Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant

Wah Lok's another one of our favourites to have a languid weekend dim sum brunch. Admittedly, the quality of the food has gone down over the years but I still like this place for its memories (I used to come here for dim sum with my extended family when I was very young) and warm friendly vibe. As with most Cantonese restaurants, Wah Lok is unstuffy, bustling with activity and relatively noisy. You'll occasionally have to raise your voice to be heard over the din. Most customers come here in large groups, whether with their extended families or friends, so you'll usually get a table faster if it's just the 2 of you.

I've always liked eating Jellyfish, it's springy, chewy and usually served refreshingly chilled. I like its clean palate-cleansing flavours, simply seasoned with a little chili and soy.That said, this could have been more chilly, it was a little tepid and limp.

The Fried Beancurd Skin with Prawns is plump, juicy and succulent. I love the interplay of the crisp beancurd skin and firm turgid prawns.

This Mushroom Dumpling is a lot better than the Lei Garden one, simply because there are no coriander leaves! I love this dumpling for its clean fresh taste, the thin chewy translucent skin, the earthy mushrooms and the crunchy vegetables and radish.

The Steamed BBQ Pork Bun ($4.80) is quite exceptional here, the bun is fluffy, moist and soft, while the barbecued pork filling is sticky, sweet and yet savoury.

I also like their Siew Mai ($5.60) here, it's fairly huge, sweet and juicy, fresh pork is used so there's no frozen meat aftertaste.

The Appetizer ($3) here is quite unique, chilled seasoned long beans and mock barbecued pork make for a refreshing appetite-whetting starter.

Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant
Carlton Hotel Singapore
76 Bras Basah Road
Singapore 189558
Tel: 6311 8188/9
Email: restaurants@carltonhotel.sg
Open from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch (Mondays to Saturdays);
11am to 2.30pm (Sundays and Public Holidays); and
6.30pm to 10pm for dinner daily


Uncle Leong Seafood

I caught up with one of my best men, Long, over dinner at Uncle Leong Seafood recently. I remember the first time I brought Long here, and we just ate crabs from 5.30pm all the way to 11.30pm.Yes, we actually sat there for 6 straight hours chatting and shelling the crabs. He's probably the one friend that loves crabs as much as I do.

Apparently, they've gotten so popular that they've decided to open another branch in Punggol. I hear from the proprietor that the Punggol outlet will open on 15 April.

The Chili Crabs ($40 per kg) here hold their own against the Jumbo and Long Beach heavyweights. Crabs are sweet and succulent, whilst the finger-licking good gravy is rich, spicy eggalicious and thick.

Their specialty, the Shimmering Sands Crabs ($40 per kg) is one cooking style that isn't available anywhere else. It's a mix of creamy butter sauce, and a combination of sliced chili padi and fried curry leaves for fragrance and some heat, topped off with nutty crisp oats. Today's version had too much cream though, it ended up being too rich for my liking. And a little blob-ish.

Update 6 June 2011: Uncle Leong has moved to 6 Tebing Lane, #01-03 Punggol East. 

Uncle Leong Seafood
Blk 233, #01-1194
Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 (St 22)
Tel: 6554 3453
Open daily from 4pm to 11.30pm
Website: www.uncleleongseafood.com


Ocean Curry Fish Head, Telok Ayer Street

Both Di and I met up for our monthly get-together, but instead of a long leisurely lunch to catch up, we opted for a quick lunch. I had a hearing in the afternoon with Mr J, and Di had an appellant's case to submit by the end of the day.

Ocean Curry Fish Head is one of the more popular places to find good Chinese-style curry fish head, a local favourite of cooking a whole head of a red snapper fish in curry, lady's fingers, tomatoes and brinjals. If the idea of eating a fish head sounds icky to you, you may wish to consider eating the tail version of the curry. However, as we both were in a rush and didn't want to get back to the office all sweaty, we skipped the claypot curry fish head this time round.

This place offers a variety of ready-cooked dishes, mostly delicious, which you can pick from and they will serve it to you. Our entire meal comprising 5 dishes, rice, a bowl of curry gravy and drinks cost only a mere $20. It was a very good and cheap meal. That's the thing about Singapore, you get to indulge in yummy food for very little, and in relatively clean surroundings with little risk of food poisoning.

We had the Otak-Otak, fish meat made into a paste, wrapped in banana leaves for fragrance and steamed. The fish paste had a bouncy textured feel and a nice spice to it.

The Sauteed Spinach was very light, very little soy was used to cook this so it remained light.A faint sprinkling of ikan bilis lent some flavour.

The Tomato-Chili Prawns were pleasantly fresh. Their food sells out everyday, so it's little wonder that the food served is fresh. Prawns were springy and sweet, and the tomato ketchup and chilli sauce based gravy gave this dish a very homestyled feel.

The Abalone Mushrooms had a smooth, slippery texture so they went down like a dream.I like this for its clean and plain taste.

The Ikan Batang (Spanish Mackerel) was mild and firm, no fishy smells here. The oyster and soy flavouring complemented the delicate flesh of the fish.

Ocean Curry Fish Head
181 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 6324 9226
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 8pm,
Saturdays from 11am to 2pm,
Closed on Sundays


Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant

As Ms PR's dear hubby was away on one of his frequent business travels, we decided to have a girls' night out and indulge in Cantonese food at Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant at Takashimaya. I realize many people confuse this fine dining outlet with the other fine-dining branch of the Crystal Jade Group, the Teochew-influenced Crystal Jade Golden Palace at Paragon. Apart from the similarity in names, they serve different cuisines and are located at different shopping malls. The one at Taka serves only Cantonese food, whereas the one at Paragon serves both Teochew and Cantonese cuisine. There you go, easy-peasy.

We started off with something Ms PR likes, scallops. The Sauteed Scallop with Cashew Nut ($28) was very commendable, scallops were cooked just right, bouncy, succulent and delicate. They paired well with the crunchy peppers and cashews for a slightly nutty and peppery accent, but what gave this dish a salty fermented flavour was the pickled radish (chai poh).

I really liked the Stewed Beancurd with Bamboo Pith & Fresh Mushroom ($18), mostly because of the bamboo pith. Did you know bamboo pith is actually a type of mushroom? It's got the texture of fish maw, spongy and takes on the flavour of the surrounding seasoning. Also, Ms PR didn't quite take to the button mushrooms, which meant they were all for me, yay!

The Marinated Salted Chicken ($15) didn't look very appetizing but boy were our first impressions wrong, this is one dish that totally blew us away with just one bite. It was moist, and juicy, seasoned simply with a flavoured salt, and a hint of plum. 

Ms PR was very intrigued by the Double-Boiled Whole Yellow Melon Soup with Assorted Seafood ($16).

It was chock-full of fish maw, dried scallops, prawns, fresh scallops, and fish. Very light, very clear, relying only on the natural flavours of the seafood for taste.

My Crabmeat Conpoy & Diced Wintermelon Soup ($8) was like the MSG version of her soup.

I still liked it, even if it was salty in comparison to the whole melon soup, it was still relatively light and clear. I particularly liked the button mushrooms and crunchy diced melons in this.

The pickled Chilled Beancurd appetizer($3), Ms PR liked it for its piquant and savoury flavours, I didn't for the same reasons.

Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant
391 Orchard Road
Ngee Ann City #04-19
Tel: 6735 2388
Opening hours
Lunches Mondays to Fridays 11.30am to 3pm; Saturdays from 11am to 3pm; Sundays from 10.30am to 3pm
Dinners daily from 6pm to 11pm
Website: www.crystaljade.com


Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria

It'd been a crazy day and I needed comfort food. My latest crave is Italian and I'd been hankering to try Cugini for a while now. This charming little place is on the fringes of the CBD area, so it's really convenient to head to after work.

We had one of the more enjoyable and memorable meals to date. Cugini, the Italian word for "cousins", serves Southern Italian cuisine and is run by 2 close friends who have garnered an impressive resume in Europe before setting up operations in Singapore. The vibe here is romantic but casual, with its warm candlelit tables and seaside-inspired turquoise furnishing.

We gobbled up the Raviolo di Ossobuco con Verza e Riduzione al Barolo ($24.90), Italian pasta dumplings filled with minced veal with a drizzling of Barolo wine reduction and topped with freshly shredded lettuce. The refreshingly crisp and palate cleansing taste of the lettuce lifted the heaviness of the red meat. We shared this as a starter. I don't know how anyone can eat this as a main and be full. It's like 5 bites, and poof! It's all finished!

Southern Italian cuisine is distinguished for its heavy use of seafood, so we got the Risotto Mare e Monti ($24.90). This was rustic, and delicious, with the main focus on the freshness of the ingredients. Prawns, mussels, squid, clams, fish and assorted mushrooms provided all the flavour needed through every al dente bite of the arborio rice. I'll definitely be back for more of their risottos.

The Scaloppa di Branzino Mediterraneo ($35.90) of pan-fried seabass with mozzarella foam and sweet bell peppers was tarnished by the overtly-salted crusty skin of the fish. A lighter hand with the seasoning of the fish fillets would have done more justice to the fresh moist fish. I thought the peppers was very well done though, they were soft but retained a wee bit of bite, sweet but with a hint of spice.

The Bread Basket wasn't spectacular, but it did help quieten the growling tummy. It wasn't soft or warm enough, and it was too plain, a very ho-hum affair.

Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria
87 Club Street
Tel: 6221 3791
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm; 6pm to 11pm
Website: www.cugini.com.sg


Cedele Restaurant, Ngee Ann City

Cedele prides itself on serving wholesome healthy food, so it was a natural dinner choice after a gym session.

The Citrus Lemon Salmon ($22.90) grilled salmon fillet with lemon butter sauce, a sprinkling of lime leaves, set atop a potato patty was such a waste of calories though. The salmon was too fishy, and I didn't like the potato/carrot/parsley patty. It was dull and lacking in flavour. The mesculine salad was the only passable thing on this dish, fresh and crisp.

I indulged in a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream ($3.50), where real vanilla pods were evidently used. It had a comforting, wholesome and refreshing feel to it.

Cedele Restaurant
391 Orchard Road
Takashimaya Shopping Centre
Tel: 6235 2380
Open daily from 10am to 10pm
Website: www.cedeledepot.com


Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant

We had brunch here over the weekend. We'd woken up late in the day and decided on the spot that we felt like some dim sum for lunch. That's the thing when you aren't bogged down with kids, you get to do things on your own time and whim, without the somewhat autocratic routine that's part of the package of having kids. Which is why I always tell my friends who are yet to have kids to enjoy their "freedom" as much as they can, because all that is moot when the kids come along. That's the single biggest thing that changes your life. Marriage doesn't change a couple's life as drastically as when the kids come along. Suddenly, it's not just about you 2 anymore, because everything centres around the kids and everything you do is for the kids. It's amazing how one tiny little tot decides your entire life, doesn't it?

This is why we're really indulging in ourselves, watching all the TV we like, waking up as late as we do and taking all the naps we want, while we still can.

Lei Garden remains one of our top choices for a scrumptious dim sum brunch, and to our surprise, despite the last minute reservations, there was available seating. We love it here. For a fine-dining restaurant, it sure doesn't feel like the typical fine-dining restaurant. It's bustling but affable, warm but elegant, noisy yet refined, casual but stately. Diners may be in their dressed down sandals and berms, but the detailing of their Audemars Piguet and Birkins are tell-tale signs of the well-heeled clientele here.

We started off with the ubiquitous Siew Mai ($4.30), which, in the Fiance's opinion, is the best around. It's bouncy, juicy and utterly delicious.

The Crispy Silver Needle Fish ($7) is nicely battered, fried to a crisp without being oily. This was controlled and addictively tasty without being salty.

The Braised Vegetarian & Beancurd in Thick Soup ($8) had a plain, grassy, palate-cleansing taste. Nice but not really my thing.

We both loved the Crabmeat Congee ($10.80), there were huge chunks of freshly shredded crabmeat tossed into the porridge mix. This was rich yet delicate, with the sweet essence of crab stock stirred right into the congee.

Deep fried dough fritters accompany the congee as a textured and flavoursome topping in the roe-infused smooth rice gruel. This is so not the dish for heart patients.

The Chicken and Mushroom Dumpling ($4.30) was unfortunately laced liberally with waaaay too much coriander. I would not have ordered this if I knew there were coriander leaves in this dish, but obviously, I couldn't tell from the description of the item from the menu. I couldn't stomach this, and the Fiance tried his best to stomach even one. Naturally, this wasn't finished.

The Grilled Cod in Japanese Style ($9.80) was oily, flaky, moist and soft. You can detect a slight whiff of aromatic coffee in this dish, as they'd added the fragrant beverage into the marinade of this delightful dish.

I liked the Steamed Rice Roll with Prawns ($4.80) more than the Fiance did. The skin is more chewy than other versions, so you get a nice bite out of the thin rice roll.

A word of caution if you're ordering iced tap water, it costs a hefty $2 per person, refillable of course. I suppose it's to detract diners from being cheapskates. I suggest you order the Chinese tea instead, it's probably more worth the price-tag.

Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant
Chijmes #01-24
30 Victoria Street
Tel: 6339 3822
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.leigarden.hk/eng/


Peach Garden Sichuan @ Miramar

Peach Garden Sichuan is the fifth outlet under the Peach Garden group of restaurants, and marks its first foray into the world of Sichuan cuisine, known for its tongue-numbingly spicy food. They've kept their beloved Cantonese classics on the menu here, so you get a mix of both delicate Cantonese food and robust Sichuan cuisine.

We had our firm's Chinese New Year Dinner ($908++ per table) here recently. As usual, the dinner was highlighted by the various comedic talents, and dance and song recitals put up by the staff. Hey, lawyers can do more than just argue, you know.

Overall, the food was unusual and quirky, in a sense that I wouldn't have thought to pair ingredients the way Peach Garden Sichuan did. But they did it sufficient skill and finesse, so although the dishes were unconventional, they still tasted good.

First up was the Prosperity Yusheng with Salmon and Ikan Parang. This was one of the better yushengs around, vegetables were fresh and crisp, and fish was sweet and clear.

The mess we made Lo-Hei-ing while yelling out our new year wishes of "Bonus".

The gorgeous presentation of Roasted Golden Suckling Pig. I've never really took to suckling pig, mostly because it usually tastes like fried pork lard, which I don't like anyway.

Doughy pancakes with sprigs of spring onions and cucumbers were given to pair with the Suckling Pig

As aforementioned, I'm not a fan of suckling pig, but this was real crisp, and just with the skin, without a sliver of the underlying fat. It's like a refined version of fried pork lard, so even I didn't mind this.

The unconventional Crisp Fried Soon Hock Fish with Yam Paste. I didn't think I'd like this because it sounded weird, but as Tim Gunn puts it: "they made it work"!

There were 2 fishes for every table, layered with cubes of soft yam and smothered in a smooth yam paste. The sweet mashed yam paste complemented the mild taste of the fish.

The Pan Fried King Prawns with Minced Meat in Sichuan Style was quite delectable. The diced mushrooms, minced pork and mei cai combination added a enough flavour to the prawns, salty but balanced. The prawns were jumbo-sized, sweet and succulent, albeit a little tepid.  

Braised Sliced Abalone with Sea Cucumber and Lettuce is another traditional Chinese New Year dish, but as expected, I don't eat both abalone and sea cucumber. I did partake in the crunchy fresh lettuce though. The letdown in this dish was the gravy, which was a tad too starchy.

The Stewed Pig Trotters in Vermicelli was surprisingly good. I don't like pig's trotters, in fact, I don't like eating the feet of anything. Yes, even the well-loved Chinese dish of chicken feet and the German comfort food that is pork knuckle. I liked the savoury vermicelli, which soaked in the flavours of the luscious oyster and soy sauce gravy.

Although I'm not a big fan of Fried Nian Gao, this was addictively chewy and had a nuanced sweetness.

I preferred the other dessert of Chilled Black Glutinous Rice with Ice-Cream, this was both comforting yet refreshing.

Peach Garden Sichuan @ Miramar
401 Havelock Road
Miramar Hotel, Level 3
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 9.30pm;
Saturdays from 10.30am to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Sundays from 8am to 11am; 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Tel: 6736 3833
Website: www.peachgarden.com.sg


Shangri-La Wedding Dinner

I don't know about you, but I generally don't enjoy the food served at a wedding dinner. Really, the ang bao you give to the wedding couple is not so much about paying for the food, as it is to wish them well, because the quality of the food served is usually not worth the ang bao value. Unless you're a miserly cheapskate.

A wedding dinner that I recently attended at the Shangri-La was no different, very run-of-the-mill and relatively unspectacular. I'd expected better, considering that the food was catered by the award-winning in-house Chinese restaurant, Shang Palace.

The only exception was the dessert, which I shall start this post with, although it was served last. I'm not a fan of chocolate, but the Chocolate Tart with Raspberry Sorbet and Berries Compote was a dazzling creation of pure decadent indulgence. The chocolate tart was rich without being overwhelmingly so. The use of semi-sweet cocoa, coupled with the tart frosty sorbet, controlled the sugar content of this nuanced and balanced dessert.

The starter Shangri-La Appetizers Delight was limpid and cold, like it had been left out in air-conditioning for some time.The roasted duck tasted slightly gamey and tough, the clams were rubbery and the suckling pig was too fatty and not crisp enough. The only thing I liked about this was the jellyfish, chewy and seasoned lightly.

I won't go so far to say that I'm averse to eating shark's fin as I'll eat it if someone else has ordered it, but I make a conscious decision not to order it on my own. The Double-Boiled Shark's Fin with Chicken Mushrooms, Bamboo Pith and Cabbage wasn't the best I've tried. The clear soup with a chicken base, though choc-a-bloc with shark's fin, was a tad saccharine and without depth of flavour. I liked the fleshy Chinese black mushroom hidden below though.

I liked the Steamed Fresh Soon Hock in Superior Soya Sauce garnished with Coriander Leaves, but then again, as long as the fish is fresh, it's quite difficult to get this dish wrong. Obviously, the fish was fresh and flaked right off, so it had a very delectable clean and clear taste.

The Sauteed Crispy Scallops with Shimeiji Mushrooms and Kailan was up next. Scallops were succulent and done just right, soft and not rubbery. The dish was smeared with a light soy and cornstarch gravy which complemented the delicate scallops and earthy mushrooms.

The Crispy Mongolian Chicken "Pik Fong Tong" Style, with the flavour of the salt seeped into the flesh surprised us with its moist texture and tastiness.

The only thing I ate in the Braised Sliced Abalone with Seasonal Greens garnished with Wolfberries was the spinach smothered in a lusciously thick oyster sauce gravy sweetened by the red wolfberries. Never took to abalone.

The Shang Palace Fried Rice was largely left untouched. I think glutinous rice was used, because it was sweet and sticky. I would have preferred this to be more savoury than sweet. 

Shangri-La Tower Ballroom
22 Orange Grove Road
Tel: 6737 3644
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