Imperial Herbal Restaurant

Not to be confused with Imperial Treasure group of restaurants, Imperial Herbal Restaurant is an old-school old-timer hidden in one of those dusty Havelock Road hotels with those hostess-filled nightclubs. To be exact, it's at Four Points by Sheraton, revamped after a major overhaul from what used to be the Riverview Hotel.

Purporting to incorporate traditional Chinese health concepts to the food, Imperial Herbal Restaurant approaches healthful gourmet with an oriental flair.

I liked the food, but I don't think regular revisits are on the cards. Sure, the food was tasty without the contrived assistance of salty additives, and there was a wholesomeness that was quite appealing, but the acute chinoiserie of the place (and the food) just wasn't my thing. Even though I love my herbal soups and do believe in the partaking of TCM as a daily herbal supplement, the thought of eating Chinese herbs as a meal doesn't quite excite my tastebuds in this instance. I feel that Imperial Herbal is one of those once-and-done sort of restaurants. A place you should try at least once in your life. Or else, you'll have to really really really love your TCM to love this place.

A large part of the appeal is that the set menus here are comparatively reasonable and extremely value-for-money. We ordered the Imperial Set Menu ($188 for 4 persons) and supplemented with a couple of dishes from the ala carte.

The signature Fluffy Egg White with Dried Scallops was perhaps my favourite of the lot. Exquisitely delicate, this was light as a cloud and incredibly nuanced.

The herbal soups are a must-order, but take note that these are strikingly robust, and the herbal accents manifestly potent. The Lady's Tonic Soup, uses black chicken, and ostensibly improves the complexion and maintains a youthful appearance. Obviously, this was the premier choice for the women-folk.

The Shou Wu Beef Shank Soup, was preferred by the men, as it professes to prevent the pre-mature greying of hair and promotes longevity.

The Tian Qi Soup, which reduces cholesterol and increases blood circulation, was opted by those of us with high cholesterol.

I love lingzhi for its restorative and immune system-boosting properties and despite the overtly bitter taste of the Lingzhi Soup, I drank it all.  It supposedly prevents cancer afterall.

An ala carte dish and a must-try, the Braised Cod Fish with dangshen and huang qi ($16 per 100gm) was mellow and nuanced. Just beware the bones in the fillets.

The Salt Baked Chicken, succulent and fork-tender, was delicate but flavourful.

I loved the Pumpkin Butter Prawn Balls as well, the richness of the pumpkin butter lifted by the spice of the curry leaves, and grounded with a smattering of walnuts and dusting of pork floss.

The Poached Baby Cabbage in superior stock with beancurd skin, roasted garlic, and wolfberries, was the best version of this vegetable dish. Refined and restrained, I was happy to mop up every last drop of that amazing stock.

The Braised Ee-Fu Noodles with straw mushrooms was steeped in a most delicious stock as well, so it had incredible flavour.

The Eight Treasures Cheng Tng was sweetened primarily with rock sugar than red dates, which I loved because I'm not a big fan of the heady saccharine sweetness of red dates. If you prefer a pronounced red date taste, then this wouldn't be your favourite thing.

Another dish off the ala carte menu, the Red Bean Paste Souffle Egg White Balls ($14) wasn't well-received. They were a little stingy with the red bean paste filling, and the egg white flavour overwhelmed the icing sugar.

I liked the appetizer of lightly spiced XO sauced green beans and fried tofu.

Imperial Herbal Restaurant
382 Havelock Road
Four Points by Sheraton Level 2
Tel: 6337 0491
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.15pmto 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.imperialherbal.com

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