Drawing on inspiration from the Hunan, Sichuan and Guangzhou provinces, plus the modern food scene of Shanghai, there are loads to look forward to at Cantan on Lavelle Road. From shaokao barbecue, crab and fresh seafood made with hot sauces and quirky cocktails here are something vastly different from what we've seen before!
Cantan goes a step beyond the generic pan-Asian restaurants in the city — be it the overpriced high-end ones or the Indo-Chinese sort, best known for their greasy Hakka Noodles and Manchurians. In fact, Cantan brings to you authentic regional Chinese food with contemporary flavour riffs. Think hot pots, dainty dumplings, meat skewers and a line-up of stellar cocktails. Plus, with Chef Manu Chandra and Chetan Rampal helming the ship, and Chef Prashanth as the Executive Chef, you know it's quickly going to become THE place to dine at.
It's not just the food that impressed us, though. The two-storey space is decorated with dragons, tropical forests and lantern-style lamps, all inspired by the Orient. We sat on the top floor, on an elevated setting, right against a vivid wallpaper backdrop (perfect for the 'Gram!) and decided to start off with a cocktail. All of them have cool names — we were torn between Princess of Jade Forest and The Monk of the Yangtze Orchard, but eventually settled for the latter.
With the unusual pairing of gin, rice vinegar and fresh oranges, the cocktail was subtle and refreshing, and had us totally prepped for lunch! Among the starters, we enjoyed their Carrot, Wild Mushroom & Truffle Oil Dim Sum — soft and crunchy at the same time, the dumpling melts in your mouth and you get a rush of truffle immediately (yum!). Another dish that we absolutely loved was their Spicy Beef & Coriander Guotie — the crispy guotie crackles as you bite into it and the subtle flavours of beef and coriander add some freshness to your palate.
As for the mains, The Chow Mein Noodles with Smoked Chicken & Chilli was our favourite — a delicious combination of stir-fried egg noodles, savoury sauce, crispy cabbage and scallions. The 3 Grain Fried Rice didn't disappoint either. Made with Jasmine, black rice and barley and then stir-fried with mushrooms, beans and scallions, the dish is high on the flavour factor. For dessert, the Baobing was the clear winner. Not only is it beautifully presented, but the flavoured shaved ice, fresh fruits, jellies and ice cream combine to form a mishmash of interesting textures and they are all prepared in-house, too.
There's also the Cantonese steamed cheesecake, a spongy cake with a dollop of ice cream and mulberry, in both fresh and compote forms. By the end of our meal, we were super-full, but the umami trip was worth it. We're definitely going back to try more. Will you?