Avenue Joffre ft. “Queen of Dim Sum” Master Chef Ge Xian’E – Invited Tasting

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Avenue Joffre is a relatively new restaurant in RWS Crockford Tower (next to Osia) serving Chinese food. This restaurant is owned by a Hong Kong food company (Epicurean Group) which manages many restaurants in Hong Kong. The name Avenue Joffre is adapted from a famous road in olden day Shanghai’s French concession. This restaurant specialises in Szechuan, Cantonese, Zhejiang and Beijing food. Before you start judging this place as non-authentic just because they serve many styles, do know that they actually get several different famous chefs, each with their own specialty, to develop their menu:

  • Executive Chef, Ip Chi Kwong (叶志光) – Cantonese cuisine
  • Master Chef Gu Xiao Rong (谷晓荣)-  Szechuan cuisine
  • Master Chef Zhou Yuan Chang ( 周元昌 ) – Shanghainese cuisine
  • Master Chef Ge Xian’e (葛贤萼) – Dim Sum

Not all of them are present all the time, but they do come down every now and then. It’s best to dine here when the chef is in town!

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Master Chef Ge Xian’E was in town for 5 days and I had the honour of trying some of her creations.

She has SIXTY years of dim sum making experience(now aged 75) and won awards for her craft in China. She specializes in BOTH Cantonese and Shanghainese Dim Sum. This talent is almost unreal because I’ve never has both good Canontese and Shanghainese dim sum in the same restaurant by the same chef.

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Menu for the night.

Most Chinese restaurants in Singapore only serves dim sum for lunch service, but Avenue Joffre always serves Shanghainese dim sum during  dinner, while Cantonese dim sum is available during dinner upon prior request during reservation. You need to call earlier so they can prepare the dim sum for you. Remember, you can’t get Cantonese dim sum on the spot during dinner but you can always pre-order! Great to know that I now can enjoy good dim sum for dinner if I feel like it!

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Flower tea

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灌汤上海生煎包
Pan-fried Pork Bun filled with Soup – $7.00++/3 pieces

The cheater’s method is to steam the buns first before pan frying, but original Sheng Jian Bao (famous in Shanghai) is to be pan fried raw!

Shanghainese Dim Sum differs from Cantonese ones in how they tend to be more complicated – like having broth in the Dim Sum. The amount of soup inside these buns were incredible. Definitely the best 生煎包 I’ve tried, even better than those in Shanghai!

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十三香葱油饼
Spring Onion Pancake in Shanghainese style – $7.00++/ 3 pieces

Again, this is the best 葱油饼 I’ve tried. Those normal mediocre ones are just oily and over fried. This one is done simply but skillfully. There’s no secret ingredient – just a pancake full of spring onions. The texture of the pancake reminded me of our local Roti Prata – crispy outside, soft inside. So good. Never going to look at 葱油饼 in the same way again.

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上海小笼包
Steamed Shanghai Pork Dumpling – $7.00++/ 4 pieces

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小笼包 is very popular among Singaporeans and with such popularity, our local restaurants do make effort to make them good. While we Singaporeans do not have access to good 生煎包 and 葱油饼, the 小笼包 scene in Singapore has been pretty decent.

Chef Ge’s version features the perfect thickness of skin – just thin enough and with the right elasticity to not break. The soup inside was flavorful. Definitely not a disappointment.

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冬笋鲜虾饺
Steamed Crystal Prawn Dumpling – $6.00++/3 pieces

This is the standard order for every Cantonese dim sum meal, and is usually the item which determines the overall standard of the dim sum chef.

I dare say this is probably the best 虾饺 I’ve had in recent memory! The skin was thin, elastic and dot not break when I pulled it out from the paper (after a few rounds of photos it did become less warm and was more prone of being soggy and breaking, but nope! It stayed in tact).

The prawns were very crunchy and fresh. The secret to this is to run the prawns under RUNNING a tap for 2 hours. Definitely not something regular home cooks would do unless we’re cooking like for a 100 people. Don’t bother trying to make this at home. Just have it here.

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烧汁鲍鱼烧卖
Steamed Minced Pork & Abalone Siew Mai – $6.00++/3 pieces

Another Dim Sum staple is of course the 烧卖. For such items, deliciousness is directly proportionate to the quality of ingredients. For this one I could taste really fresh ingredients so it’s good. Definitely not one of those which is bulked up with flour and becomes mushy.

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香麻菜脯肠粉
Steamed Preserved Turnip & Sesame Rice Roll – $6.00++

This was the most stand out dish tonight. It sounded very ordinary, made with very ordinary ingredients, but the combination was legendary! Who would have thought that 肠粉 would go so well with 菜脯?

This was so good, we called for a second portion! Chef Ge thought this would work because the usual ingredients for 肠粉 like prawn of beef was boring – and besides, we can’t that superb quality ones in Singapore. 菜脯 on the other hand, is something we can easily get in Singapore and ours is not inferior to anywhere else in the world.

The sauce was a little sweet and spicy and was just perfect. It’s like having the best of both chwee kueh and chee cheong fun (both are common Singaporean breakfast food items) in one plate.

Combination aside, of course the texture of the rice rolls is important and of course, this one met the mark.

This dish is indeed inspiring – it shows that you do not always need luxury ingredients to produce good food. What is important is using the best of what you can find locally.

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白汁海鲜雪梨球
Deep-fried Bun with Assorted Seafood in Cream Sauce – $7.00++/3 pieces

And with gold dust to make it more magical. This is a Cantonese style creation and with the cream sauce and cute appearance, it would be a hit with the kids. The pastry was fried to perfection without being overly oily and matched well with the cream filling. Such dim sum items aren’t really my favorite (not a big fan of cream sauce) but this was good. Remove the decorative clove before eating though, it’s very pungent!

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萝卜丝酥饼
Baked Parsnip Pastry – $7.00++/3 pieces

This is another Cantonese creatively shaped fried dim sum. These little bags look so cute. The filling was just ordinary parsnip (white radish) but cooked in stock to become flavorful. The pastry was brittle and delicate and would crumble if not handled properly and takes a lot of skill to get this right. The overall combination was good, not something I’ll miss all the time, but for that occasional times were I want to try something.

Again, another dish made with simple ingredients but showcased fine dim sum making skills. 

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野山蒜爆鲜虾
Stir-fried Fresh Prawns with Wild Garlic -$10.00++

I suppose this isn’t really dim sum, but it is yet another great dish. It has both sweet and spicy flavours and you just won’t dislike prawns like this. The prawn was deep-fried making the shell crunchy and crispy and it tastes better when you eat the whole thing. 

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香芒绿茶卷
Chilled Mango & Green Tea Roll – $6.00++/3 pieces

This is a Shanghainese style item and more unique than the usual sesame pancake with red bean. There was a layer which was like peanut candy – slightly chewy yet crunchy. Overall it was a joy to eat, though the green tea in the pastry was barely detectable.

金兰夹层糕
Steamed Pandan Layer Cake – $6.00++/3 pieces

This is a Shanghainese dim sum but with local Singapore influence. Pandan is big in Singapore and incorporating it into the classic Shanghainese dim sum, you get something which is like a cross between Nonya kueh and Shanghainese rice cake

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西米牛油果
Chilled Avocado & Sago Cream – $7.00++

This is something I typically see in Cantonese restaurants. As a fan of avocado, of course I liked it. But it’s not as impressive as the Shanghainese desserts!

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猪仔流心包
Steamed Piggy Bun with Chocolate – $7.00++/ 3 pieces

A dessert version of Cantonese salted egg yolk custard bun, this will definitely be a hit among the kids (and perhaps some adults haha.. like me) because the pig is so cute and it’s filled with chocolate. 

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Messy pig filled with chocolate. More points for this goes to the appearance than the taste itself. The taste was decent but the main purpose of ordering this would be for the cuteness. I know I’ll definitely order this if I were to dine here because I am a sucker for themed food!

Overall, the dim sum was the I’ve had in a long time! It was dim sum done to perfection. The last time I had such skillfully made dim sum was 5 years ago in 2011 when Chef Mak (of Tim Ho Wan fame) visited as a guest chef for Feng Shui Inn, also in RWS. For such finesse of dim sum making skills, it takes a very skilled and experienced chef and it really can’t be recreated by just anyone.

According to Chef Ge, the biggest challenge for dim sum making in Singapore is the lack of good resources. Our flour, water, and various ingredient are just not the same as what you get in Hong Kong or China. She had to make do with what is available here to create the best items from our resources. According to her own standards, she is not satisfied with the quality produced, even though I thought that everything was great. It goes to show how delicate dim sum is and it takes a lot to create the best.

What I liked most about the meal today was how Chef Ge could transform simple ingredients into something delicious and this is a talent which you won’t find everyday. Her dim sum did not rely on fancy ingredients like Foie Gras, caviar or Bird’s Nest to stand out. It was good because of the skills.

Digressing, I know what many Singaporeans are thinking – you wouldn’t come to RWS JUST to eat. They’ll only come here if there’s a concert, for Universal Studios, Trick Eye Museum, S.E.A Aquarium, casino, or basically some other activity to make your trip down here worth it. The hassle is mainly the entrance fee and long queue for bus for those who come by public transport. For those who come by car, expensive parking, confusing carpark and lack of parking lots is a common complaint.

But if you now know this is your best place to get good quality dim sum (especially for dinner where everywhere else doesn’t serve Cantonese dim sum), the inconveniences may be worth the effort.

*Special thanks to Candice from Epicurean Group for organizing this tasting.*


Ambiance: 8/10
Food: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: Excellent dim sum. A must try!


Avenue Joffre
26 Sentosa Gateway
#02-137 – 139
Resort World Sentoa
Singapore 098138

Tel: 65703213


Lunch:

Daily : 12nn-4pm (Last Order 3:30pm)

Dinner:

Sunday to Thursday : 6pm-10pm (Last Order 9:30pm)

Friday, Saturday and Public Holiday’s Eve: 6pm-10:30pm (Last Order 10pm)

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