Yum Sing! sets Singaporean cuisine and locally-inspired drinks that harkens to a bygone era in a modern casual dining concept.
[Yum Sing! is now officially closed.]
Do you remember New World (新世界)? Chances are, you don’t. Neither do I, because that sprawling amusement park – which was tremendously popular during the 1950s and 1960s – was torn down in the 80s, not long after I was born. I’ve only heard of it from my parents, who used to frequent there for their dates.
It’s why I’m not sure how I feel about Yum Sing!. Recently opened at Clarke Quay by the Putien Group, the experiential dining and entertainment venue seeks to revisit and present that nostalgia but give it a more modern spin to appeal to younger generations. You’re looking at a space that has the look and feel of a 1970s nightclub – think Forever Fever -interpreted through a millennial lens, for example, and offering a burgeoning repertoire of signature Singapore heritage and more current dishes in one place.
Familiar local favourites include Char Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee and Hainanese Chicken Rice, for example. There’s the likes of Oyster Omelette and Laksa too. We’re big fans of the “Moonlight” Dried Beef Hor Fun, which was expertly fried using juicy prime beef cubes instead of the usual stringy lean slices.
For sharing – and pairing with copious amounts of Tiger Beer – the Sambal Sotong, Prawn Paste Chicken Wings, and Hokkien Prawn Rolls all come highly recommended. There’s Chilli Crab too for those who won’t mind wrestling a gravy-drenched crustacean.
More bizarre is that Yum Sing! offers Rainbow Yu Sheng – the raw fish salad we usually only find during Chinese New Year – on a daily basis, because, as Putien’s CEO and founder Fong Chi Chung puts it, “one should be allowed to celebrate and be merry with friends every day”.
Now the various dishes here at Yum Sing! isn’t best-in-class; that would be too much to ask for. But they all punch above their weight in quality and are competent takes that compare with some of the better hawker and zi-char establishments around Singapore. They are certainly leagues ahead of the typically sad renditions you’ll find at most commercial food courts.
I’m pretty sure most of the drinks found on Yum Sing!’s cocktail menu wouldn’t have been found at the New World of old. Perhaps we may found the Singapore Sling – ripped off from Long Bar at Raffles Hotel – to cater to the British troops and expatriates who also frequented the amusement park in its hey days. But Kopi-O Gao, a twist on the Old Fashioned made with local distilling outfit Compendium’s Kopi-O Liqueur, or the contemporary favourite Lychee Martini, wouldn’t have been.
Otherwise there are house spirits and beers available – like Johnnie Walker, Hennessy, Tiger Beer, and Guinness – which were a lot more likely to have been available at New World.
I know that previous generations spoke well and longingly of the many food stalls at New World, and the fun they had with live entertainment there. When safe management measures restrictions ease, Yum Sing! will start hosting performances and shows as they used to do at New World.
Will that recreate the nostalgia and draw curious Singaporeans – and tourists – to revisit the good times of old? Only time will tell.