What: Like him or loathe him, 3-Michelin-starred ‘Demon Chef’ Alvin Leung makes his Singapore debut with the recent opening of Cantonese restaurant, Forbidden Duck, at Marina Bay Financial Centre. Occupying half the space previously used by Crystal Jade Prestige—the other half housing one-Michelin-starred restaurant, Qi House Of Sichuan—the restaurant is also the first overseas outlet of Chef Leung’s most recent duck-centric concept that he launched in Hong Kong late last year.
What to expect: Frankly, I did not enjoy his molecular gastronomy offerings at a Savour Singapore event a few years back, so it is a relief that Forbidden Duck’s menu—signature Peking-style Duck and chef’s own slow-cooked Roast Duck, plus other classic Cantonese dishes—is kept approachable, easy to understand and, most of all, at surprisingly friendly prices.
Highlights: A definite must-try is chef's Signature Slow Roasted Duck ($88). Slow-cooked in the oven for three hours before finished with a roasting of 30 minutes to get a crispy skin, the thickly-sliced bird arrives plush and pink, juicy, and with a luxurious layer of fat under glistening, crisp skin.
It is accompanied by a platter of condiments such as calamansi-spiked hoi sin sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar and smoked sea salt, and also distinctly calamansi-flavoured steamed buns—Chef Leung had switched from original recipe of orange after being inspired by use of calamansi in our local cuisine.
Chef shares he does not use any marinate on the duck and it is purposely sliced thick, so diners can taste the meat more prominently, and it will not be lost in the bun with condiments. Personally, the best way to enjoy it is on its own, or with a touch of that smoked sea salt.
Also excellent and return-worthy is the Seafood Rice in Aromatic Duck Soup ($32). Crispy rice pops lend crunch to a beautifully comforting broth, made flavourful with duck, fresh scallops and prawns.
There are a couple of other ‘ducky’ dishes for the curious, though nothing to really shout about. The Laksa Style Duck ($18) feels like a cross between dry laksa and a duck salad; the Pesto Duck Spring Roll ($6) will split views with its herbaceous Italian sauce and intense duck flavour; I really liked the texture of the Steamed Black Truffle & Duck Tongue Dumpling ($8), though the truffle seems to have been misplaced.
Chef does well with his non-duck offerings too.
His generous Iberico Pork Char Siu ($30) is cut thick, yet tender with just the right bite. It isn’t overpowered with too much char or fats. Instead it is balanced, with a hint of smokiness and a complementing sauce that wasn’t too sweet—if you’re the type that go for full-on fattiness or sweet sauce, this will not work for you.
The Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychee ($23) is given an almost floral twist, accentuated with use of Mei Kuei Lu (Chinese Rose Wine) and tart hawthorn, and his luxe offering of Lobster Vermicelli with Black Truffle Har Mi XO ($88, whole lobster) was unexpectedly flavoursome.
My main gripe was the service, though admittedly we did visit the establishment on its very first official day of operations (3 May 2018) - so I hope that’s sorted out now.
This was an invited media tasting session, though all views expressed are my own.
Address: #02-02, Marina Bay Financial Centre Ground Plaza, 8A Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018984
Tel: +65 6509 8767
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm