My firm had its Chinese New Year dinner celebrations at Lei Garden this year. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that it's one of my favourite Cantonese restaurants ever. I'd been looking forward to the dinner since I found out about the chosen venue way back in early January.
True to form, the 10-course dinner didn't disappoint in the slightest. Every dish was executed with finesse and thoroughly enjoyable. Dishes were quickly decimated and there were no opportunities for seconds. Which kind of blew. Until after The Professor left, and I got to eat his portion! Still, despite the lack of seconds or thirds for some, all of us walked away (barely!) stuffed to the gills.
We kicked off the night with the ubiquitous YuSheng tossing, laced with thick chunky slices of sparkling fresh salmon that was sweet, and those delectable fried yam strips that are so popular nowadays as a modern addition to yusheng salad.
Our firm took a stand and opted out of the shark's fin soup standard second course, switching it out for a Double Boiled Sea Whelk Soup instead. The clear broth was seeped with the taste of chicken bones and the shellfish, making for a delicate but robust soup that was good to the last drop. Pearls of wolfberries lent sweetness.
I loved the juxtaposition of textures in the next course, the Sauteed Scallop with Garden Greens in XO sauce. From the crunch of the French beans to soft chew of the scallops, it was nicely balanced. The XO sauce was very toned down, so usually spicy heady seasoning was kept light to spotlight and not overwhelm the fresh sweetness of the scallops.
The Deep-Fried Grouper Fillets with crispy beancurd skin was delicious, even if some of my friends commented that it was a waste to fry a fish fresh out of the tank. The fried beancurd crisps provided a delicate flavour to the clear taste of the fish fillets. The fish fillets, coated thinly with a flour batter, kept the fish moist when frying. We wiped the plate clean of all of the beancurd crisps bits.
The Braised Dried Oyster with Black Moss and mushrooms and beancurd was slathered with a luxuriously gooey sauce that was lip-smackingly good. The umami flavour of the dried seafood and mushrooms were imbued into the luscious gravy and balanced out the clean clear taste of the lettuce bedding.
The Baked Venus Chicken in Lei Garden Special was juicy and moist and succulent and flavoursome. I could go on with the superlatives. This was seriously good chicken and possibly the best, if not one of, rendition of baked/fried chicken.
The obligatory vegetable dish, Braised Wa Wa Cabbage with Conpoy and baby white cabbage, was light and clear, relying only on the sweetness of the vegetables and umami dried scallop bits. I liked that they utilised 2 different types of vegetables to highlight their different textures. The wawa cabbage was soft and mushy, contrasting with the crunch of the baby white cabbage.
The Stir Fried Glutinous Rice with Chinese sausage was also a hit for its soft and moist texture, plentiful ingredients, and flavourful seasoning.
The Chilled King Dates with Snow Lotus Seed was refreshingly sweet, albeit intensely so due to the overtly sweet nature of dates. That said, the white fungus and snow lotus seed helped provide a plain counter-balance.
The Chinese Golden Pastry, an old-school dessert, is like the flour-centric version of peanut brittle. This was laced with walnuts for a nutty accent, and brushed with a sugary glaze for sweetness, and hence ushering us to a sweet and fruitful Year of the Snake!
Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant
30 Victoria Street
Tel: 6339 3822
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner