If you’re familiar with Chinese poetry, “Yue Bai” (月白) will be a phrase you’ve seen. This phrase is taken from a famous Tang poem “Pipa Xing” (琵琶行, translated to “Song of the Pipa”) by Bai Ju Yi. Moonlight is often referenced by Chinese poets to evoke a sense of longing for home and family.
Newly opened modern Chinese restaurant Yue Bai articulates this emotion. Serving simple but elegant dishes that are grounded in Chinese heritage, co-owner and chef Lee Hongwei is also guided by the principles of traditional Chinese dietary therapy (or Shi Liao, 食疗) in the kitchen.
The principle of Shi Liao is about consuming food not just to fill the stomach but also to nourish the entire body. Using different ingredients, preparation methods, and recipes that cater to the body’s constitution and the changing seasons, this is also part of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been based on for the last 2,000 over years.
Yue Bai’s interior
Step into Yue Bai and you’ll be immediately drawn by its simple but elegant interior design that reminds us of a traditional tea house.
The restaurant’s interior is also inspired by the aesthetics of a classic Chinese garden with the incorporation of greenery and a round door feature. For the uninitiated, a round door is also known as a “moongate”, which is a traditional architectural feature of Chinese gardens.
Besides these, you’ll also see a collection of art, including a contemporary Chinese ink by Goh Beng Kwan, a 2nd-generation Singaporean artist in the private dining area.
In the inner dining hall, set your eyes on a laser-cut artwork of an excerpt from the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (黄帝内经 Huang Di Nei Jing), which chronicles concepts of Shi Liao.
Review of food at Yue Bai
Among the appetisers that I tried, the Crispy Burdock (S$14) was one that I couldn’t get enough of. Featuring deep-fried slices of burdock that are tossed with sesame seeds and seven-spice powder, this was an irresistible snack that was great to munch on if you’re feeling peckish before the main dishes are served.
While offers the same satisfaction as chips, burdock is actually a naturally sweet vegetable that lowers blood sugar and its high fibre content also increases satiety, so you won’t be bingeing.
If you enjoy sweet dishes that are refreshing, the Roselle Flower-infused Winter Melon (S$12) is another appetiser to look out for.
This is Chef Hongwei’s interpretation of the traditional winter melon and mandarin peel dish and features naturally sweet winter melon and sour roselle, which come together to offer a balanced flavour. Roselle is known to help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and this is a dish that is light and whets the appetite.
Yue Bai also has a strong repertoire of main dishes and these are some of the highlights that really stood out to me.
First, the Deep-Fried Granola Prawn (S$36) is not to be missed.
A twist from the popular cereal prawn that we are used to eating, this replaces cereal with house-made granola comprising rolled oats, pecans, and wolfberries instead. Chef Hongwei revealed that he got the inspiration one morning when he was having granola for breakfast!
The flash-fried prawns are also served with ribbons of beetroot to lift the palate.
I really enjoyed this dish because of the crunchy texture that it comes with, which I find even more satisfying than cereal. The addition of pecans give it a nutty taste and I like that the wolfberries offer a natural sweetness.
Next, I recommend the Braise Hokkien Hutou Vermicelli (S$35).
This is a dish that is inspired by Chef Hongwei’s childhood, when his dad used to travel to the family’s hometown in China for ancestral prayer every year and would bring home Hutou rice vermicelli from Anhui, Fujian.
Using these noodles, Chef’s grandmother would prepare a Henghwa-style vermicelli featuring a myriad of seafood.
Tapping on this memory, Chef Hongwei elevates the dish by braising the same type of noodles in superior chicken stock with abalone, sea cucumber, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese chives, and beansprouts. Dried sole fish crumble and crisp Henghwa first harvest black seaweed is also added to the dish to impart a more umami flavour.
To me, this wasn’t just a delicious dish, it was also comforting, not just in flavour but also in the thought of how Chef is sharing a part of his childhood with his patrons.
Finally, the Herbal Poached Rice (S$38) was probably the stand-out item that all of us at the table can’t stop raving about.
This is Chef’s take on Teochew-style fish porridge. He introduces a different flavour profile with the use of dang shen, angelica root, and wolfberry that are infused in Shaoxing wine for at least a fortnight. The prolonged infusion paid off in terms of a robust flavour that’s evident with every spoonful of the broth.
Egg yolk fried rice, black fungus, and cod fillet are then served in a hot stone pot, and finished tableside with the fish broth and herbal Shaoxing wine.
Besides the amazing broth, the cod fillet was also perfectly cooked such that’s moist and soft, flaking off in a satisfying manner with every bite.
Of course, you can’t leave without rounding up your meal with dessert.
Go for the House-made Beancurd with Hashima (S$38). This silky smooth treat is served with pi pa gao syrup on the side. You may think it sounds a little weird – I did too – but once I tried it, I see how it made sense and I started savouring it.
Yue Bai is located at 33 Duxton Road, Singapore 089497 and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11.45am to 3pm for lunch and 5.45pm to 10pm for dinner. It’s closed on Mondays, except on public holidays. Email [email protected] or call +65 9721 8055 for reservations.