Published on Tuesday, 30 October 2018 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
Sequestered away within the sprawling complex of Ang Mo Kio ITE Central College is a hidden gem of a restaurant that serves up gourmet Chinese cuisine with superior ingredients that savvy regulars have been collectively keeping as a secret. First Culinary is a dream-come-true for lovers of fine Chinese cuisine, featuring unparalleled multi-generational recipes tweaked with nuances of modern luxury that are pleasantly antithetical to its modest prices which acutely undercut all other similar Chinese restaurants.
Since its inception in 2011, First Culinary Restaurant has earned a reputation for doling out divine dishes all at extremely affordable pricetags, which have won the hearts, souls and stomachs of many of its patrons whom are in the loop of this secret restaurant's existence.
First Culinary specializes in Southern Chinese cuisine. With traditional culinary techniques and secret family recipes passed down in succession by generation, diners can look forward to traditional Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew and Hakka delicacies at surprisingly affordable prices. Each dish is meticulously crafted to appeal to everyone's palate regardless of age.
First Culinary is also the go-to restaurant among its customers for business or birthday meals. The spacious 6,000 square feet restaurant can accommodate up to 320 diners (32 tables) concurrently, with an internal VIP dining room for private and intimate gatherings. The VIP room is equipped with exceptional sound system and provides a private space for business meetings to be held.
First Culinary boasts an a la carte menu of over 144 delectable items. Some of its crowd favorites include the crispy roasted pork and peking duck.
Crispy Roasted Pork, $15
The top layer of the pork is a thin crumbly sliver of skin that is so brittle and crispy that it shatters upon the slightest impact. After your teeth has broke through the savory crisp skin, your mouth is introduced to the gelatinous melt-in-the-mouth fat which is balanced out by the slab of dense and juicy pork meat at the bottom.
Peking Duck, $60
Professionally de-skinned right at the table upon order, each sliver of this peking duck's skin is slicked with a coating of glorious buttery duck fat, and has that perfect ratio of fattiness to crispiness. The skin is blanketed within a thin egg crepe and served alongside sliced cucumbers, leeks and hoisin sauce.
Black Garlic Menu, $68++/pax or $48++/pax (members)
On top of the a la carte menu, First Culinary regularly unveils a special themed set course meal that is available only for a limited time. The limited time set course meals are changed up every now and then in accordance with seasonal ingredients and to keep the dining experience fresh and exciting for diners.
From September 2018 till December 2018, First Culinary has curated a special six-course Black Garlic themed menu at only $68++per pax. Tip: If you sign up for First Culinary's free membership by requesting for it on site, the black garlic menu is only $48++ per pax for members.
The process of creating black garlic is a painstaking one that involves a long and tedious fermentation duration that lasts for approximately 30 days in a controlled environment in temperatures between 60 to 77 degrees Celsius. After 30 days of fermentation, the garlic is transferred to a clean room to allow oxidation to take place for a further 45 days. This process allows the sugars and amino acids inside the garlic to form a reaction which as a by-product, forms its black coloration and its pulpous texture.
No preservatives are added at any time in the production of fresh black garlic, making it one of the healthiest supplements available, triumphing encapsulated black garlic. Black garlic is a super food and the consumption of it is believed to come along with an extensive list of health benefits which encompasses a stronger immune system, balanced cholesterol levels and boost in antioxidants.
Black garlic's flavor and texture profile is sweet and syrupy with an acidic tang like balsamic vinegar and a slight muskiness akin to truffle.
Black Garlic Honey Pork with King Prawn Tossed with Salted Egg Yolk
This beautiful little masterpiece comprises of a plump king prawn and two chunks of pork belly served on a little platter that is adorned with a meticulously hand-painted sugar syrup illustration that differs for every single plate.
The black garlic honey pork is a tiny slice of heaven – the immediate exterior of the pork is roasted to a moist jerky-like consistency, and underneath that thin layer of al dente meat is a thick morsel of pure pork fat that melts like the richest and creamiest butter in the mouth. It is drenched in this intensely sweet syrup that is slightly salty and piquant.
Instead of drenching the prawn in the typical thick and gooey curried salted egg paste that can tend to get very sickening, the springy and succulent prawn is deep fried with salted egg yolk batter so that it forms a light, fluffy and crisp tempura crust around it with the curried richness of salted egg crumbs.
Double-Boiled Black Chicken Soup with Black Garlic and “Sheng Di”
This bowl of double-boiled black chicken soup carries a strong woody herby fragrance that evokes a sense of childhood nostalgia for diners brought up in Chinese households where herbal soups are regarded to play a crucial role in the development of the mind and body.
The soup is thick, robust, full-bodied and teeming with generous portions of fish maw, black chicken, black garlic, goji berries and ginseng. The sheng di gives the soup an intense earthy flavor that balances out the sweetness of the black chicken essence and goji berries. The chunks of black chicken are soft and tender yet retaining a nice bite instead of disintegrating into a mush.
This prized little crock of soup will seduce your tastebuds and warm the cockles of your heart with its classic and nutritious Chinese taste melding into an innovative multi-dimensional weave of textures and flavors.
Steamed Cod Fillet with Minced Black Garlic and Chili Soya Sauce
Doused in a light yet flavorful chili soya sauce that is slightly spicy, fragrant and salty, the buttery white flesh of the steamed cod melts from the heat of the tongue, setting the mouth awash in a delicious blend of fatty, gelatinous and viscous Omega-3 juices. The pool of chili soya sauce that the fish sits in is thin, yet rich and flavorful, heavily infused with the musky and earthy aroma of black garlic with the hint of spice cutting through it.
Braised Whole Abalone with Home Made Bean Curd in Oyster Sauce
A whole abalone the size of a child's fist is braised and served drenched in oyster sauce and perched on a piece of home-made bean curd. The abalone is springy and chewy with a naturally sweet, buttery and salty taste. The oyster sauce though sweet, thick and syrupy, interestingly does not mute the natural sweetness of the abalone, the mellow brininess of the oyster sauce enhances the dish to create an umami marine taste with each supple yet tender bite of the mollusc. The bean curd is soft as a cloud, with a creamy bite.
Stir-Fried Angel Hair Pasta with Scallop and Minced Black Garlic in White Truffle Oil
This pasta dish is served warm which is a little bit bizarre considering that angel hair pasta done in this style is usually served chilled so that the subtle marine sweetness of the scallop shines through and the truffle oil’s musky and earthy truffle essence does not dissipate from the heat.
This dish is disappointing and dull, the taste of truffles is almost non existent, the pasta is dry and all broken up into short strands from being stir-fried for too long, which resembles cheap yellow egg noodles, and the overcooked scallop is rubbery and bland.
First Culinary Dessert Duo - Chilled Sweetened Cream of Young Coconut, Chilled Sweetened Osmanthus Jelly
A refreshing end of the robust six-course black garlic feast is marked with a shot of chilled coconut sago pudding that is milky-sweet and creamy, with jellied bites from the sago and a slice of sweetened and chilled osmanthus jelly that carries a faint fragrant whisper of flowers.
First Culinary Restaurant
Address: ITE College Central, 2 Ang Mo Kio Drive, Block A #01-09, Singapore 567720
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 10.30AM – 3.00PM (Lunch), 5.30PM – 10.00PM (Dinner)
Tel.: +65 6481 5500