ChiChi Dining is a new restaurant from the folks behind dessert concept Nesuto which launched in February 2020, taking over the corner space along Amoy Street formerly occupied by Aloha Poke. Helmed by Daniel Yee, the former head culinary chef of the now-defunct 52 Sandwich Shack, the concept serves Asian and Japanese-inspired modern fusion cuisine in a minimalist setting. The restaurant currently offers both course and a la carte menus, with dishes spanning across raw, small bites, vegetables, rice & noodles, meat & seafood as well as dessert categories, while the bar offers a small selection of tipples such as Yuzu Calpis and Old Fashion.
The raw section comprises mainly oysters and sashimi-related dishes such as Hamachi (peanut butter dressing, cucumber, Szechuan peppercorn), while the vegetable choices include Broccolini (sea salt, olive oil) and King Oyster Mushrooms (teriyaki glaze, togarashi, chives). The rice & noodles section is similarly small, with the headline dish being the Uni Pasta (fresh uni, cream, ikura, chives, orecchiette pasta, lime zest/key lime, kampot pepper).
The small bites section is fairly extensive and with a strong Japanese influence, ranging from Charred Edamame, Corn Fritters and Cured Cod Croquette to the Smoked Chestnut & Truffle Gyoza. While the Crispy Butter Chicken Kaarage (chicken thigh, spiced buttermilk batter, lemon wedges) delivered what was needed in routine, sour fashion, the Spicy Chawanmushi (dashi broth, eggs, Szechuan pepper, burnt corn kernel, edamame, spring onions) was an intriguingly mala-tinged take on the soft egg dish, being more tantalisingly numb than searing vixen with the sweet corn kernels and crunchy edamame adding happy textural adventure.
The meat & seafood section is where things get interesting. The Hamachi Collar (Asian soy sauce, togarashi, garlic chips, grated daikon) and Baby Cuttlefish (XO sauce, lime juice, cucumber) played it fairly natural and nude, wearing nothing but a seductive smokiness and yielding their bodies to your full discretion Fifty Shades of Grey-style in terms of how you want to taste and experience them, using the accompaniments at hand. The fatty Iberico Pork Collar (spicy miso, pickled apple) possessed a detectably smoky and stickily sweet exterior over a relatively porcine musky core. The weakest dish I tried was the Braised Beef Short Ribs (soy sauce, beef tendon, radishes, kampot pepper), which was suitably tender but disappointingly anonymous, with the kampot pepper element nowhere to be detected. The indisputable highlight of the meal was the succulent Ang Kar Prawn (shio kombu, burnt butter, garlic), a tour de force of salt-teased buttery umami with added jolts of intense garlic. The irresistible burnt butter has a Midas effect on everything it touches, even having enough oomph to enhance and override the XO fragrance of the already scrumptious Crab XO Fried Rice (lump crab, Japanese rice, sugar peas, nori, eggs, in-house XO sauce, tobiko).
At the end of the meal, I appreciated the tart zing of the Semi Freddo (sour cherry, Valrhona Ariafa Noire 66% chocolate, meringue, caramelised almond), although it was ever so slightly too frozen for dainty, non-clunky consumption.
Of the two notable openings in the CBD/downtown area this season (the other being Torasho Ramen & Charcoal), I preferred ChiChi Dining for its innovative flourishes and the strength of its highlights. It has much potential, and I might come back again once the menu and operations have stabilised.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Japanese-inspired modern fusion cuisine along Amoy Street.
The must-orders (if any): Spicy Chawanmushi, Ang Kar Prawn, Crab XO Fried Rice.
92 Amoy Street #01-01