The first dining concept to launch amongst the three-part umbrella of wellwellwell at Pacific Place, Auntie ĀYI features a menu rich in regional Chinese comfort classics using time-honoured traditional craftsmanship. Paying homage to the history of ma jie (馬姐), an endearing term that refers to helpers in Chinese households, the restaurant features dishes with flavours rooted in the past that are embellished with innovative, modern twists.
The three distinct brands under the wellwellwell concept share a lofty space in Pacific Place. In addition to dark and moody Auntie ĀYI, there’s a casual restaurant and bar called TEAHOUSE/BARHOUSE and a health-conscious Chinese takeaway counter, Remedy Me. Furnished in plush, velvety jewel tones that hint at a bygone era, the decor of Auntie ĀYI’s large dining room is juxtaposed by a silver domed ceiling that looks like a spaceship.
Like all traditional Chinese meals, ours began with hot tea, in this case honey-flavoured oolong ($88/person) from Lugu Township in Nantou County, Taiwan. This unique blend has hints of lychee and honey, mellowing the often robust flavour of oolong with a touch of sweetness. The high-altitude tea is farmed at 2,000 metres above sea level, hand-picked and fermented to between 50–60 per cent.
Arriving at the table under a cloud of theatric fog, the Eight Immortals drunken platter ($108/person; 4-person minimum) is an array of cold appetisers marinated in baijiu and huangjiu. Items such as pork belly wrapped around cucumber, jellyfish, duck tongue, goose wing, abalone, poached chicken and pork jelly are marinated in an assortment of sauces featuring the aromatic Chinese wines. The dish’s name is inspired by the tale of the Eight Immortals, who enjoyed wine-filled feasts in the mythical land of Mount Penglai.
The char siu cheong fun with silky egg and coriander ($98) is made in the traditional way, using the time-honoured technique of “hand-pulling” rice sheets using a steam-permeable cloth. The result is a delicate, silky texture reminiscent of the chef’s favourite cheong in Xiguan, Guangzhou.
The Xinjiang “lamb” skewers ($238) almost had us fooled for the real deal with their aromatic blend of cumin and chilli dusted over meaty lion’s mane mushrooms and konjac. The succulent mushrooms, along with the spices, took us back to the street vendors across China who grill up these delectable skewers.
A showstopper, the sesame candy chicken ($688) features three-yellow free-range chicken with incredibly crispy, candied sesame skin that reminded us of the sesame candy treats of our childhood. The chicken, served piping hot with crisp, sugared skin and juicy meat, is arranged in a classic “flying phoenix” design that was once popular at banquets back in the 1970s.
The sesame-coated skin is extremely satisfying to crunch into. In fact, the restaurant now offers a finger-lickin’ takeaway sesame CFC bucket ($238) featuring the famous Henan-style fried chicken. We bet you can’t have just one!
The Angus beef with runny egg yolk ($218) is a classic comfort food executed to perfection by the skilful kitchen. Tender cubes of succulent beef tossed with velvety egg and plump rice kernels are given even more flavour and texture with a bottom layer of crunchy rice thanks to the sizzling claypot. A must-have that will guarantee many repeat orders.
Mixed with some sweet soy sauce, this claypot dish is seriously addictive.
Dessert might look like the popular dim sum dish zhaliang, but instead, coconut milk sheets replace the traditional rice sheets and condensed milk takes the place of soy sauce. The only similarity of these Chinese coconut custard churros ($88) to the traditional dim sum staple is the crunchy youtiao in the middle, although the fried dough here is infused with sweetened condensed milk.
The pairing of classic, time-tested Chinese cooking techniques with new flavour combinations and ingredients makes Auntie ĀYI a standout for us. We love the use of vegetarian replacements, such as the lion’s mane mushrooms, to lighten classically indulgent dishes. However, the restaurant remains true to the fine bones of Chinese cookery, offering flawlessly executed dishes such as the sesame chicken and claypot rice. Auntie ĀYI presents a menu full of favourites that we will be tempted to revisit time and time again.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook