Contemporary Chinese restaurant Yue Bai at Duxton Hill is a culinary sanctuary that pays homage to traditional Chinese flavours and oriental concepts of wellness.

From its Zen-like, minimalist exterior alone, it’s unlikely that you’d recognise Yue Bai as a Chinese restaurant. Its clean lines and unadorned external walls – which are nothing like the garish reds and golds that visually herald the existence of a traditional Chinese eatery – offer few clues to what lies within.

In fact, chances are you’d pass by obliviously, unaware that inside is a gastronomic shrine dedicated to Chinese culinary and cultural excellence.

That simple elegance translates within as well. Its muted, neutral interiors and wood accents bring a sense of calm. Latticed screens offer a modicum of privacy. Diners, perhaps lulled by the serenity, talk in hushed tones, unlike the boisterousness one would find in most other Chinese restaurants.

Yue Bai - Yellow Emperor Classic of Medicine Artwork jpg
Verses from 黄帝内经 adorn one wall of Yue Bai.

Instead the only loud decorative flourish are verses – culled from 黄帝内经, an ancient text on Chinese medicine – that emblazon one wall of the restaurant.

Those verses form Yue Bai’s raison d’être. Yue Bai’s cuisine is driven by the principles behind traditional Chinese dietary therapy proffered by those ancient documents, which highlight the nutritional and intrinsic health benefits in the food that we eat. Here Singaporean co-owner and chef Lee Hongwei draws on those concepts and applies them – through a contemporary lens – to dishes from China’s coastal regions, from where most Chinese Singaporeans descended from.

So don’t expect Yue Bai to lean on exotic foreign ingredients – black truffle, caviar or foie gras, for example – in the name of modern Chinese gastronomy. Neither is it a culinary approach to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), so you won’t find random Chinese herbs liberally and forcefully applied to dishes for no reason.

Instead you have Roselle Flower-infused Winter Melon, a refreshingly tart appetiser that uses roselle buds – noted for being able to manage cholesterol and blood pressure – for its inherent sourness to offset the winter melon’s sweetness. Or Crispy Burdock, Sesame, Spice Powder, a moreishly crunchy snack made with the earthy burdock said to help lower blood sugar while offering plenty of dietary fibre. Then there’s Deep-fried Organic Purple Rice Cake, XO Sauce, Rice Puff, Spring Onion, a reimagining of the dim sum favourite of XO carrot cake but made with organic purple rice that’s supposed to be beneficial for the spleen and stomach.

Double Boiled Silkie Chicken Soup
Double boiled soups are generally nourishing, but some – like this Yue Bai Double Boiled Silkie Chicken Soup – are more nourishing than others.

We absolutely adored the Double-boiled Silkie Chicken Soup, Jasmine Flower, Dried Longan, Wolfberries, a delicately light broth that warmed the soul as much as it did our insides. The bitterness of jasmine was the perfect counterfoil to longan’s sweetness, yet both intensifying the flavours of the black chicken.

Some dishes push the envelope to adventurous, unfamiliar territory. The Deep-fried Granola Prawn, Beetroot, for example. Obviously inspired by cereal prawn, the house-made granola may make it a healthier version but lack the savoury hit of the original. Or the Stir-fried Lotus Root, Fuji Apple, Corn Kernels, Pumpkin Seeds, Dried Shrimp, a bizarre vegetable-forward twist on the traditional Cantonese dish of sautéed minced duck served in lettuce leaf. We enjoyed its contrasting textures, but the sweet-savoury flavours needed getting used to.

A must order is the Crisp-fried Pork Cartilage, Xin Hui Orange Sauce, Crispy Tofu Ring. This is a modern overhaul of our favourite zichar yam ring or yam basket. In place of mashed yam is a ring made from creamed tofu and millet, cradling meltingly-soft pork cartilage fried like sweet and sour pork, but coated with a far superior sauce rendered from aged mandarin peel. Millet – which can help cardiovascular health and fight diabetes – also makes an appearance in Braised Baby Sharp Spinach, Yellow Millet, Wolfberries, the grain adorning the sauce of this healthier rendition of three-egg spinach.

Braised Duck
You’ll be tempted to ask for some white rice to go with the flavourful sauce from the Braised Duck, Sea Cucumber, Hawthorn, Korean Snow Pear.

Another hit is Herbal Poached Rice, Atlantic Cod, Black Fungus. Don’t let the mundane description fool you. This is like a mashup of two local favourites: 泡饭 and 烩饭, featuring fried rice drowned in a decadent herb-accented fish broth and topped with a chunk of steamed cod fillet. A spike of house made herbal wine before elevates the aroma.

There’s also Braised Duck, Sea Cucumber, Hawthorn, Korean Snow Pear, an update on a comforting traditional Hokkien classic. The use of Korean snow pear and hawthorn adds depth and sweetness to the unctuous braise that cover a tediously put together terrine of duck.

You’ll come away from Yue Bai totally satiated. But not in the gut-groaning sense; instead it’s a sense of comfort and satisfaction, as though your body fully agrees with what it’s just partaken. And as you step out into the calmness of the evening’s gossamer moonlight, perhaps you’ll feel nourished as we did.

Yue Bai (月白)

Address 33 Duxton Road, Singapore 089497 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 11.45am to 3pm and 5.45pm to 10.00pm Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays
Tel (65) 9721 8055
Facebook restaurantyuebai
Instagram @restaurantyuebai
Reservations book here


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