Due to the distance from where I live, the thought of visiting Changi Airport for recreational purposes has never crossed my mind. All my trips to the airport were either to catch a flight or mainly to welcome the arrival of my loved ones. They were usually a hasty process so most of the time I would be too preoccupied to explore the surroundings and amenities.
However, every time I was driven to the airport, my attention would never fail to wander off to the façade of Crowne Plaza The 5-star airport hotel is exceptionally breathtaking with its captivating three-dimensional lace screens resembling orchid petals on the exterior. It had an inviting presence, yet I had not been inside because I had never wanted to drift too far off the arrival and departure halls. Nobody I know has ever held a wedding banquet there too so there was absolutely no reason for me to set foot in the hotel.
But now, there could be an excuse for me to do so!
From 25 September to 29 November 2015, patrons are able to enjoy Singapore’s most-loved crustacean and delightful savoury and sweet crêpes in an East-meets-West fusion style buffet at the award-winning Azur Restaurant located on the second level of Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. Put together by Executive Chef Kiang Siang Heng and his culinary team, this special weekend-only dinner buffet boasts an array of delectable crab creations, poached tiger prawns and freshly shucked oysters at the seafood bar.
On top of that, diners can also expect sashimi, enticing appetisers like the oriental roasted crêpes (a.k.a Peking Duck Pancakes) and tasty soups at the buffet spread. Finally, finish off the hearty meal with a selection of beloved desserts like durian pancakes, chocolate fountain, ice cream and pastries to give your tongue a sweet twist.
Here are some of the highlights of the buffet that’s bound to be a hit with everyone, regardless of age and especially so if you’re an ultimate crab lover!
Appetisers and Soups
Let’s begin with the first course of the meal. There were 2 choices of soup available – the Hot and Sour Crabmeat and King Crab Bisque with Lemon Cream, each prepared to stimulate different parts of the taste receptors.
As the name implies, the Hot and Sour Crabmeat Soup was both hot in terms of temperature (not so of spiciness but it could be just me) and slightly acetic with a generous amount of crabmeat and carrot shredded in thin strips. If you’ve tried Sichuan Hot and Sour Soup before, this tasted exactly like it but probably with a lighter texture. However, the soup wasn’t really popular because there was obviously a better option right beside it.
Under the recommendation of Jolyn who had so kindly extended the media invitation to my boyfriend and I, I tried the King Crab Bisque. Thick, full-of-flavour and rich, the crab bisque was one of the best I had tasted and I had even helped myself to another serving (filled to the brim of the bowl) before leaving the restaurant. It was so darn good. To add a little crunch, I topped the soup with some croutons. Like a sponge, they absorbed the soup and created a mini taste explosion in the mouth. Wouldn’t mind going back again just for this.
Ever since Modern Peking Duck closed permanently at Vivocity and ION Orchard (and does anyone know why and where they are now?), boyfriend and I have been seriously deprived of some succulent Peking roast duck pancakes drenched in delicious hoisin sauce. Fortunately, our psychological craving for them was temporarily satisfied at Azur.
Prepared freshly at room temperature, these crêpes would vanish completely every time a new batch was brought forward. Each roll was made in relatively smaller portion so that you can easily pop it in your mouth. The duck meat was tender but not juicy enough to make up for the absence of hoisin sauce in the roll. Therefore, the entire crêpes actually felt a little dry.
It takes an acquired taste to appreciate terrines because of their unusual taste and texture. But if you love livers, you’d definitely love these. I couldn’t identify the type of meat used to make these terrines (though definitely not pork as Azur doesn’t serve pork and lard but it could well be chicken) because they were extremely soft and delicate to the touch with a buttery feel, like tofu but way smoother and mushier. It didn’t require much effort to break them apart because they would practically just melt in my mouth. However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s not something that most people would enjoy and I, for one, did not 😦
Combining two main elements of the buffet, the Homemade Crab in Crêpes Station offers a variety of savoury crab fillings like Curry Mayonnaise Crab, Sambal Dry Shrimps Crab, Crab Meat Goulash, Honey Pineapple Chicken and Crab and Crab Wasabi on a plain yet delectable crêpe. The portion is humongous so you’d probably need to share it with your companions.
There is also another crêpe station where you can pick up a hot dessert of delicious French pancake in orange butter sauce.
Seafood Bar, Sashimi & Sushi
Moving on to another segment of the buffet, the seafood bar promises a wide selection of crab dishes such as Spanner Rock Crabs paired with fragrant coriander dressing and Cold Stone Crabs that are best eaten with a mandarin orange compote. You can also make your own cold seafood platter with some Cold Alaska Crab Claws, Poached Tiger Prawns, Freshly Shucked Oysters and perhaps Salmon Sashimi.
Perfectly shucked and smoothly tumbled, not a speck of dirt or shell fragmentation could be found on my glistening oysters which looked really seductive by the way. The oysters were gorgeously displayed on a bed of ice to keep them chilled. While they were all remarkably fresh, I felt that they could be even fresher if they were shucked to order. Nevertheless, the oyster flesh was huge, very meaty and slippery with a hint of natural saltiness. They had a distinctive seawater smell but it was mild enough to be overlooked. But if you’re easily bothered by it, you can squirt lemon juice over the oysters to mask the smell.
These Spanner Rock Crabs were a bit of a hassle to eat. Although they were already broken up at the carapace for patrons’ convenience, other areas like the claws were not. But even with a crab cracker, the shell took awhile to break because they were as hard as rocks. And the amount of cold crab meat you obtain after going through all the trouble is just miserable. Being the lazy person that I am, I don’t think this crab is worth all the effort and mess and I would rather spend the time on cooked crab dishes.
No Asian-theme buffet would be complete without a sushi bar. Likewise for Azur, it was no exception. The miniature sushi corner is stocked with Salmon and Tako sashimi and Ikura Salmon Roe Sushi Rolled with Crêpe that’s specially created to suit the theme. You would also be spoilt for choice with an assortment of Nigiri Sushi like Tamago, Ebi and Tuna. In need of more carbs to fuel your body? Try Cha Soba with Mud Crab Roe and Unagi!
But honestly, unless you’re a diehard sushi fan who, I don’t think the sushi are spectacular and can be skipped. The Salmon Sashimi were in dull orange and they lacked the shiok factor because they weren’t cold enough although they were replenished quite regularly. There were definitely other foods at the buffet that were more worthy of your stomach space.
Hot Asian and Western Crab Dishes
A varied selection of crab and seafood-theme Asian and Western dishes can be found at two show kitchens. The Hawker Stall features a different popular local crab dish rotated every thirty minutes to an hour. I spotted Salted Egg Crab while making my rounds and maybe Curry Crab too. If you’re lucky enough, you may find other crab dishes like Wok Fried Cereal Crab, Black Peppercorn Crab and Singapore Chilli Crab.
The Salted Egg Crab is another favourite dish of mine that evening. Coated with thick and grainy golden salted egg batter, the crabs were cut up into manageable portions with almost an equal proportions of meat in every little piece. Among them were chunks of salted egg batter which you can probably just eat for fun. Despite using smaller crabs for this dish, there was surprisingly an abundance of meat and the crab shell was interestingly edible as well!
If you’re beginning to suffer from crab-fatigue, fret not! There are also other hot dishes available at the Hawker Stall. There you will be able to find Crayfish with Blue Sea Prawn and Minced Chicken in “Rendang Style” and a Thai-inspired dish called “Bamee Poo”. The latter is an egg vermicelli noodle dish mixed with a rich sauce made of garlic, fish sauce and light sauce, topped with sweet steamed crab meat, fried ikan bilis and tangy green mustard. Whoa! Sounds absolutely marvelous, doesn’t it?
For diners who are looking for western options, some of the highlights from the Western show kitchen are the Saffron Rice with Tomato Crab, Baked Whole Barramundi Fish with Crab Meat Herbs Crust, BBQ Sri Lanka Crab, Crispy Dungeness Crab Cakes with Chestnuts in Mango-Pineapple Salsa and Steamed Stone Claw with Zesty Orange Horseradish Sauce.
Another highly sought-after dish at Azur, the whole Barramundi Fish (also known as Asian Seabass) was reduced to a partial skeleton within minutes of putting it out for the public to devour. The skin of the fish was fried to a crisp and its flesh were luscious and juicy. I had never seen nor tasted crust made of crab meat before so this was certainly new and refreshing to me.
Finally, complete your feast with some desserts. At the dessert corner, you will be able to find timeless classics like Durian Pancakes and Chocolate Fountain with mixed berries, melons and marshmellows. Other forms of chilled miniature desserts are also available should you be too replete for anything more. All pastries except for the kuehs are personally prepared by the chef himself.
Regrettably, the miniature durian pancakes were a bit of a letdown. Not only were they cold and slightly soggy because they were obviously mass-prepared and left to cool for awhile, the pancake itself felt a little too mushy and starchy for my liking. Their only saving grace was perhaps the durian pulp which was fragrant (duh!) and creamy.
If I still had space for ice cream, I would have totally gone crazy with the garnishes especially those M&Ms chocolates!
With a portion so small, you definitely won’t feel guilty about eating these Lemon Curd Pie. Dressed with berries and a mixture of stevia and lemon powder, the pie gave an addictively tart flavour which propelled me to get another helping. It was piquant and delicious and I just loved how the beautiful crust crumbled in my mouth.
The visually striking presentation of the panna cotta first caught my attention. The soft and silky green tea cream sat cleverly atop a layer of mousse (can’t remember what flavour) and embellished with a rose macaron and a slice of strawberry. The cream had a faint tinge of bitterness but the overall taste was decent. Perhaps it would go better with red bean mousse.
Small enough to fit the entire piece into the mouth, these tartlets were not only aesthetically pleasing but also very easy to eat! Topped with blueberries and pounded nuts, the coconut-laden tartlets were dusted with cocoa powder on the surface. The blueberries lent a sweet flavour and juicy quality to the tartlet which could otherwise be dominated by the bland and fibrous grated coconut. Hence, the resulting taste was an exquisite surprise.
All in all, the extensive spread of high-quality food at the buffet was definitely beyond impressive. I like that diners can literally try all the different crab creations at the same time and to their heart’s content. But I feel the price tag of $75++ per person for a not-so-novel concept (as quite a number of restaurants have already rolled out similar crab-themed buffets in recent years) is a tad extravagant. On the other hand, crab lovers with an insatiable appetite may find the price extremely reasonable. So yeah, to each his own, I guess!
What do you think? How do you find the food? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Thanks for reading!