Takashimaya is shaping up as the primary war ground between Chinese chain restaurant behemoths Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure. With the opening of their first Shanghainese Cuisine-centric restaurant, the Imperial Treasure Group now has a grand total of 3 restaurants (the others being the Cantonese Nan Bei on the 5th and Teochew Cuisine on the 4th floors) in competition with the Crystal Jade Group's 4 establishments (the casual Kitchen in the basement; while the fine dining Palace Restaurant, Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ and casual Shanghainese La Mian Xiao Long Bao are housed on the 4th floor), in just one mall alone.
We'd popped by for dinner on a bustling Thursday night after running some errands. Despite the last-minute holiday shoppers thronging the mall, the restaurant was surprisingly empty and we scored wonderfully cosy booth seats immediately without waiting. We loved that the booth afforded us some privacy from the other diners, something so lacking in most restaurants nowadays; we couldn't hear or see the other diners.
We're not very familiar with Shanghainese cuisine but the very knowledgeable and helpful wait staff were more than happy to help us out with their personal favourites. They even took the time to explain the ingredients in each dish, and recommended the signatures to us. Service was, as expected, superb; efficient and warm. Ditto for the food; every single dish was excellent. We waddled out sated, happy and stuffed.
We started off with the Smoked Duck with Tea Leaves ($24), a Shanghainese classic, which was seriously the best tea-leaf smoked duck I've ever had.
The duck may not look particularly appetizing but it's unbelievably fresh, surprisingly moist and delicate, with the faintest slightest accent of black tea smoked into the inner recesses of the flesh.
Fluffy steamed buns, which I thought were shaped like the cross-section of a rose bud (but the Hubs thought they looked like miniature whole chickens), were on hand to stuff the duck meat into with the sweet dark plumy sauce.
Another winning recommendation was the Braised Beancurd ($14), a saucey and very homestyled dish with tender pork strips, juicy Chinese black mushrooms peppers and bamboo shoots. The oyster-based sauce was given a lift with crunchy radish strips and chilli for a mild kick.
The Sauteed String Bean ($14) with minced pork, chai poh cubes and tiny mushroom dices was insanely good. Mostly because of the incredible wok hei and intense flavouring of the crunchy beans.The Hubs loved this very much.
The Szechuan Hot & Sour Seafood Soup ($10) was velvety, robust and heady. So very comforting on a rainy cool day.
The Shredded Beancurd Thick Soup ($8), with tofu wisps, omelette tendrils and mushroom strips was a lot more mellow, with a very light, but starchy base. Julienned Yunnan ham imparted a pungent saltiness while a couple of prawns lent texture.
Even the appetizer of Chilled Braised Peanuts ($3) was amazing. This managed a lightness and clarity of flavour that was so refreshing.
Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine
Takashimaya Shopping Centre #04-22
391 Orchard Road
Tel: 6836 6909
Open weekdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Saturdays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Sundays from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner