Xin Di­vine


Oc­cu­py­ing a three-storey shop­house on the Dux­ton Hill stretch is Xin Di­vine, a fine din­ing Chi­nese res­tau­rant that spawned from owner Jolin Lee’s de­sire for a test kitchen to ex­per­i­ment and gather feed­back on dishes cre­ated for her cater­ing service, Di­vine Plate. Af­ter or­der­ing a pre-din­ner apéri­tif and bar bites such as the mor­eish XO Car­rot Cake ($12) – fluffy morsels bat­tered in three types of flour and tossed with home­made XO sauce with Parma ham and con­poy flecks – head up­stairs to the din­ing rooms through two stair­cases. One leads into the main seat­ing area and an­other brings you through the res­tau­rant’s cel­lar (com­pris­ing over 200 wine la­bels that start from $22/glass and $68/bot­tle) and into a pri­vate room that can seat up to 18. The bright and airy space’s high ceil­ings, arched win­dows, and a palette of pow­der blue and white hues are sub­tle aes­thetic touches that don’t dis­tract from your meal – the cui­sine is the star here.

The dishes epit­o­mise the com­bined cre­ativ­ity of the three chefs: Malaysian-born Peong Teck You; Zhong Jian Bing from Sichuan; and Euro­pean fine din­ing-trained Alvin Tan. The re­sult is pro­gres­sive Chi­nese cui­sine in­flected with global in­flu­ences, re­flected in the à la carte or set menus ($28 for two-course and $48 for four-course ex­ec­u­tive lunch; seven-course din­ner from $128). In fine din­ing fash­ion, meals com­mence with an amuse-bouche and ap­pe­tis­ers. Af­ter the mains, a carbs ‘sta­ple’ is served – a nod to Chi­nese ban­quet din­ing, fol­lowed by dessert.

There’s noth­ing much to fault with the ap­pe­tis­ers of Porcini Mush­room Broth ($16) or Wasabi Prawns ($8) – the for­mer is comforting yet not overly rich. Xin Di­vine’s ver­sion of the latter boasts a crisp bat­ter and pi­quant punch, and is seated upon a re­fresh­ing micro greens salad. The Szechuan Style Tortellini ($18)

is an­other win­ning dish of a minced Kurobuta pork and chives dumpling with a bouncy bite and wrapped in silky wan­ton skins. The sauce – Sichuan chilli, gin­ger and Zhe­jiang vine­gar – in­tro­duces a touch of acid­ity to whet the ap­petite for more. De­part­ing from tra­di­tion, nu er hong in­stead of Cognac is added to the Chi­nese Wine Shark Bone Soup ($28) to max­imise flavour depth. Brewed for six to eight hours with con­poy, Chi­nese cab­bage and baby abalone, the vel­vety broth is rich with col­la­gen.

Western culi­nary in­flu­ences are more ap­par­ent in the mains. The Poulet De Bresse ($35) is un­doubt­edly French and Chi­nese – French chicken thigh is in­fused with nu er hong, then moulded with foie gras into a roulade. Coated in a thin tem­pura bat­ter, the deep-fried and deeply savoury cre­ation yields an as­sort­ment of tex­tures from creamy to crispy. Sim­i­larly, the fork-ten­der, panseared Chilean Seabass ($32) with Sichuan-style sour and spicy soup is punc­tu­ated with the crunch of deep-fried enoki and the gar­licky and mildly spicy yu xiang egg­plant.

We’re less im­pressed with the Secret Recipe Chilli Lamb Rack ($36) – the meat is sinewy and chewy. And while we love the wok hei aro­mas of the XO Sauce Fried Rice with Crab ($8), the crab meat was rather bland. Skip the reimag­ined Orh Nee ($12) dessert, which could have ben­e­fit­ted from more pas­try fi­nesse – the puréed, molten and ice cream tex­tures of yam and pump­kin min­gled too well, ren­der­ing the in­di­vid­ual flavours in­dis­tinct.

That said, Xin Di­vine fills the void for those who love Chi­nese cui­sine but are turned off by the gar­ish Chi­nese res­tau­rant dé­cor. The fine din­ing ap­proach also al­lows din­ers to sam­ple novel Chi­nese cre­ations clev­erly ex­e­cuted with western cook­ing tech­niques. Here’s hop­ing that more restau­ra­teurs and chefs take a leaf out of Xin Di­vine’s book.

10 Dux­ton Hill. Tel: 3100 0030


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