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Silk Road at the Amara Hotel, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore

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Silk Road at the Amara Hotel, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore

Limster | Sep 1, 2003 08:29 PM

Thin exquisite slices of the white tasty trilayer of skin, fat and lean pork are rolled and neatly placed in a shallow pool of red oily sauce. A perfect harmony of sweetness, an unsparing but nuanced garlic pungence from very finely chopped garlic and a mellow red spiciness make this garlic mud and white pork an extraordinary treat.

Strange flavoured rabbit cubes is lighter on the spice and strange flavoured herbs but still commendable. Artful knifework of the kitchen is most apparent in the popular "husband and wife," where thin slices of crunchy tripe and lean mildly smoky lean beef cut to nearly the same size and thickness, maximizing their brilliant textural complementarity under a red oil of Sichuan peppercorns and chillis.

The spice centre Sichuan is the childhood home of the legendary Tang romantic poet Li Bai, and it is fitting that choice lines from his Jiang1 Jin4 Jiu3 (loosely translated as "Let us drink!," one of my favourites) are etched in the stylish glass tiles leading into the Silk Road.

Sichuan dominates the menu here, even though there are a fair number of dishes from other parts of Northern China such as tender, precise ribbons of knife shaved noodles in a tangy spicy broth from Beijing or snow dumplings from Shenyang in Liaoning filled with a light and savoury mix of meat and chives, elegantly veiled under a delicate porous white crepe, a pall of snow.

Tea smoked duck is truly a highlight, lightly smoky, almost ham-like pieces of ruddy glistening duck, firm yet slippery from moisture. Unparalleled texture and flavour.

Even more slippery are the al dente dan dan noodles, dotted with tasty morsels of pork in a sauce with a gentle chilli glower.

The ultraspicy water cooked beef is a formidable bowl of red hot chilli oil, covered with the fascinating and impressively generous dust of ground peppercorns. Beef is tender and nicely matched with soft but snappy vegetables, the rich smoky earthy oils are appropriately deadly. It's a serious burn, but could use an extra notch of numbing spice characteristic of the sichuan peppercorn.

Fluffy, if moderately dense man2 tou2 (a steamed bread) to go with this fiery dish.

Not extraordinary, but perfectly pleasant pieces of fresh white cod are encased in simple crisp batter with a nice crackle to them.

Very heartfelt rendition of dry fried string beans, cooked just to that right homey softness, whilst still retaining a tiny vegetable crunch, balanced with bits of minced pork. I could eat this all day with an order of double cooked pork and be happy.

A fairly delicious if somewhat greasy fried mashed sweet potatos dessert, stuffed with a lovely sandy blend of sugar and ground white sesame seeds.

All washed down with constant sips of eight treasure tea, brewed appropriately in a covered cup the capacity of a small bowl with hot water expertly poured from a long sprout. The tea is sweetly flavoured, with the dried longans and dates being most prominent among the fruitty tones.

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