Chapas Kitchen & Bar, Beaufort St
I found Chapas (Modern Chinese tapas) when I was browsing through Instagram and back then the only photo they had was a couple of bowls of Chinese Dim Sum. I thought I’d follow the account to get more information later on. After some weeks passed by, Chapas planned a soft opening with an offer of 15% off the total cost so I called up my friend (Erlin) and went on a date for 3 (taking Hubby along).
The first thing that we saw when we arrived was a golden timber double door followed by a wall filled with iconic Chinese red lanterns. As we entered the premise, we saw a beautiful mural made by Thao Tran. We were seated on a small table but the staff also offered kindly if we wanted to seat at a bigger table.
We decided on the small table because we thought we weren’t going to order a lot of food. The small table was a bit too close to the other tables and it would be quite difficult for people to fit into the gap and sit down. Fortunately we were seating at the end closer to the fire place which allowed us to have more space to get in and out.
Hugo, the owner, explained that the menu for the soft opening only contained 65% of items from the full menu. I really like the cute menu that resembled those old Chinese calendars. Back in the days my parents were given a lot of free calendars from different banks or Chinese restaurants so it really brought back memories.
I left Erlin and hubby to take a look at the menu while I wondered around the premise. The back area was bigger than the front, a bit darker and the huge long wall was decorated with bamboo steamers of different sizes. The long tables really mixed well with the light brown bamboo colour and there was also a staircase leading to the second floor. Hugo explained that they were still in the middle of refurbishing the second floor. In the future they’re planning to have tea degustation course where each dish will be paired with different Chinese tea. I was so excited when I heard that and will definitely be interested in trying it out. There was a small outdoor area decorated with colourful hanging lanterns and fake grass to cover the brick wall. It’ll be a good area to eat at during the day especially when it wasn’t too scorching hot.
We ordered the refreshing cold snow beer to start with while hubby stuck with his jasmine tea. The tea cup was a bit unusual and upon further research I found that it wasn’t a tea cup at all. It was actually a wine cup and we found it was quite awkward to drink from. As an appetizer, we were given the smashed cucumbers, pickled in spicy garlic vinaigrette dressing.
It didn’t take long for our food to arrive and the first to reach the table was a serve of soft shell crab with fried mantou in Singaporean chili sauce. The soft shell crab was tasty, mantou was cooked properly so it was crisp on the outside but we just want a bit more kick with the Singaporean chili sauce.
This was followed by the Mama Mui's Dumplings which tasted quite delicious especially since we didn't expect quite a good amount of pork in it. The menu said it would be 'mostly cabbage and little / few amount of pork', so this was a good surprise for us. The rest of our orders came through in a good flow and soon we saw barely any space left on the table.
Our shaomai was a very Western version of shaomai with melted mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. The wagyu beef was tasty but the tomato sauce covered up a lot of dumpling flavour.
I usually ordered Lo Mai Gai (Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves) during weekend dim sum. Chapas' version sticked really well to the original Lo Mai Gai but I'd love it if the dark soy was mixed together more with the rice to create the beautiful brown coloured rice.
Our fried dim sum platters consisted of deep fried squid tentacles, fried prawn wontons, prawn & coriander spring roll. The platters also come with sriracha mayo and sweet chili dipping sauce. I was fond of the texture of the deep fried squid tentacles which was quite crispy and chewy while the fried prawn wonton had a big prawn in it instead of mashed prawn (yay). Just a note that the deep fried squid tentacles was cooked differently and didn't have the Chinese restaurant style of salt & pepper coating.
The Har Gau (prawn dumpling) was meaty on the inside however the skin on the outside was rather dry, which meant you can feel the stickiness as we chew which we didn't like so much. The last dumpling that I ordered was Xiaolongbao (Shanghai dumpling) and Hubby can testify that I always had to order this whenever I saw Xiaolongbao on the menu. It was basically a dumpling with broth and meat on the inside and the joy of eating came when the dumpling burst with broth inside the mouth. Chapas' one was definitely scrummy!
Dinner won't be perfect without any dessert so we decided in advance to try the deep fried ice cream bao. Again, Chapas gave a good surprise by presenting the ice-cream with sweet deep fried bun. For $15, this was a very generous dessert. Each bao has different flavour of ice cream and sauce. One was green tea ice cream, red bean paste and condensed milk, another one was popcorn flavour ice cream with butterscotch sauce, and the last bao was strawberry cheesecake ice cream with strawberry jam.
What was supposed to be a small dinner became quite a big dinner for us and we had a good catch up at Chapas. I am excited to see the full menu as well as the tea degustation that will take place in a month or two.