I cannot remember why I picked a Chinese restaurant at a five-star hotel as my dinner destination, but I am sure it was not for the amazing buffet selection, the trendy novelty nor the sky-rocketing recommendations. Let’s face it, don’t we all go to a hotel restaurant because we cannot avoid certain formal meetings or because we cannot be seen having certain (informal) meetings?
Tucked in at the second floor of the Mandarin Oriental, the space called Xin Hwa actually feels like a hotel function hall with dashes of Chinese ornaments. The decorative birdcages on the table try to inject some character and warmth in the interior but I am far more impressed by the oriental chique of Crystal Jade Palace at the Grand Indonesia or by the lavish design of South Beauty across the street at the UOB building.
Will this lack of atmosphere at Xin Hwa be compensated by the wonderful Szechuan food, I wonder? The elegant and proficient staff led us to a corner removed from the blazing AC, took the birdcage off the table and explained the menu. The pouring rain outside and the heavily air-conditioned Xin Hwa made us feel cold and hungry and we decided to go for a variety of specials to share, or as the Indonesians would say it “makan tengah”.
Our makan tengah consists of Xin Hwa’s pepper beef tenderloin in chef’s concoction, oven baked tiger prawn with cheese and spicy XO sauce, broccoli shimeji and ginger fried rice with salmon. We tried a little bit of everything on our plate and concluded that the oven baked prawn deserves its own plate and palette, because mixing it with rice or the broccoli would not do justice to that gorgeous mixture of cheese on juicy crustacean meat. Salmon fried rice can either be too salty or too fishy, but the Xin Hwa version is evenly balanced in taste and has a surprising crunch in the pieces of asparagus. It goes really well with the beef tenderloin, although plain white rice would be a better canvas for the interesting taste of the chef’s concoction. The broccoli did not really impress taste-wise, but we love the quality and freshness of the greens in combination with the chewy shimeji mushrooms. Do not expect a fabulous presentation here at Xin Hwa, but rest assured that the abundance in taste makes up for the minimalist look of the dishes.
I have a weak spot for mango pudding desserts at Chinese restaurants, and until now, nothing has toppled my mango pudding “fish” at South Beauty from its number one position. Xin Hwa’s pudding is pleasant, but nothing to write home about. The lemongrass jelly, however, was lovely and refreshing, especially after having the meal with a generous side of the Xin Hwa chilli in oil.
As I pen down my impressions of Xin Hwa, I recall why we decided to go there. We wanted the comfort of Chinese food but we did not feel like hitting another mall and we happened to be in the Thamrin area. Xin Hwa is not just conveniently located, it also fulfills the cravings for tasty Szechuan food. Chef Jeff Lee seems to have a knack for fusion and successfully blends traditional dishes with new ingredients without attempting to make his creations look like haute cuisine. High quality comes at a price, so expect to spend above the 150K for one of the Xin Hwa specialty dishes. I personally would have considered it money worth spending if the atmosphere were less than that of a function hall, and, like the food, more comforting and elegant.
Details we like
- Excellent and friendly staff
Details we don’t like
- 40K ++ per person for a cup of hot Chinese tea!
- The atmosphere or lack thereof.