Apart from a few blips, Eight — the new Pan-Asian restaurant on the second floor of the East Zone in Phoenix Mills — has a lot going for it.
The number eight is considered lucky in China since the pronunciation of the word in Cantonese and Mandarin is very similar to the one for ‘good fortune’. Divorced from the hubbub of shoppers, Eight, the new Pan-Asian restaurant on the second floor of the East Zone in Phoenix Mills, is going to need its share of luck to ensure it doesn’t suffer the same fate as the restaurant it replaced. Fortunately, it’s is part of Bellona Hospitality, the in-house F&B arm of Phoenix Mills, and they’ve taken over the entire floor with plans to connect it with the rest of the mall to increase foot traffic to the area.
Once that hurdle has been crossed it should be smooth sailing for the restaurant, though there are a few minor hurdles to cross. Some of the cocktails, despite being without added sugar, are way too sweet; the staff doesn’t know the menu as well as they should and while the Yuzu Tart has a creamy, sharp Yuzu curd filling the tough shortcrust pastry and the hard meringue topping make it impossibly difficult to manipulate.
I wasn’t thrilled that the sliced Hamachi in the Hamachi Nigiri had tears in it, but that didn’t affect the flavour. It was interesting that they chose to use butterfly pea-stained, blue rice as a filling in their sushis — both for the Nigiris and the house special maki-style Eight House Roll which had a crunchy filling of asparagus, carrots and zucchini, Philly cheese and topped with a pleasant Ponzu-Wasabi mayo.
Despite their best explanations I remain unconvinced about their interpretation of the classic Har Gow. Traditionally, the steamed dumpling pouch has a translucent, delicately pleated skin containing a mildly flavoured minced prawns filling. Theirs has a whole prawn, with tail, enveloped in an orange-stained skin garnished with thin strips of nori reminiscent of a tiger’s skin. I appreciate the innovation but not the end result.
Luckily there’s much that would draw me back starting with the lotus root dimsum where thinly sliced lotus root is wrapped around crispy vegetables and topped with a salty, peppery black bean sauce. There’s also the dramatic Indian salmon wrap where a lotus leaf wrapped parcel is opened at the table to reveal a centre of rawas cooked in a tangy, tamarind sauce. The simple Burnt Garlic Fried Rice is gratifyingly straightforward and uncomplicated; there’s soul-satisfying richness in Lamb Malay Curry that marries spice with aromatics. Finally, there’s the exciting 8 Special Exotic Veg Tobanjan with mixed vegetables in a spicy, salty Japanese chilli bean sauce, where the fried eggplant cubes shine brighter than the crisp broccoli and silky soft tofu.
Eight has a promising future; it’s not a large restaurant but spacious enough to create a sense of conviviality. Rows of regular tables are sandwiched between booth-style seating at one end and high tables and group tables at the other. The food and cocktails need some course correction but Eight looks like it just might have fortune smiling on it.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Lotus Root Dimsum
One dish that didn’t work for us: Yuzu Tart