Monday, June 11, 2018

Circa 1912, Shaw Centre

....and with what seemed to be little fanfare, Circa 1912 (#03-07/11 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Rd, tel : +65 6836 3070) arose capturing the fickle and transient attention of several online food media platforms. A restaurant that has been described to take cooking back to the cultural influence from its namesake era where flavour is king and bold and dishes aren't dandied for Instagram.

That and some of the dishes we've seen online were pretty much what piqued our interest.

I've read about the "golden coin chicken" (金钱鸡) from the food obsessed lamenting the scarcity of the dish due to the laborious preparation to more traditional online media waxing it's place as a culinary curiosity of bygone years. I've never tried it but have been curious largely because I suspect I would like the flavours. I've always had the idea that I might have it in Hong Kong but I guess I was wrong about that last part.

I did like the flavours, or at least of the ones done here. That layer of candied lard with barbequed liver and sweet jerkied pork. How could anyone say no to that treat? 

The dishes we picked were pretty much what the restaurant itself would have tried selling to us. A collection of what would appear to be their signatures and rightfully so since little to no one else cooks them here anymore. Like this diamond shaped fritters which are deep fried superior stock and pig's brains. The latter ingredient nothing more than a thin fog of flavour in the creamy innards. I wouldn't have known these had pig's brains if it hadn't been mentioned.

Treading further down the trail or stuff that no one else makes are their wok fried goat's milk with bits of chicken and seafood. This tasted like an egg white dish and not so much of what I had expected from goat's milk. Interesting but not outstanding just like the previous dish. 

We had to get some vegetables for the obligatory fibre so we ended up with some braised mustard greens with crab meat. Tasted like how it looked - nothing more or less than its visual sum.

It got a little more interesting when their steamed rice with duck fat and crab meat arrived. I liked the aroma from this lightly flavoured rice and thought it would benefit from a bit more salt. In fact, I could attest that it benefitted from some sliced chilli padi and soy sauce. The duck fat was lost to us.

Couldn't pass on their sweet and sour Iberico pork where the sauce was made with the traditional ingredient of hawthorn fruit. The chunks of fried pork tasted tasted fatty - like it was all fat with a light yet defined crisp that shattered and melted once you started chewing them. I'm not sure I could enjoy more than a few pieces of these. I prefer the contemporary renditions which have meat in them. Liked those strawberries though.

Dessert wasn't impressive. The red bean paste was lacking in flavour/fragrance from the beans and the supposed aged tangerine peel in it didn't do very much enhancing those flavours. This was a little disappointing and inexcusable. Even the red bean soup from Tanglin Halt's fried bee hoon stall had better flavours.

The curiosity was the tangerine bean curd in an orange broth. That's a real tangerine skin - so nothing like what Heston's meat fruit pretends to be. The interior is filled with almond tofu (I think, I'm a little confused at this point) that's flavoured with tangerine. Said tofu had a texture that was akin to a dense custard.

The chances of me returning are slim to nil. The people that I ate with didn't think much of the food and for what the restaurant charged, I could definitely understand that sentiment. So if my folks aren't coming back, could I alone?

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