With an imperial sounding name like Empress, one would expect to find a restaurant decked out in gilded interiors and tables covered with impeccably white sheets ironed down to the last crease. However, the restaurant is anything but stuffy. The light-filled space is anchored by a grand marble bar played off by larger-than-life floral arrangements, rattan-backed chairs, and playful pendant lights that dip from the ceiling.
Empress marks The Privé Group's first foray into the saturated Chinese restaurant market. Lucky for them, the location plays to their advantage. Housed within the grounds of the Asian Civilisations Museum, the restaurant's feature wall comprises of what else but the museum's historic facade. Moreover, its enviable position on the waterfront also gave the group the chance to roll out Empress Bar, a 56-seater alfresco watering hole overlooking the Singapore River.
For a restuarant that draws its lineage to Chinese cuisine, the menu makes bold steps in attempting to straddle both the new world and old. There are classic dim sum items available for lunch along with a superb roast meat platter — comprising roast pork, char siew, and pork ribs slathered with a sweet glaze — made in-house. Then there is a rich, chicken based broth sweetened with pumpkin that's served straight out of a traditional Chinese tea pot. You sip on this flavourful soup while eating the plump seafood dumpling and crispy spring roll that accompanies this dish.
Elsewhere on the menu, you'll find dishes that cater to the museum-going crowd that isn't necessarily seeking out traditional Chinese fare. Asian inflected salads do a good job in bringing together fresh, bright flavours in unexpected ways. The crispy aromatic duck salad mixes up baby spinach with pomelo, Nashi pears, Goji berries, and Chinese figs. A showering of deep-fried shredded duck meat adds a savoury layer to this dish while giving it plenty of crunch.
Those who are health conscious will be delighted to find that the fried rice dishes come with the option to switch your white rice to brown. The fried brown rice medley is a real treat for vegetarians. Mixed grain brown rice is masterfully fried till tender and given depth of flavour with shimeji mushrooms. Chopped asparagus, goji berries, and pine nuts complete the dish.
You won't find any mango pudding here. Desserts resemble Western-style creations, each given a unique twist with Asian ingredients. Think cempedak crème brûlée, sticky date and longan pudding, and Jasmine tea-poached pear.
Empress. 1 Empress Place, #01-03 Asian Civilisations Museum. Tel: 6238 8733