We had our Chinese New Year dinner at Victoria Peak Chinese Cuisine Restaurant, a newly opened Cantonese restaurant at the newly opened Orchard Central. Being on the 11th floor of the towering shopping mall, it had a gorgeous courtyard with a very windy breeze. Perfect for mingling. The restaurant was glass-enclosured so you get a panoramic view of the city with your meal.
I'm usually quite skeptical of banquet food, mostly because it's very difficult to maintain a high standard and quality of dishes for such large numbers. Seriously. Try cooking for 20 guests at a dinner party as compared to a romantic home-cooked candlelight dinner for your loved one, the quality of your dishes are pointedly different. Which was why I was extremely pleasantly surprised with the food served at the dinner. I was very impressed. Exquisite flavours, masterful cookery, impossibly fresh ingredients, overall a delicious and memorable meal.
Of course what made the dinner particularly memorable were some of the performances put up that night. From the Managing Partner's rendition of the Hokkien classic, Ai Pia Jia Eh Yia, to our very own "boyband" cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face". The one that really left me in stitches was the pupils and trainees' "bootilicious" disco tribute to Bee Gee's "You Should Be Dancing".
Also, it was hilarious when the partners came out at the beginning of the dinner, dressed in traditional doll heads and Chinese period costumes, for an impromptu game of "Guess Who's The Partner". Of course Beeps and I recognised our boss immediately, by guess what, his hands and fingernails! I guess since we see him all the time, we had to be able to recognise some of his body parts.
We started the feast with the customary tossing of the Yu-Sheng (Raw Fish Salad). No Chinese New Year celebration would have been complete without this symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.
You know how nowadays, restaurants have come up with increasingly novel and/or lavish ideas for yu-sheng? You can now get super premium ingredients like lobster or scallop carpaccio. I've even heard of foie gras options as well. Ours was the more traditional Salmon Fish. This was sashimi-grade fresh, fatty, flavoursome and naturally rich.
The "organised" salad looking very neat before the tossing (also known as "lo-ing").
The chaos after the tossing. This was hilarious. The trainees and pupils were "lo-ing" for retention. The partners were "lo-ing" for longer trials and no settlements. The associates were "lo-ing" for pay increments (bonus already given out, lah). Everyone had their own agenda.Very cute.
Then came the obligatory Double Boiled Shark's Fin in Shark's Cartilage Soup. Oh, this was divine. The milky appearance is the collagen, extracted from hours of simmering shark cartilage. The soup base was exquisitely delicate, a hallmark of brilliantly done Cantonese soup. Too bad my table didn't have any principled animal rights activists. I would have gladly offered to drink their soup for them.(For the record, I wouldn't order shark's fin on my own because it really isn't worth it. In fact, I'm probably not going to have it for my wedding. But if it's offered to me, I would eat it. The shark is dead already! No use crying over dead sharks, I say.)
Real shark's fin is served here. Personally, I hate those places that serve imitation shark's fin. I'd rather do without it than to eat an imitation version. Shark's fin, afterall, has no taste of its own. In fact, come to think of it, I hate imitation products, including but not limited to fake designer goods and plastic "enhanced" women. The former because if you're too poor to buy designer stuff, then don't bother buying it. Class and style are not brand-dependent. The latter because even if you do plastic surgery, your children will still come out looking like your former self. Besides, true beauty is a state of mind.
Our IT guy is a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so he got the Consomme of Mushroom. I'm a huge fan of mushrooms, and this looked delectable.
The lacto-ovo vegetarian option was the Sauteed Snow Peas with Gingko Nuts and Fungus. This is exactly the vegetarian version of the prawn dish, seasoned and sauteed in the same style.
The fish dish was served next. Coral Grouper Prepared Two Ways - Sauteed Fish Fillets. The fish was unbelievably fresh, with a firm yet flaky texture. Despite the different cooking techniques, the light delicate flavours of the fish came through every bite. Beeps and I loved crunching on the snow peas, nobody else wanted to eat them!
The other preparation of the Coral Grouper was the Deep Fried Fish Fillets. Most preferred this version, I think it's the spiced minced aromatics that made this version a close winner.
The vegetarian option was the Asparagus wrapped in Bamboo Pith with Beancurd Skins.
We got another auspicious dish, the Braised 6-Head Abalone with Dried Oysters & Black Moss (Fatt Choy). I don't eat abalones and I don't fancy oysters (yes, seriously), so I ended up eating the black moss and Chinese black mushrooms with lettuce (hidden underneath), together with copious amounts of the luxurious gravy.
The Crispy Salted Chicken was the following course. This was very juicy and succulent, but then again, I only ate the thigh meat, which is usually succulent anyway. Nice to know that chickens are plagued with the same problems most women have, fatty thighs! This was a tad too salty though, but it is called salted chicken for a reason.
The Poached Boxthorn Vegetables with Assorted Egg was up next. This was also well-executed. The broth was rich and had depth of flavour, which complemented the bittersweet vegetable. And, there's the addition of salted egg. It really does liven up any dish, doesn't it? I noticed that almost every dish (the prawn and fish and abalone dishes) consisted of large servings of vegetables, which is such a comfort to the health-conscious. Well, if you're going to stuff your face, then you better add in more fibre to help along the digestion.
The carb dish, Crispy Noodle with Seafood, signaled the imminent ending of the dinner. The scallops were succulent and sweet, the prawns were crunchy, and the fish was fresh and flaky. This was very similar to Crystal Jade's version. Very yummy. Beeps was too full by this course, so she traded her noodles and seafood for my vegetables. I loved trading with her!
The lacto-ovo vegetarian option was the Handmade Noodles with Bailing Mushroom in Broth.
The second dessert was the Steamed Crystal Dumpling with Yam. This is apparently one of their signature must-try dishes. The skin was chewy and thin, and the sweetness of the yam was nuanced. Although it wasn't as visually appetising as the mango sago, this was extremely well-received. Clearly shows that looks aren't everything.
We're finally got to the last dish of the night, a Fresh Fruits Platter of watermelon, papayas, melons and grapes. The fruits were fresh and sweet, no complaints there.
Victoria Peak Chinese Cuisine Restaurant
181 Orchard Road
#11-01 Orchard Central
Tel: 6238 7666
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner; Sundays and Public Holidays from 11am to 3pm for lunch and 6pm to 10.30pm for dinners