Jiang Nan Chun reopened in early February 2016, after being shut for a few months for renovations. We were curious to find out what changes had been made to one of our favourite Chinese restaurants and to try its new menu. We stopped by at Four Seasons Hotel after the new Jiang Nan Chun reopened for dinner.
The first impression was that it had grown bigger. That was in fact the case. The restaurant had expanded to take over the former business centre next door. The extra space is used to create three new private rooms. The main dining area remains the same but looks bigger and accommodates more tables because the room partitions had been removed. The area was interrupted by two screens, it is now one open large space. See the before and after pictures at the bottom of this post. A new area has been created for small tables.
The new Jiang Nan Chun is obviously more shiny and the space more efficiently utilised. The old space was broken up into smaller spaces by the screens and seemed more cosy. The big open space and harsh spotlighting made the place lose its previous distinctive character. The use of ‘chicken wire’ light fixtures to decorate the ceiling was also a curious move that we thought ran counter to the overall effort to glam up the place.
On the food front, the changes seemed to have taken a turn for the better. The new menu is more varied and interesting than the previous one. The menu is obviously printed on high quality paper but the shiny finish and small font made it hard to read. Dim sum is available for lunch and can be ordered by individual pieces that cost $2 or $3 per piece. Here are random pages from the new Jiang Nan Chun menu.
The meal started with complimentary amuse bouche – some braised bamboo shoots. Quite unusual. The taste was not bad but the presentation was a bit lonely.
Our first dish was an appetizer – barbecued pork neck ($20). This was a good appetizer as it was prepared within ten minutes to calm the growling tummies. It looked like regular char siew pork but the texture of the pork was quite different. The meat from the neck region was more springy and less fibrous than the usual meat sections used for char siew. We liked this dish.
The next item was steamed cod wrapped in rice paper roll with mushrooms and water chestnuts ($38). This dish was served in a small individual potion. Basically a piece of cod in a roll of rice paper that becomes like a sticky transparent film after the steaming. Some shaved truffles were sprinkled on it. The overall taste was quite good but at $38 for a small individual portion, it was a pricey item.
We move on to the two claypot dishes that we tried. These were the highlights of the evening. Direct good old-fashioned claypot cooking seems to be the chef’s strong point. The first one was assorted capsicums stuffed with shrimp paste ($22). This reminded us somewhat of some yong tau foo items. The ingredients were humble but the cooking was very well executed. The capsicums were sweet and had just enough of a burnt outer skin. Together with the shrimp and black bean sauce, they combined well to make a harmonious dish.
The other claypot item was king prawns, mushroom and glass noodles in pepper sauce. The king prawns were the highlight. Big and juicy, these were very good. The only regret was that there were only three of them. The noodles fully absorbed the seafood taste of the prawns and the pepper sauce provided a good form of seasoning for the whole dish ($28).
Some complimentary desserts were provided at the end of the meal. The first was a duo of a deep-fried papaya item and a mochi. It was hard to tell that the currypuff-like item was made from papaya. An unusual and interesting dessert. The other dessert was even more unusual. A martini glass containing shaved ice, longans, beans and other things that we cannot remember. it was a curious mix of sweet, salty and sour. A bit too avant-garde for our liking.
Overall, we had mixed feelings about the new 2016 Jiang Nan Chun. The old one had more character and felt more cosy. The new one felt more shiny and commercial, but perhaps we should let its new look settle in before making a final judgement. Fortunately we thought that the food had improved. More variety and good execution. But it was in the traditional Cantonese items that the Chef shines.
Spot the difference(s). The new Jiang Nan Chun reopened 2016 (above pic) and the old one (below).
Finally, we were glad to see that many of the old staff were still there. Service was at a high level as usual. Pacing of the food was notably better than before. There was however one area of disappointment. In the old Jiang Nan Chun, BYO corkage was charged, but with some discretion not to – a bit of give and take to reward regular patronage. We were told that the new JNC has a strict new company policy – $50 corkage for each bottle. There was no room for discussion – ‘mo tuck keng’! So much for customer loyalty.
Overall Rating: 4 TOPs
Jiang Nan Chun 江南春
2nd Floor, 190 Orchard Boulevard
Tel : +65 6831 7220
Nearby Stations: Orchard