Now and then, I reminisce one and a half year I spent in Singapore. That is a time not too long, not too short, but enough to understand, to love, and to enjoy the special things in the culture and cuisine of this beautiful island country.
At that time, if somebody asked me how Singaporean foods were, I always answered “So so”, but just after I left, I suddenly craved for many Singaporean dishes from radish cake, stinky tofu, char kway teow, Hainanese chicken rice to bak kut the rib soup, sautéed shrimp noodles in Phuc Khien, grilled satay skewers, kaya bread, sweet tofu, bagel twists, etc., especially frog porridge and chilli crab. Singaporean cuisine is made up of a mixture of colors and flavors of many cultures and religions, so it is quite rich in ingredients and processing that few other countries in Asia have.
Thankfully, on a fun day, I was able to taste the familiar flavors at the new branch of Lion City restaurant at Me Linh Point – No. 02 Ngo Duc Ke, District 1. I must say that, there are many high-class restaurants in Saigon, but not every place has the ability to bring a satisfying dinner to customers. I hadn’t set high expectation before coming to Lion City, but as soon as I finished the first course – crab salad with grapefruit and passion fruit sauce, I was totally convinced. Food at Asian restaurants always has a strong flavor, but it’s not easy to be both tasty and delicate.
Unsurprisingly, this is the largest Singaporean restaurant in Vietnam and was voted to be in the list of Top 10 best restaurants in Vietnam by Lonely Planet. Hearing the owner of a restaurant chain sharing a few things with his customers about the new dishes, we knew that he was truly devoted to his career. Mr. Harry Ang quit school at the age of 15 and began to experience many jobs from electrician, builder, technician, and insurance sales. He nurtured his passion for cooking and was constantly learning, looking for real opportunities to realize his dream of bringing Singapore cuisine to the world.
In addition to traditional Singaporean cuisine, this new branch of the restaurant chain specializes in serving Asian dishes in the style of fine dining. The materials are carefully selected and imported from Singapore, India, Japan and Sri Lanka. There are even Hadi beef – a type of Japanese beef which is more expensive than Kobe beef. I was impressed with the well-designed menu sets of which each dish came with a drink, bringing customers “to travel” through different levels of taste buds.
Crab salad with grapefruit and passion fruit sauce – actually a very simple dish with familiar ingredients. The mild sweet and sour taste of passion fruit sauce helps to relieve the sourness of grapefruit. That also lessens the fishy smell of seafood. When served with sparkling wine, this is a perfect appetizer.
I have had a lot of abalone soup, but in Lion City, kaffir lime leaves are added in abalone soup, which creates a very strange flavor for the dish. Because of the strong smell of kaffir, the accompanying drink must be a glass of carbonated mineral water with a slice of lemon to help clean the palate before enjoying the next dish.
Crayfísh with a tender, crispy, crunchy shrimp meat was desperately delicious thanks to the kaffir sauce and lemongrass served with a few sprouts and fish eggs. Although the sauce was very strong, but also very fresh but not greasy and difficult to eat. This seafood dish of course most suitably comes with a glass of white wine!
Grilled cod in teppanyaki pan – a simple way of processing but it can enhance the fresh taste of fish. The set menu we tried yesterday also had Hida beef which is more delicious and more expensive than Kobe beef. This Japanese black-haired cow had been bred in the Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months. Food for them was high quality cereals, drinking pure water and listening to classical music. The meat of this type of beef is famous for its beautiful marbling fat layers and rare soft, rich flavor. When I ate Japanese Wagu and Korean Hanu, I found it very delicious. The first time we tasted Hida beef grilled on teppanyaki pan, we could only say “awesome!”.
Hida beef was served with Yakiniku sauce – a popular sauce in Japanese cuisine, usually made from soy sauce, vegetables, apples, lemons, onions, ginger, garlic, miso, honey, sesame oil, sesame, etc. Half well-done beef was beautifully presented with a few slices of apples, a bar of asparagus, mashed potatoes and grilled mushrooms, served with deliciiiiious red wine!
Spicy snow crab meat – This was the typical sauce of spicy Singapore chilli crab. The sauce had a rich, addictive taste for people who like spicy food like me ^. ^ It was said that this sauce had helped Lion City’s chef win first prize in the Vietnam Iron Chef competition. This dish had a strong flavor, and should be served with a glass of white wine to help balance the taste.
Sweet kiss – a lovely dessert with a slight layer of sour jelly in the middle of the strawberry, served with a thin slice of orange and little mint, enough to end a sweet night.