Empress Doesn’t Quite Impress
Located at the Asian Civilisations Museum is Empress—Prive Group’s latest and only Chinese restaurant. The restaurant which offers both indoor and outdoor dining options, has a commanding view of the Singapore River.
You are not wrong if you think this is a Western restaurant as the ambience and décor is modern with glass panels from ceiling to floor for the perfect view of the riverfront. Some serving staff are Europeans, a feature we normally do not find in a Chinese restaurant. There is a huge bar near the entrance which dominates the restaurant. Again, it reminds you more of a Western bar cum dining type restaurant.
Empress serves a weekend dim sum brunch. Diners can also opt for the set lunch or choose from the a la carte menu. For $58/-++ dim sum brunch, you can have your pick. Drinks such as wine, beer are not included.
On the left hand side of the menu, diners have a choice of 4 dishes and 2 desserts but they are limited to one serving per person with the exception of the soup of the day. In other words, out of the 4 dishes, diners can only choose 2 and 1 dessert.
Soup of the day was egg drop soup with pieces of prawns. It was rather ordinary, and nothing spectacular. As there were 4 of us at the lunch, I was able to sample all the dishes. The dishes listed were Singapore chilli king prawns with golden mantou, crispy-battered sea grouper with yuzu, spicy ginger and flower glaze, triple roast platter and crispy sesame chicken with lime sauce.
The gravy of the chilli king prawns tasted exactly the same as the chilli crab dish at seafood restaurant, and the serving size of the mantou was really small. The triple roast platter came with char siew, crackling roast pork and sticky pork ribs. Once again, the portion served was so small that it was more like a tasting portion with 2 pieces of meat each. Taste-wise, there was little difference between the char siew and the sticky pork ribs as both meats were gluey with honey. The crispy sesame chicken was something new with the skin coated with sesame and exuded a fragrant taste when I sank my teeth on it.
The 2 desserts were Not-So-Portuguese egg tart and peanut-coated black sesame ‘mochi’ balls, Both desserts were Western influenced, and it’s not the typical egg tart you’re used to. Instead, the egg tart came with egg custard, flaky pastry, milk gelato and milk tea caramel. The second dessert had a dollop of sesame ice cream together with a peanut-coated mochi ball.
There are unlimited servings for the dim sum. The common types of dim sum such as har gau, siew mai and pan-fried turnip cake were available. There were 3 types of porridge: sliced fish with spinach and shredded ginger porridge, preserved egg and pork porridge and dried scallop and shredded duck porridge. The preserved egg and duck porridge tasted ordinary and the duck porridge was a bit salty for my liking.
Some dishes stood out. The steamed seafood and spinach dumplings was a delicious combination as the scallops, prawns, crab and spinach were all wrapped in nicely. Crispy butter-baked shredded duck buns tasted like “por loh” baked buns. Instead of pork, the fillings had shredded duck meat. In addition, the crispy bacon prawn vermicelli rolls had fine strands of flour coated on the outside, which looked like crispy vermicelli.
Steamed Pumpkin & Pork Skin Dumplings
The one dish that was flat in taste was the steamed pumpkin and pork skin dumplings. They looked like mini pumpkins with hardly any filling inside. I was also disappointed with the pan-fried turnip cake with Chinese sausage as they tasted mass-produced—the cake was hard and lumpy.
Pan-Fried Turnip Cake with Chinese Sausage
Portions served at Empress tend to be small. Although it is a buffet dim sum lunch, the varieties offered are limited. Overall, it is not value for money considering the price of $58++ per person.
1 Empress Place, Asian Civilisations Museum #01-03
Daily (Lunch: 11.30 am to 3 pm Dinner: 6.00 pm to 11.00 pm)