The first time I ate here was when LJ brought me here eons ago. He had raved extremely enthusiastically about the creamy butter crabs here, and I remembered thinking that the seafood was no big deal. Since then, the Paradise Group has expanded exponentially to include 2 seafood restaurants (Seafood Paradise), 4 restaurants serving local heritage cuisine (Paradise Inn) and 1 fine-dining Cantonese restaurant (Taste Paradise) in its growing repertoire of restaurants.
Such expansion must imply good food so I felt a revisit was in order. I therefore choose the Paradise Group of restaurants when I redeemed my credit card points with UOB.
The BF and I made reservations for 8.30pm in the air-conditioned area at the Defu Lane branch. We got there at 8.20pm, and they informed us that the only available tables were in the non-air conditioned area. We're not too fussy, so we obliged. After taking our orders, it was a ONE AND A QUARTER HOUR WAIT before the food arrived. We were only there at 8.30pm, which is arguably past the dinner peak hour, many diners had left (there were quite a number of empty tables) and yet it took MORE THAN AN HOUR for the food to arrive.
It was a normal Saturday night with the usual Saturday dinner crowd, it wasn't during the CNY period or any special occasion which resulted in an unexpected surge in dinner crowd.
The restaurant has been around for ages, which means that they've been at this for a while. There is no good reason why they cannot serve the food within a reasonable amount of time for such a normal Saturday dinner crowd.
Such a horrendously long wait bordered on physical abuse. The manager (who took our order) could have and should have informed us prior to taking our order that there was a waiting time of more than an hour, because it is an EXCESSIVELY LONG WAIT. I hate it when people waste my time, I hate queues, I hate waiting, and that's one and a quarter of an hour of my life that I'm never seeing again.
Still, I had the BF to talk to (which always seems to make time fly by), and my new iPhone (which I got as a surprise from the BF for Valentine's, isn't he the absolute sweetest?) to entertain myself and pass the time.
We ordered Chili Crabs ($40 per kg), which was sweetish, eggy and starchy. This wasn't very spicy, and it wasn't spectacular. Mind you, we were famished by this time, and we should have found everything we ate spectacular, but this really was ordinary fare.
We paired that with Fried Buns ($0.50 per bun), which wasn't fresh out of the fryer. It wasn't crispy or hot enough, most likely because it had been standing in the open for a while.
We also got my favourite flavour, Black Pepper Crabs ($40 per kg), which was garlicky, slightly sweet and deceptively spicy. This was better than the Chili Crabs but definitely not the best I've tried.
We wanted to load up on protein so we got the Steamed Star Grouper Hkg-Style ($7 per 100g). This was fresh and firm. The light soy steaming sauce complemented the delicate sweetness of the fish. We learnt that grouper has a firmer texture compared to seabass and marble goby, so it's probably better deep-fried rather than steamed.
We also got the Homemade Beancurd with Seafood in Claypot ($12 for a small portion), which was a stellar dish. The beancurd was impossibly smooth and delicate, the oyster-sauce based gravy was lusciously rich and the seafood (diced prawns and sea cucumber) was plentiful.
We last ordered the Ee-Fu Noodles with Crabmeat ($10 for a small portion), which was equally exceptional. The smooth noodles were braised with a flavourful rich stock, and the egg-drop and shredded fresh crabmeat gravy was perfection. The best ee-fu noodles I've ever tried, hands down.
The funny thing about this seafood establishment is that the star dishes were not their seafood dishes, although they are arguably somewhat seafood-based. Ironically, it's their non-seafood dishes (ee-fu noodles and homemade beancurd) that stood out, which I could probably have ordered at their Paradise Inn and/or Taste Paradise outlets (which are a lot more centralised than this far-flung industrial factory location).
Another note about their service. I'd read extensively about their atrocious service standards, but it wasn't THAT bad. They were pleasant enough, but then again, they did take 20 minutes to get our iced tap water. And they did come around to inform us at 9.50pm that they were taking last orders. I'm pretty sure that their website says that last orders are taken at 10.30pm. So it either means that the staff are unbelievably lazy or the management has had a change of policy. I'm really not fussy about service standards, but we thought that that was quite ludicrous.
So was the seafood worth the long drive and more than an hour wait? DEFINITELY NOT.
91, Defu Lane 10
Swee Hin Building
Tel: 6487 2429
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11am to 2.30pm (last order at 2.15pm) for lunch; from 5.30pm to 11pm (last order at 10.30pm)
Sundays and Public Holidays from 5pm to 11pm (last order at 10.30pm)