We are back at The Sampan located along the Singapore River in Boat Quay for its revamped menu. The new menu will focus on local and regional produces, transforming them into sensational dishes, incorporating Asian flavours. Lead by Head Chef Ahmad, even the kitchen team is local.
Espresso Martini 4/5
I started with an Espresso Martini ($18) and snack on the complimentary Emping Crackers. I realised many restaurants have begun to introduce emping crackers on their menu, not sure whether it is a trend but I find it a bold move, as not many people like the bitterness taste of it.
Half Shell Japanese Scallops 3/5
For appetisers, we started with the Half Shell Japanese Scallops ($15 for 3pc). The scallop is topped with laksa leave pesto. I like the idea, but the sauce didn't quite bring out the taste of the scallop for me.
Silken Egg Tofu with Peanut Sauce 3/5
The Silken Egg Tofu with Peanut Sauce ($12) is probably inspired by the local Tahu Goreng. It is topped with vegetable fritters for that extra crunch. However, I didn't find it quite as inspiring as a dish. It felt more like a shrink version of Tahu Goreng which is presented delicately but at a steeper price.
Pot Sticker Dumpling 3.5/5
The Pot Sticker Dumpling ($12) fares better than the other two appetisers. The dumpling skin is not too thick, with a decent proportion of minced meat stuffing. It even has delectable crispiness on one side, giving it an additional contrast in texture.
Spicy and Tangy Singapore Salad 3/5
Moving on to the salad menu, they are not actually the most healthy salad I have eaten. The Spicy and Tangy Singapore Salad ($14) is an interpretation of our local multi-cultural dish - Rojak, with a prawn paste sauce to hold the different components together.
Crispy Thai Beef Salad 3.5/5
The Crispy Thai Beef Salad ($15) compared to the Singapore salad has more textures, and I enjoyed the addition of the basil leaves to give it a boost in taste profile.
Kampung Bali Fried Rice 4/5
Sad to say, the dish that I enjoyed most is the Kampung Bali Fried Rice ($15) which is packed with rustic flavours infused with the smoky aroma.
Beef Cheek Rendang 3.5/5
I was left feeling speechless and stunned when the Beef Cheek Rendang ($26) was served. The plating with the grilled vegetables and steamed rice cake was so elementary. I also didn't get the idea behind the steamed rice cake. The saving grace has to be the flavourful and fork tender beef cheek.
Fresh Local Seabass 3.8/5
Among the mains, the Fresh Local Seabass ($21) is my favourite. The portion is generous, moist and comes with crispy skin glazed with Asian soya sauce. It is paired with smooth potato puree and pickled cucumbers.
Charred Chicken with Mango Sambal 2.8/5
Whole Baby Chicken with Tomato Sambal Aubergine 2.8/5
We tried both the chicken dishes, Charred Chicken with Mango Sambal ($19) and Whole Baby Chicken with Tomato Sambal Aubergine ($22). Putting aside that the chicken is tender and juicy, I didn't enjoy them. The chickens were bland, and the sauces didn't help to bring it together.
Local Coconut Pudding 3.8/5
For dessert, we have the Local Coconut Pudding ($13) that is topped with crunchy coffee tuille and served with a scoop of charred bread ice cream. A well-balanced dessert that is not overly sweet and has a smooth, creamy consistency.
Pandan Pancakes 4/5
The Pandan Pancakes ($13) is served with vanilla ice cream and palm sugar syrup. The texture of the pancakes tasted more like our local "Min Jiang Kueh" with the fragrant peanut filling.
Thai Sticky Rice 3.5/5
The Thai Sticky Rice ($13) with mango slices and mango sorbet is enjoyable, but I think there is room for improvements. I felt it was missing some elements such as coconut milk to bring everything together. Perhaps, also garnished with some mung beans for the extra texture.
In my humble opinion, I felt that The Sampan has a great concept, but it still hasn't found the exact identity in its food yet. It seems that they are caught in this barrier to elevate the traditional dishes and/or flavours, into a modern take that is something new and creative. If I were to compare the dishes I tried, I would say the dessert are much closer to the goal than the savoury dishes.
Note: This is an invited tasting.
63 Boat Quay
Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay (NE Line), Raffles Place (EW Line, NS Line)
Mon-Fri: 1130am - 12midnight
Sat: 430pm - 12midnight
(Closed on Sun)
1) Alight at Clarke Quay MRT station. Take Exit E. Cross the road walk to Upper Circular Road. Walk down Upper Circular Road to North Bridge Road. Cross the road and walk to destination. Journey time about 6 minutes. [Map]
2) Alight at Raffles Place MRT station. Take Exit G. Walk to the riverfront. Turn left and walk down Boat Quay. Journey time about 8 minutes. [Map]