As with Peranakan restaurants, I'm always on the lookout for good Teochew restaurants. They're both my heritage, and because both grans have passed on, without passing on their recipes, I've had to settle for restaurant fare, to supplement the rare meal where I've resorted to bribing my way into friends' homes for homecooked Peranakan or Teochew food.
I'd heard about Huat Kee back when it was still in the CBD along Amoy Street, but never got around to visiting the old-timer until it moved to the Orchard Road district. And since we were at the Shangri-La Hotel nearby, we thought to have some Teochew a little up Orange Grove Road at Huat Kee.
Huat Kee turned out a mixed bag, some dishes were tediously middling, whereas some others were absolutely fantastic. In this regard, I feel Chui Huay Lim is still best for Teochew cuisine. Though service was resoundingly first-rate; from the kindly owner/chef with twinkly eyes who reminded me so much of my gran (she impressively took our orders without a need to write them down), to the wait-staff who diligently turned over our plates and kept our water glasses filled to the brim. A big big plus: BYO for the first bottle is complimentary!!
I always order braised duck at any Teochew restaurant, it's the measure of authenticity and excellence. Huat Kee's Sliced Braised Duck ($20) unfortunately fell a little short. While it was sparkling fresh, with nary a whiff of game, it was less than meltingly tender.
Ditto for the Cabbage Chicken ($16) which gravy was exquisite and cabbage so sweet even the vegetable-averse J-Cup lapped it up. The chicken could be stewed a little longer for maximum lusciousness.
The Oyster Omelette ($18) was outstanding: fat juicy oysters bursting with the salty brine of the sea, chewy flour flurry, and that wonderful crunch of the caramelised golden omelette. A must-try here.
Another must-try, the Pan-Fried Threadfin with Soybean Sauce ($60) was superb. The fish, swimmingly fresh and flaky, was beautifully crisped, and slathered in a velvety gravy that was delicate and rich. If there's one thing to order here, this was it.
The Signature Fried Kway Teow ($18) was a dud. The sweet sausage was jarringly so, and threw off the balance of the rice noodles. Skip this.
Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee
30 Orange Grove Road
Tel: 6423 4747
Open daily from 10am to 10pm