Cover Mandarin Chicken Rice

The iconic restaurant, which has been in operation since 1971, has refreshed its look and updated its menu. But is it worth re-visiting?

At some point in your life, you would have probably dined at Chatterbox, the iconic restaurant which opened in 1971 and is famed for its elevated chicken rice. Half a decade on—and a new home at Hilton Singapore Orchard (which took over the former Mandarin Orchard Singapore—it boasts an upgraded look and a curated repertoire of new and well-loved dishes.

After checking out the restaurant on a weekday night (a few weeks after its re-opening), it is safe to assume that the almost full restaurant remains popular for families and friends. After a five-month renovation which reportedly cost almost SG$4 million, we are now able to dine in a sleek and modern 126-seater space that beckons with its calming green, brown and cream hues, comfortable (and socially distanced!) seating and a stylish bar offering an array of creative libations. Yes, that includes the popular Chatterbox Punch—a spicier but no less palatable version of the classic G&T.

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The food menu is more curated, with executive chef Liew Tien Heong and his team opting to keep only a few signatures and adding novel creations to keep things fresh and interesting. So, before you sample the signatures, it is recommended to order some of the fresh additions such as the wok-fried sambal vegetables and the mackerel and crab otah otah.

Best had with steamed white rice is the wok-fried sambal vegetable—it comes with your choice of kang kong or wing beans that are cooked until they are delightfully crunchy and tossed with a sweet and fiery homemade sambal sauce. A good accompaniment is the mackerel and crab otah otah, infused with the creamy flavours of coconut and aromatic herbs. Another welcome addition is the pan-seared sea perch, boasting a crisp exterior and succulent core that is accentuated with the spicy notes of the chopped green chillies.

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Even with these delectable dishes, the Mandarin Chicken Rice is still the star of the show and is crafted using the same time-honoured recipe only a few chefs have access to. The preparation method of the chicken has been slightly tweaked, however, and is now steamed in a commercial steamer instead of being boiled in stock for hours. The result is still the same plump, juicy and flavourful chicken rice with just the right amount of fat in between the skin and the moist meat.

Previously priced at SG$27, it is now SG$25 for an individual set, SG$38 for a half chicken and SG$72 for a whole chicken. And while it is more expensive than most chicken rice offerings in Singapore, it is worth the splurge when you get a generous amount of chicken slices atop aromatic, broth-cooked jasmine rice, and the usual accompaniments of dark soya sauce, ginger puree and chilli sauce.

Next to the Mandarin Chicken Rice, the signature lobster laksa is the second most popular dish on the menu. And that also hasn’t changed in years thanks to a well-balanced broth steeped in fresh coconut milk and spices, and studded with meaty lobster claw, quail eggs, fish cake, dried beancurd and noodles.

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After a parade of rich and flavoursome dishes, there is no better way to end the meal than with the coconut ice cream—another classic that has stayed on the menu. It is still as refreshing as we remember with its two scoops of coconut ice cream served in a coconut shell and finished with crunchy walnuts and tropical fruits.

Re-visiting Chatterbox after it has undergone a major facelift in terms of look and food offerings, it is easy to remember why the restaurant has become a stalwart for elevated local fare in the local F&B scene all these years. You can always look forward to deliciously cooked local fare and inventive libations that are best had with family and friends.

  • ImagesChatterbox
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