Singapore - Best Cantonese dinner (still!) at Taste Paradise, ION Orchard
Taste Paradise is, IMO, still the best spot for Cantonese fine dining in Singapore. Its closest rival, Imperial Treasure (Great World City outlet) seemed to have changed chefs recently, and the cooking there seemed rather over-salted these days.
Anyhoo, we decided to have dinner yesterday evening which was practically a repeat of the one we had there a year before (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852379) - just to see if Taste Paradise had maintained its standards:
- Roasted whole suckling pig: simply the *best* suckling pig I'd ever had in Singapore, ever. The skin was super-crisp and crunchy. Went superbly with the sauce and small steamed bread. The remaining pork-meat (after the skin had been carved off) was stir-fried with chilli and garlic flakes, and was totally delicious as well. Must-not-miss!
- Duo of wasabi and laksa-flavoured prawns: the fresh, the prawns were batter-fried then coated in mayonnaise - one which had been flavoured with wasabi, whilst the other was laksa-flavoured. Both were very tasty - must-not-miss as well!
- Sharksfin soup in chicken consomme: simply the best in Singapore - no two ways about it! The thick, collagenic chicken soup complemented the sharksfin perfectly!
- Braised abalone with mushrooms and broccoli: also the best I'd ever had - the abalone had been cooked till yieldingly soft, and the sauce was perfect.
- Steamed marbled goby, Cantonese-style: very fresh fish. This was the only dish which, although done very well, did not excel significantly compared to versions I'd had in Imperial Treasure or Crystal Jade Palace (Ngee Ann City) - the other two Cantonese restaurants which I regard as Taste Paradise' closest rivals.
- Barbecued pork-ribs with plum sauce: the pork-ribs were cooked till the cartilage bones were soft enough to cut through. The plum sauce was well-balanced.
- Ee-fu noodles: very fragrant, roasted noodles, subsequently braised with straw mushrooms and leeks. Best rendition I'd had in recent memory.
Dessert: Warm hasima (snow frogs' glands) in syrup - pretty standard and not a standout here. Pity - this excellent meal deserved a better dessert to finish off with a bang.
Overall, no doubt in my mind that Taste Paradise's still No. 1 in Singapore when it comes to Cantonese fine dining at the current moment. If I'd thought last year's dinner there was superb - the one last night showed that the restaurant had indeed maintained its consistency throughout.
2 Orchard Turn #04-07
Tel: +65-6509 9660
re: Bu Pun Su
I'd only been back to Hua Ting for lunch once this year during the Chinese New Year period, and for dinner last year. Both times, the food was good but not outstanding, and was rather over-priced.
A pity, since Hua Ting's Executive Chef, Chan Kwok, was someone whom I once regarded as the foremost Cantonese chef in Singapore - he was the one who helmed the original Crystal Jade restaurant in Cairnhill Hotel back in 1992, then moved on to run its kitchens at Crystal Jade Palace when it opened in Ngee Ann City. Hong Leong Group's chairman, Kwek Leng Beng, must have liked Chan Kwok so much, that he managed to poach him from the Crystal Jade Group.
But Hua Ting felt boring and pretty unimaginative these days, much like Li Bai (Sheraton), Jiang Nan-chun (Four Seasons) or Wan Hao (JW Marriott) - once destination dining places, but which have fallen off the radar in recent years.
As for Yan Ting at St Regis, I'd not been back there since I had a really "bad" experience there 2 years ago - paid a bomb for very average cuisine and utterly complacent service: even by Singapore's generally amateurish standards. But I'd been hearing similar complaints from my friends ever since then - independent opinions from different sources, which echoed my original sentiments, so that's discouraged me from going back there again anytime soon.
I don't think I have much luck when it comes to St Regis Singapore. When it first opened, I dined at Brasserie Les Saveurs - the mussels were over-cooked and overly-dry. When I brought it up to the French maitre'd, he haughtily quipped, "Oh, you *don't* know - these mussels are hand-picked in France. *This* is how we cook and serve them in France". I was sitting there thinking, ok - I'd been to more than a dozen 3-Michelin-star restaurants all over France in the past 5 years, and NONE of them try to pass off "bad cooking" to non-French customers as "that's the way we liked it". Of course, I never went back there again.
Chan Kwok is not the Exec Chef there anymore; he was elevated to the stratosphere of "Group Masterchef" a few years ago. I agree that his replacement, Chef Chung, is not of the same calibre.
When they downgraded Hua Ting (e.g. removing the tablecloths, adding more tables), it was symbolic of a turn south in terms of quality, not just the ambience. Perhaps the "casualisation" was done to manage customers' expectations downward also.
According to their bios, Chan Kwok only joined Hua Ting in 1997, 2 years after Chung joined Orchard Hotel in 1995. Sadly, the gulf in quality when Chef Chan stepped down (up?) was very apparent.
On a brighter note, I have been hearing very good things about Wah Lok at the Carlton Hotel. I need to try it soon.
Sorry, don't agree with your conclusion. Taste Paradise and Imperial Treasure (GWC) are not the top 2 Cantonese in town. In fact, I try to avoid visiting them anymore. These two are just in good location and convenient for those diners who like to dine at top shopping malls in town. I would say Lei Garden, Li Bai and Jade Palace (especially if you want reasonable pricing) are all superior to those two on your list.
And forget about Crystal Jade (Ngee Ann) and Hua Ting too. Tried both these places this year, they don't even deserve to be on my list anymore.
I was back in Li Bai two weeks back - but I thought the cooking standards there are about the same as what Hua Ting produced these days. I used to like Li Bai but that was a long time ago, when it was going head-to-head against Lei Garden (then, still at its original Boulevard Hotel location) and also Fook Yuen at Paragon. It hasn't upped its creativity - Taste Paradise, on the other hand, produced some inventive new dishes, e.g. their laksa-mayo prawns, their momotaro tomatoes with wasabi dressing, and their stonepot sharksfin is the tastiest I'd had in town. Currently, Taste Paradise produced the *best* char-siu in Singapore, and its polo char-siu bao is even better than those I had at Tim Ho Wan in HK (not its over-crowded Singapore branch).
I'd only been back to Lei Garden for dim sum lunch once and a set dinner also once last year - for the dinner, we did not have any large ticket items, e.g. sharksfin or abalone and, whilst the dishes we ordered were of good quality, none were outstanding enough to distinguish them from other good Cantonese restaurants in town. Besides, Lei Garden's turnover of chefs had been quite high in the past year (as what I heard from a friend who's a regular), so standards of cooking from one visit to the next may differ.
Not been back to Jade Palace since a friend's birthday dinner there two years back. But he ordered set dinner for 3 tables of 10 pax each. I didn't have any lasting impression of the meal, but then - the dishes were mass-produced and might not be reflective of the actual standards of cooking there.
P.S. - Glad to hear from you, FS - you've been too quiet on this board for too long. China & SE-Asia board used to be more active than the UK & Ireland board, but now the latter has outstripped us in volume of postings. The Singapore and HK dining scenes are now more expanding faster than ever, and I think our board should reflect that!