If the "power of three" is anything to go by, Shang Social at Jewel Changi Airport might very well be riding on a winning formula.
The first standalone dining establishment by the Shangri-La group, Shang Social pays tribute to three distinctive Chinese cuisines - Cantonese, Huaiyang, and Sichuan.
The menu is carefully-curated with inputs from three of Shangri-la's highly acclaimed master chefs - Chef Mok Kit Keung, Chef Joe Hou, and Chef Rick Du.
The 220-seater space is divided into three sections: DINING, MRKT, and BAR.
Get it? Haha.
With so much being offered on the plate, the whole concept can get a tad overwhelming for first-time visitors like me.
The recommendation is to go for the MRKT or marketplace if you're looking for a quick casual meal with dim sum items, BBQ meat, and staples like congee, rice and noodles.
DINING would suit those who're seeking a formal sit-down communal meal.
If you need a drink or two, the Bar concocts up a selection of Asian-infused cocktails, sparkling tea, and craft beers, along with some Chinese tapas.
In short, Shang Social is designed to suit a variety of dining preferences and occasions.
Ever so eager to get most out of my visit, my immediate question was, "can I order from across the three different menus in one seating? I want the best of three worlds!"
The answer was unfortunately "no".
Which means that if diners are seated at the MRKT section, they cannot order any items from the DINING or BAR menu.
But wait, there are exceptions for the.....
.... Signature Pan-Fried Bun with Pork 招牌生煎包 (1pc $2 | 3pcs $5.80) and Suzhou Baked Minced Pork Bun 苏州小鲜肉酥皮月饼 (1pc $2 | 3pcs $5.80)!
These are the only two items that's served across all the three concepts as it's expected to be popular with diners.
It's easy to understand the pan-fried bun's appeal. Filled with pork filling and soup stock, the bun is pan-fried then further-cooked in water resulting in a crusty bottom yet the top remained soft and fluffy. Each bite was flavorful, juicy, and bursting with that blissful feel.
But I cannot say the same for the minced pork bun. Cheekily named 小鲜肉 or "little fresh meat" (a term used to describe young, good-looking males), the Chinese words imprinted on the mooncake-like bun was barely recognizable. While the pastry skin (baked using a method passed down from the Tang Dynasty) had a nice flaky texture, its filling was a little too sweet for my liking. The bun is actually one of the most popular snacks in Jiangsu province so I do feel rather bad for failing to appreciate it.
The three dishes that we tried from the MRKT menu were excellent!
Be it the Bamboo Noodle with Dark Soya Sauce & Lard 猪油捞竹昇面 ($6) or Signature Dandan Noodle with Minced Pork 担担面 ($12), both plates were very well-executed. I love the simplicity of the bamboo noodle especially. The texture of the egg noodle was springy, pleasantly chewy to bite and so fragrant when tossed in that dark soya sauce and lard.
If you have space for only one dish at the marketplace, make it the Spicy Mapo Beancurd with Minced Beef 麻婆豆腐 ($18), a signature dish of Chef Du. He takes pride in presenting the mapo tofu as he remembers it from childhood, using a secret concoction of spices and minced beef as its texture and fat gives and old authenticity to the dish. Even the beancurd is specially aged to absorb the flavors of the spices and beef as it is slowly simmered before serving.
The mapo tofu was full of complex flavors, with that comfortable level of spiciness and numbing sensation just enough to titillate and not torture our tongues. It was also not as greasy as the dish typically is.
For a more elaborate meal, let's venture over to DINING.
The Spicy Sichuan Chicken 蓉城口水鸡 ($12) was a drool-worthy starter, hitting all the right notes with its succulent poached chicken meat and appetizing nutty sauce with chilli oil.
We had nothing but all praises for Chef Hou's "Jiangnan Wok" Braised Black Marbled Pork 江南灶红烧肉 ($26), a classic Huaiyang specialty. Chunks of beautifully-marbled pork belly were braised until the meat was wonderfully tender and fats gelatinous soft. We like the addition of mochi-like rice cakes which are house-made freshly too. This dish is a must-order!
Other highlights from the DINING menu includes Deep-fried Glutinous Rice Ball with Eight Treasures 八宝黄金煎堆 ($18), Red Garoupa Fillet Stewed In Pea Mash Soup with Pickled Peppers & Chinese Cabbage 椒香豆汤酸菜鱼 ($78, 500g), and Deep-fried Whole Boneless Chicken Filled with Fried Glutinous Rice 脆皮糯米鸡 ($78) which is one of Chef's Mok's signature dishes.
A lot of work has gone into this dish. The chicken is skillfully deboned, stuffed with glutinous rice, sewn up, and brushed with a specially-formulated syrup for a tannish finish. It is then air-dried, roasted and finally bathed with hot oil to render the skin paper-thin and crispy yet leaving the meat still tender.
Do note that the chicken is available in limited quantity and needs to be ordered in advance, so do let the restaurant know your interest when making your reservation.
Lastly, we had the Double-Boiled Snow Pear with Peach Gum & Aloe Vera 冰山雪梨桃胶 ($8), a light Chinese dessert to round off the meal perfectly.
Shang Social is definitely one of the restaurants you should check out when you're at Jewel. It may look totally contemporary on the outside but contains so much authencity, rustic flavors, and traditional elements that sing straight to the heart. With the diversity it offers, there is surely something suitable for everyone.
Shang Social 香聚
Address: Jewel Changi Airport, #01-219/222, 78 Airport Boulevard, Singapore 819663
Contact: +65 6346 0260
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
Prices are stated in Singapore dollars and subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST. Information is correct at point of published date.
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