the hinata diaries

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Imperial Herbal and Mag's Wine Kitchen

Loads of food blogging to catch up on! Finally moved to the East last week so spent the week packing and unpacking, then got caught up in Chinese New Year festivities. On the happy side, our place is finally done and we've hosted our first party, so we're well on our way to being settled in and having fun.

And now, on to some belated posts...

Imperial Herbal Restaurant

Had our family's reunion dinner there. Imperial Herbal is situated on Seah Street in the quaint Metropole Hotel, and is famous for herb infused Northern Chinese cuisine, as well as its in-house Chinese physician, who will apparently recommend particular dishes based on your state of health. For followers of celebrity chefs, apparently Anthony Bourdain ate here as part of his Singapore tour (I didn't catch the show). I'd been once several years ago, and my strongest memory of the place was of jars of dodgy preserved animal body parts (deer penis soup anyone?) and exotic menu items like scorpion.

For some reason, I didn't notice that this time around. I guess the good and bad thing about being the youngest generation at a family dinner is that everything is organized for you - the grown-ups choose the restaurant, order the food, bring the wine, even pay the bill... all you have to do is turn up and eat! Unfortunately that means I have no idea what half the food that showed up on the table really is, but here are some pics to whet your appetite! On the plus side, I do know that the first dish is a sort of steamed egg white with dried scallops, while the last was a walnut cream.

Interesting to note though that, while I expected strongly medicinal soup dishes liberally scattered with herbs and whatnot, the actual use of the herbs was very subtle - most of the dishes did not have an overwhelmingly herbal taste and often made you question what herbs were in them if at all. My best guess is that probably not all of the dishes are herbal, but rather the combination of dishes was possibly chosen to achieve some kind of yin-yang equilibrium. They were all delicious though, so I'm looking forward to going back and trying them again (and this time ordering the food myself so I know what exactly it is I'm eating!).

Mag's Wine Kitchen

The girls organized Nicky's surprise birthday dinner here a couple of Saturdays ago. Mag's wasn't really at the top of my list of recommendations at first, as I'd only been once before for a weekday lunch with colleagues (albeit a very good lunch), but it came to mind when we were looking for a place with a private room. Dinner turned out fantastic and Mag's will now always be in my list of top go-to restaurants... *shedding a happy tear*

Mag's has been around for a couple of years now, and most by now have heard of her story - former banker turned self-trained French chef. The restaurant is situated in a cosy (read: tiny) shophouse on Circular Road, the menu changes daily depending on what's seasonal and fresh, and Mag is at the helm of the kitchen every meal. The restaurant is packed to the brim every lunch time and even dinner reservations can be pretty tough to get a hold of.

Basically Mag achieved with panache what every stressed out junior banker/lawyer aspires to :)

We had the two course set for $44+++, which including a choice of one of three starters and one of three mains, all introduced in loving detail by our server. (He deserves an award btw, for having the patience to endure Nina's cries of "what????" from the far end of the room!) The starters that day were a crabmeat salad with tobikko, pan seared tuna and something else (such quality journalism eh?) Couldn't take pictures of any of these because they disappeared off people's plates so quickly... Suffice to say they were gorgeous to look at and even better to eat.

The mains I can do a better job of! Choices for the day were: beef in veal jus, cod in fennel sauce and lamb chops in a rosemary reduction. The pictures below hopefully capture not just the quality of the ingredients (check out the size of those chops!) but also the painstaking presentation:

I had the beef, which was perfectly tender, but the highlight was really the veal jus, which was so full of flavour I poked multiple holes in my beef in a desperate attempt to expose maximum surface area to jus. This may sound like a fairly dumb statement, but it tasted so... french! Elegant, sophisticated and with tremendous depth of flavour but at the same time appearing so classic and effortless. I've had the good fortune of being spoiled each trip to France by my mom-in-law's cooking or my dad-in-law's restaurant planning, and while there are tons of good and affordable French restaurants in Singapore, there always seems to be a little spark that's missing. The only other place I've found in Singapore that gets this whole jus thing right is Raffles Grill, but that's another rave for another day.

Another bonus of dining at Mag's is the wonderful cellar of French wines (it is Mag's Wine Kitchen after all), which aren't cheap but are at least reasonable for their quality - most of the wines we tried were in the $70/bottle range and were very enjoyable.

All in all, a pretty fulfilling weekend - Imperial Herbal on Friday night and Mag's on Saturday. On hindsight, we should probably have done it the other way around - indulge in French wine and rich butter sauces the first evening, then detox with herbal cuisine the night after :)

More updates to come!


Imperial Herbal
  • 3/F Metropole Hotel, 41 Seah Street
  • 6337 0491
  • Mon-Sun: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10pm

Mag's Wine Kitchen

  • 86 Circular Road
  • 6438 3836
  • Mon-Fri: 12-2pm, 6.30pm-9.30pm. Saturday: Private events only


  • Wasn't I a good assistant for taking pix at Meg's Kitchen??? sorry gal, I am not really commenting on the food ~ Meg's kitchen was absolutely Fab !!!!! Simple but GOOD !!!!!

    By Blogger Jean, At 10:35 AM  

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