Jiang Cantonese Tapas Restaurant & Bar at Ascent @ 456 condominium along 456 Balestier Road may sound like an upscale dining establishment with high prices. However, contrary to that perception, this hidden gem of a Cantonese-Asian place offers an affordable to mid-tier dining experience.
This 2-year-old eatery came highly recommended by my uncle, who stumbled upon it while waiting for a client. Intrigued by his approval, I felt compelled to visit and experience it for myself.
Upon entering, you’ll be welcomed by a cosy dining area to the left, featuring approximately 4 tables and a bar which creates an ambience reminiscent of a Hong Kong-style eatery.
My eyes were intrigued by the word ‘BASEMENT’ to the right and heading below was the right choice. It was an exclusive dining space with a single frosted glass ceiling, which allowed ample sunlight to illuminate the entire place if you’re there during the day. To some (like myself), it may even look like a secret dungeon.
Our surprise mounted as we observed shadows moving past, leading us to the realisation that we were directly beneath a pedestrian path— how cool is that?
The walls were adorned with numerous snippets from the film ‘2046’, a Hong Kong movie set in the 1960s with elements of science fiction starring Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. It took owner, Aaron Tan (coincidentally sharing both my first and last name), 3 days to complete the project.
The airwaves resonated with the tunes of Cantonese songs, some of which were recognisable from the movie ‘Young and Dangerous,’ more affectionately known as ‘Gu Wak Zai‘ in my books.
Every small detail had brought me closer to the sensation of dining in downtown Hong Kong itself.
What I tried at Jiang Cantonese Tapas Restaurant & Bar
To start things off, I tried one of the Lunch Set Specials, the dry Luncheon Meat Fried Egg Instant Noodles (S$6.80). The mound of noodles was accompanied by a perfect sunny-side up, 2 pieces of luncheon meat and green veggies.
You’ll have an option to add S$3 to get a drink and dessert (usually a selection of sorbets).
A pool of soya-based sauce gathered at the base of the noodles, prompting me to delicately toss and integrate it with every strand. While the texture offered a satisfying bite, and the taste was acceptable, I felt something was missing.
A bottle of homemade chilli rested on the table, and I opted to complement it with the noodles. The chilli flakes within were not only crunchy and aromatic but also packed a spicy punch. This propelled the satisfaction level from a 5 to a resounding 9— finally, the noodle tasted complete!
The duo of luncheon meat pieces didn’t consist of thinly-sliced, meagre portions; rather, they were substantial, thick slices that had been deep-fried to perfection.
The next Lunch Set Special that we tried was the Pork Belly Preserved Vegetables Rice (S$9). It was a no-frills bowl consisting of white rice, fried egg, a serving of braised pork belly with preserved vegetables and kai lan.
I delicately broke the yolk with my chopsticks and made an effort to thoroughly mix all the ingredients. The unique salty and sour notes from the preserved mustard vegetables, blended with the creaminess of the egg, made the rice exceptionally gratifying.
While the fatty layer of the pork belly melted in my mouth, unfortunately, the meat itself was a bit tougher than I prefer.
I was esctatic when I spotted XO Carrot Cake (S$10.80) on the menu, one of my favourite dishes of all time. The cubes of golden-brown charred radish cake were stir-fried together with tau geh, then garnished with fresh coriander and chilli.
The moment my teeth sank into the first few pieces, the chef’s skill was immediately apparent. Every bite was infused with a rich, smokey wok hei, and the umami essence from the dried shrimps and scallops in the XO concoction was unmistakable. The subtle spiciness of the chilli gradually emerged towards the end.
The incorporation of tau geh and chives introduced a lovely contrast in texture to the pillowy cubes of radish. In a word, delicious!
Our final dish, the Wok Fried Oyster Runny Omelette (S$15.80) was recommended by Aaron.
I had counted that there were 10 oysters resting atop the egg. Each piece was plump, juicy and tasted fresh. The egg, skillfully cooked to a medium doneness, contributed to a luscious, runny centre, enhancing the overall richness of the combination.
Be sure to pair it with the homemade chilli served on the side. It burst with refreshingly-tangy notes of lime, perfectly balanced with just the right amount of spice— truly a delightful pick-me-up on a lazy, rainy Thursday afternoon.
Jiang Cantonese Tapas Restaurant & Bar is unquestionably a destination worth exploring if you seek a leisurely-dining environment to savour Cantonese-Asian dishes while reconnecting with friends and family.
To locate this somewhat elusive restaurant, keep an eye out for the SPC petrol station; you’ll find it situated just next door.
Expected damage: S$7.50 – S$22 per pax
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