesame pudding) and the son on the right (salted egg puff pastry with almond cream. All the items were really good and the differences in textures and flavours were complementary.
The dessert together with the appetizer were the highlights of the meal which therefore started and ended on a high note. Overall, this was a delightful and entertaining meal. We learnt some something about Chinese history and literature in the process (assuming the explanations given to us by the restaurant are accurate). Some parts of the presentation were classy while some were almost kitschy which added to the fun quotient. At $148 per person, this was quite a pricey dinner, but it was very enjoyable. We are curious to see what they come up with for 2015. With so many types of flavours expected over the curse of this dinner, it was challenging to decide what wine to bring along for this. In the end, the delicate and fruity flavours of the bottle of 2009 Hudelot Noellat Nuit St Georges Les Murgers turned out to be a good match for the meal.
Jiang Nan Chun 江南春
2nd Floor, 190 Orchard Boulevard
Lunch 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Saturday 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Sunday (first seating) 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Sunday (second seating) 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Nearby MRT Station: Orchard