Friday, 26 November 2010

Binge – Noodle Bar, Cocktails and Asian Chic

Ai Mien Bar, which recently opened in Capitol Tower, is a spacious, stylish yet casual Chinese bistro which serves up all manner of Chinese noodles, Chinese tapas and Chinese-inspired cocktails. Open from 8am for breakfast all the way to dinner and afters, its 4,200 square feet of space, soaring 7m-high ceiling and full length windows is stunning.

Of its 130+ menu items, its piece de resistance, Ai Mien Regional Creation ($18.80) is a definite winner. Comprising four small portions of noodles representing the main regional cuisine styles of China, you get noodles with sliced beef in pork ribs soup from the northeast, a piquant egg noodles with wanton in XO sauce from the south, a refreshing, tangy-spicy chilled spinach noodles with shredded chicken and prawns from the east, and noodles with minced pork in Sze Chuan spice sauce from the west. Perfect for those who can’t make up their mind or just thrive on variety!

The noodles were fresh, springy and had a delightfully subtle bite, and the combination of bland, piquant, hot and sour soups certainly excited the palate. All of these four little portions are cooked a la minute when the order comes in – so it’s added work for the chef, but a Good Thing for customers.

I also really liked the Chilled Mien ($18.80), thick, pale, weighty cold noodles – similar to udon though not as thick – served with shredded chicken, crunchy vegetables, plump prawns and quivering opalescent scallops. This was tossed in an absolutely refreshing and unusual tangy peanut sauce. Sounds odd, yes, but it is delicious. Definitely worth noting are the particularly huge, fresh and firm river prawns!
Chilled Fresh Milk and Coconut Soft Cake

For dessert, you must leave your diet at the door and sink into a parfait glass of icy Avocado Puree with Aloe Vera and Walnut Ice Cream ($5.80) – moderately rich, toe-curlingly yummy and worth every extra calorie. The Chilled Fresh Milk and Coconut Soft Cake ($3.80) is also ab fab: two oblongs of shivering milky custard, just subtly sweet enough, covered in a fluffy down of desiccated coconut and sesame seeds. Eat it with small pieces of the shiso leaf it is served upon – it’ll surprise you what a lovely combination it makes.

Shooter portions fo their signature cocktails: (from left:) Love Potion No 9,
Endless Love, Love Takes Time, One Night in Beijing

The bar here serves up four signature Asian-inspired cocktails as well as liquor and mixers from lunch time, with a long happy hour offering one-for-one deals from 5pm – 9pm. For sweet and safe, take Love Potion No. 9 – a lovely gin and strawberry puree combination that’s definitely quaffable all evening, campy name notwithstanding. Love Takes Time features gin and a dainty stick of ginseng – I thought I won’t like it, but the bitterness of the herb was very discreet, remaining in the background while the rest of the drink was fresh, lively and my favourite, surprisingly. Endless Love, again while sounding unbearably kitschy, turned out a lovely combination of Chrysanthemum and cognac with a few crunchy sweet wolfberries. Nice! While shooter portions of these are not shown in the menu, Vincent the Ops Manager tells me that you can indeed ask for them and it will be served up at $6 per shot. Ask for all four then, like you see in the picture!

Beef with pine nuts

Accompany your drinks with nibbles from its Asian tapas menu. The Fried Beef Cube with Pine Nuts ($6.80) featured very tender beef sweetly marinated and very enjoyable, and the Deep fried Toast with Prawn Paste and Fish Roe ($5.80) was a delectable combination of textures from the tender soft paste to the crunchy toast and the ‘pop’ of the roe. The Deep-Fried Prawn with Crispy Noodles ($8.80) was pretty with a thin layer of noodles wrapped round firm, fat, succulent river prawns. Tapas are available from 3pm to 11pm.

If you work in the vicinity, make your way there early for lunch as it fills up to the brim. But when the lunch crowd leaves at about 2.30pm, Ai Mien Bar becomes a great place for a mid-afternoon brainstorm sessions because of the space, large tables and cocktails. Plus it's such a convenient and pleasant place to meet for after-work drinks and dinner as things get a little quieter and tranquil here at night. And you know what? The best thing is, you get good food at fair prices.
- Ee Waun


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