Some restaurants we grew up with are facing financial problems as a result of the pandemic. One such restaurant is Red Star Restaurant that serves traditional Cantonese dim sum.
Red Star Restaurant was founded by legendary Cantonese chefs Sin Leong 洗良(of Sin Leong, which later was renamed to Roland) and Hooi Kok Wai 许国威 (of Dragon Phoenix 龙凤楼), together with Tham Yew Kai 谭锐佳 (of Lai Wah Restaurant 丽华酒家, left for Dragon Phoenix) and Lau Yoke Pui 刘育培 (also at Lai Wah, but was head chef of Red Star until his passing). In their heydays, they were known as the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantonese Cuisine in Singapore and were credited to invent the now worldwide favourite of Lohei 捞起鱼生.
The four founders were all disciples of Chef Luo Chen Seng of Cathay Restaurant (closed in 2015), which was the legendary Cantonese restaurant of the 50s. It was the best Chinese restaurant in Singapore in those days and the yardstick by which the rest were measured. A meal there was highly sought after and a luxurious affair, and a wedding banquet that would only be possible if you were a very rich person. It was this background the band of brothers came out and struck out on their own, but they never were competitors. Each held his own fort with their own signature dishes, Sin Leong with his USA duck, Hooi for his chilli crab, Tham with his yam ring, and Lau with Eight Treasure Duck.
Red Star restaurant is probably the most authentic, classic looking Chinese restaurant left in Singapore. It practically looks like you’ve stepped back in time to the 1970s. Red Star restaurant’s lay out and recipes have remained much unchanged since the 70s for more than 40 years, giving a very deep impression of nostalgia.
The dim sum at Red Star was still served the traditional way – from a push cart by waitresses that will push them around the restaurant thus leaving ample space between tables. A dim sum card was placed on the table and stamped for each item we ordered. And everything was classified a small, mid, large or special dim sum – four different prices, similar to the colours for plates of sushi in kaitenzushi 回転寿司. You can eat as much or as little as you want, but nothing stood out in this visit.
What is really admirable was the band of brothers. When Lau passed on, Sin and Hooi came back to help with Red Star despite their old age. This kinship among these four friends was even stronger than some brothers of the same mother. This is something that is missing in modern times. All the restaurants they have found are all still operating, even though they are all under other management, but their creations are still available on the menu. I would encourage everyone to try them before they are all gone. But they will not be missed because they are all different without these stalwarts of Cantonese cuisine.
Red Star Restaurant 红星酒家
Block 54, Chin Swee Road #07-23, Singapore 160054
Tel: +65 6532 5266
Date visited : Feb 2022