First appearing on the dining scene in 2014, CHAR Restaurant has moved from its humble home on Guillemard Road to Jalan Besar which is slowly becoming a trendy hub of modern restaurants, eateries, pubs and bars. Now located in a two-storey conservation shophouse, CHAR has been able to serve up their Chinese roasts to a bigger crowd.
Opened by brother duo Anthony and Alvin Ung, the combination of their culinary skills and passion for cooking has enabled the brothers to put a unique twist on traditional Chinese roasts. Brothers Ung have recently brought on Chi Leung Tse, the new Head Chef of CHAR. A 20-year veteran in Cantonese cuisine and a Hong Kong native, Chef Leung has worked side by side with Antony and Alvin to revitalise the menu to include some of his personal Cantonese dishes.
We start off with Passionfruit Prawn Ball ($22.00), which is deep fried to crisp perfection then tossed in a sweet-tangy passionfruit dressing and finished off with diced red pepper and passionfruit. The prawns are succulent, juicy and shelled for your dining convenience.
Double boiled soups are an important part of Cantonese dining. It allows for an extraction of flavours whilst still keeping the integrity of the ingredients used. Signature Double Boiled Chicken Soup ($10.00/Limited bowls per day) is made by boiling chicken bones and cartilege for several hours to extract all the natural goodness and flavour of the ingredients. This results in a milky, collagen-filled broth which is portioned into individual pots filled with chicken, morel mushrooms, white cabbage and dried scallops before being double boiled. The end result is a very hearty and comforting soup.
From the name of the restaurant we can deduct that one of the stars of the meal is the Signature Char Siew ($6.00 per 100g/min 300g). Select pieces of pork belly are chosen where the ratio of fat and lean is perfectly balanced. It then goes through a three-stage secret cooking procedure that produces ideal tenderness and moisture throughout. The final stage consists of a special recipe sauce, consisting of over 30 ingredients to pack as much umami into the dish as possible, to be smothered over the pork belly and a blast of extreme heat in the oven. The result is a heavenly melt-in-your-mouth experience last leaves you and the rest of the table fighting for the final piece.
If one plate of char siew wasn’t enough, we are presented with the Premium Slow-Roasted Char Siew ($20.00 for 150g/Limited to 10 portions a day/dinner only). Slow roasted over a combination of charcoal and sweet lychee wood imparts a visually appealing smoke ring as well as a distinct aromatic flavour to the pork. The Premium Slow-Roasted Char Siew is cooked freshly daily and is a must try!
Another traditional Cantonese dish is the casserole or claypot. They have been used for generations and continue to be used today due to their special heat-retaining characteristics. The Black Garlic Stewed Chicken in Casserole ($15.80) consists of bite sized pieces of chicken thigh, oyster mushrooms and black garlic braised in a thick marinade of oyster sauce, premium dark soya sauce and sugar. The black garlic heightens the dish due to its caramelised nuances, subtle garlic undertones and soft texture.
With so many meat heavy dishes, the Charcoal Beancurd with Spinach and Wild Fungi ($14.80) was like a breath of fresh air. Chef Leung makes the silky smooth beancurd from scratch daily. Charcoal powder is added to aid digestion as well as giving the beancurd a subtle charcoal flavour and black appearance. The steamed then deep-fried beancurd is served on a bed of spinach and topped with a light broth consisting of oyster sauce, dried scallops and wild mushrooms.
The trademark of a good Chinese chef is the wok hei in a stir fry dish. Fresh Wild Yam with Pork in Sambal Sauce ($13.80) has this ‘breath of the wok’. Generous slices of pork, wild yam disc, celery and green peppers are expertly tossed in the wok with Chef Leung’s secret sambal belachan sauce. The sambal belachan does not overpower the dish but just adds a hint of spice.
Although thoroughly full, I wasn’t able to pass up the Crispy Egg Noodles with Kurobuta Pork (16.80). Fresh egg noodles are first blanched then hand-rolled into a neat cocoon, before being dipped in hot oil to seal in the flavour and crisp up the noodles. The crispy egg noodles are then topped with a thick broth with red onions, beansprouts and scallions. As this mountain is still not enough it is then topped with a generous helping of lightly pan-fried Kurobuta pork slices. Parts of the noodles stay crispy while parts are softened by the thick broth, it creates a perfect balance for that mouthfeel.
From the aesthetically pleasing pastel walls which houses quirky artwork to the amazing new menu, no aspect has been spared at the new home to CHAR. The hustle and bustle of business on a Thursday night is reminiscent of Hong Kong and brings a true taste of Cantonese cuisine to the shores of Singapore. The sheer effort and ingredients that goes into creating each dish makes CHAR very affordable and worthy of repeat visits. Due to their limited kitchen staff, do note that some dishes have daily limited quantities, it is advised that diners call in advance to make reservations for the roasted meats and double boiled soup.
363 Jalan Besar Road
Tuesday – Sunday
Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm (last order at 2pm)
Dinner 6:00pm-10:00pm (last order at 9:30pm)
*** This was a hosted tasting. ***