It was serendipitous, then, that we opted to bring him to sample Teochew food, a Chinese dialect cuisine characterised by clear and delicate flavours. This meal alone changed his opinion of Singaporean cuisine; he couldn't understand, before, why everyone seemed to rave about Singaporean cuisine.
We brought our friend to Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine, an anchor restaurant at the Teochew Chui Huay Lim Club. The Jumbo-affiliated restaurant was grand and opulent in a traditional chinnoisserie way. Reservations are strongly recommended; even on a Thursday night, they were operating at a full-capacity, mostly with towkay-types. It's easy to see why, the food was fantastic, especially the seafood.
Despite the full-house, service was efficient, warm and friendly in that sweet motherly way made familiar by the Crystal Jade & Imperial Treasure restaurant empires. Dishes arrived in quick succession, our water glasses were kept brimming, so even though my request to hold off any parsley/cilantro/coriander was inadvertently forgotten by the kitchen multiple times, I was okay to let that lapse go.
A must-try, the Teochew Puning Chicken ($16 for half) was balanced and muted, subtly accented by fermented bean sauce slathered over the plump and succulent free-range chicken.
The Deep-Fried Ngoh Hiang Rolls ($10 for small) possessed a lovely crunch, and chunky texture. If I had a gripe, it'd be that it was lightly laced with coriander.
Another must-try, the Teochew Braised Duck ($28 for half) was impossibly fresh, with a nuanced soy-based braise seeped into the moist tender meat, and smooth soft beancurd.
Seafood is integral to Teochew cuisine, and the Teochew-style Steamed Threadfin Tail ($80) was absolutely stellar. Swimmingly fresh, barely seasoned with a few salted vegetables, plums, ginger, chilli, mushrooms and tomatoes strewn about, this was simplicity at its most refined.
The Braised Conpoy with Eight Vegetarian Treasures ($32 for medium) was just fantastic as well, I loved the luscious velvety sauce, and the sweetness of the cabbage layered with a medley of dried scallops, enoki, Chinese black mushrooms, straw mushrooms, black moss, and carrots.
The Seafood Fried Mee Sua ($20 for small) was a commendable rounder, plentiful fresh prawns and squid, nice smoky wok hei.
Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine
190 Keng Lee Road
#01-02 Chui Huay Lim Club
Tel: 6732 3637
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner