Step into almost any hawker centre, and you’ll probably find at least one stall selling our beloved char siew. When done well, the roasted meat is usually oh-so succulent with a sweet and savoury sauce. If you’re a fan of the dish, you have to head down to Char at Jalan Besar.
Although the Michelin-recommended Chinese restaurant specialising in Cantonese meats has been around since 2014, they’ve since refreshed its interior and menu, introducing some really chic and classy vibes.
We tried the Double Roast (S$38), which comprises 200g each of the Signature Char Siew (S$27/300g) and Crispy Roast Pork Belly (S$27/300g). The char siew managed to be tender, and yet firm enough with a great mouthfeel — however, its sticky sauce fell on the sweeter side, so those who prefer their char siew to be more savoury may not enjoy the dish as much.
The roast pork belly had the perfect layer of crispy skin and wasn’t overly salty, which was a major plus point. However, I felt that it could have done with just a little more fat-to-meat ratio.
I think we all know about the Singaporean urge to infuse mala into all things — at Char, you’ll find Mala Char Siew (S$20), one of the latest additions to their menu. Their homemade mala sauce is made up of a whopping 13 spices, so it’s no wonder that it was so fragrant. Plus, it wasn’t overly ma or la, so even as someone with a lower spice tolerance, I was actually able to enjoy the dish. In fact, I might even prefer this rendition to the signature!
Speaking of mala, you might be surprised by (or even slightly weirded out) this one. The Spicy Sichuan Chicken with Ice Cream (S$18.80) is not your average La Zi Ji — fragrant mala chicken chunks are paired with vanilla ice cream as a “dipping sauce” of sorts!
The icy sweetness from the ice cream paired really well with the savoury chicken, and even helped make the spice more tolerable. If you can pair chilli oil (like Lao Gan Ma) with ice cream, why not this?
Apart from meats, other new dishes include Tornado Butter Egg Prawns (S$22). The de-shelled prawns were served with curry leaves and generous portions of cotton candy-like egg floss that tasted oh-so buttery. The prawns could have done with a little more flavour, but they paired well with the fluffy egg floss.
Char’s penchant for savoury-sweet dishes (that usually turn out better than you’d expect) doesn’t stop at their ice cream La Zi Ji. One of the more “out there” dishes, the Okra Banana Delight (S$15.50), features torched banana slices and ladies’ fingers (okra) atop a slightly spicy sambal sauce. While the okra was nicely sautéed, it didn’t mesh well with the banana — rather, I felt like the two flavours were sparring in my mouth.
If you’re looking for more familiar and comforting options, dishes like Hometown Beancurd with Minced Meat (S$16.80), Pig’s Stomach with Anxin Chicken Soup (S$32) and Crabmeat Fried Rice (S$19.80) are bound to hit the spot. If you go for the soup, expect it to be peppery (bak kut teh-like) with generous chunks of pig’s stomach and free-range chicken so tender that it slides right off the bone.
While you might expect the usual beverage offerings like Chinese tea, soft drinks and the like, Char actually has all that and a lot more! You’ll find a large variety of imported ales, fine wines, and cocktails alongside premium teas from China. Intriguing picks include the Wych Wood Hobgoblin dark ale (S$15) and 1925 Liang Teh Chrysanthemum lager (S$12) — the latter didn’t exactly taste like chrysanthemum tea, but I did enjoy its light floral aftertaste.
Planning a family dinner or an outing with friends? Be sure to head down to Char for some refreshing yet comforting Cantonese fare that will please both young and old!
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📍 363 Jln Besar, Singapore 208994
🕒 11.30am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–9.30pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon
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Photos by Kylynn Seng