Monday, July 26, 2010

The Well Tempered Wok: Imperial Treasure: Super Peking Duck

Lunch to introduce the world premiere of the MBF Horological Machine No 4

The world premiere of Max Busser's HM4 was done in Singapore...and a number of collectors, journalists were invited to view the timepiece and for lunch. The watch can be viewed in my report here. Here is the report on the excellent lunch.

It is one thing for a restaurant to specialize in a singular, spectacular dish, and quite another to proclaim it proudly as part of its name. As the name implies, this branch of Imperial Treasure restaurant specializes in Peking Duck.

Imperial Treasure is reputed to be a spin off from the very successful Crystal Jade. Many foodies proclaim the cooking at Imperial is even better than Crystal Jade. I have been eating at the Imperial Treasures branch at Great World City for a while, and on this occassion, had the pleasure to sample the greats at the Paragon outlet.

We started with starters...of course...which is a selection of 5 treasures...cured ham, jelly fish, slow braised mushroom and bean curd. Very nice. The flavours very intense.

A double boiled yellow melon soup with diced seafood was next:

The melon was used as a container...steamed till soft. The soup was rather tasty...with a good breath of the sea and a wonderful aroma.

Fish was next:

The fish was a lightly steamed cod. The fish was steamed just perfect. Fish, especially oily fish like cod is quite easy to overcook...rendering the fat, and making the dish unpalatable. Cooking it perfectly will make the dish come to life, and nothing more is needed but a splash of soy sauce, and aome sprigs of spring onion and ginger to coax even more out of the dish. Shiok fish.

Often, the simplest of dishes are the ones which show off the skills of the chef, but sometimes, a complex dish is needed.

The speciality of Peking duck is one such interesting dish. The duck is a prepared according to a complicated recipe...long and very skill intensive, laborious process to get the duck just right...perfectly crispy skin with a beautiful golden brown glistening finish, juicy succulent meat.

The chefs at Imperial Treasure are grandmasters at the art.

The entire duck is delivered into the kitchen, with much pomp and some fanfare...akind to how a 3 starred Michelin restaurant would present their piece de resistanc. Each duck, glistening in its glazed skin is delivered whole in its own trolley:

The glazed skin is the prized part of the duck. Like the Rochat duck which I had at Hotel de Ville in Crisser some years ago, which also glistened. This duck was resplendent. Beautiful colour. Wonderful texture:

Gorgeous! The skin looked like it is no longer attached to the meat within, but appears to be separated from its own flesh by a layer of air. Indeed, this is part of the technique of the Peking Duck. The chef appears...and skillfully, with just a pitched fork and sharp knife, removes the skin from the duck.

The presentation, as it is plated is also interesting:

Typically the duck is sliced such that the skin and a sliver of fat is removed from the bird. This is dipped into a sweet bean paste, and wrapped with a sprig of spring onion into a lightly toasted pancake. But in this case, the chef showed his virtuosity by not only delivering the duck in a somewhat traditional manner as shown left, but also included a small piece of pure duck fat, just brilliantly crisped skin, au natural. And advised it to be eaten whole with a touch of regular sugar. I must say, this is the first I have ever encountered duck skin to be eaten in this manner...but the chef knows his duck. Amazingly to me, the sugar brought out the dark mollass flavour of the skin (no doubt because most of the glazing is done with a mixture of malt syrup and vinegar). Perfect!

The rest of the duck is served in a duck shaped and meat together.

This was also rather nice. The skin remained light and crispy and the meat a bit powdery...but not quite...still quite moist and juicy, cooked just perfect. Exceptional, and I dare say, one of the best ducks I have ever had, including several samplings of Peking duck in Beijing, Hong Kong and even the famous Four Seasons in London as well as the aforementioned Rochat at Crisser.

Fish maw served with live prawns were next:

Again, the chef's ability to control his cooking is well demonstrated. Perfectly cooked...the maw requires long cooking to render it soft and gelatenous in texture. The prawn only needs a short while to cook, as its meat is low on collagen and connective tissue. Both were cooked perfect, allowing the flavours of the ingredients to shine. The two small broccoli only adds to the color and visual impact of the dish, but also complements the taste of the maw and the prawn.

Vegetables were sauteed lettuce stem with lingzi mushroom

Incredibly simple...simmered vegetables - unusual choice too...lettuce stem, which is often just thrown away is simmered till almost tender, operative word being almost...a demonstration of the well tempered...still crunchy and have absorbed the braising liquid well. The mushroom had a great umami flavour, and complemented the vegetables well Tasty.

Noodles was in the form of Mee Pok stewed with egg plant in an XO sauce

What sets this apart from the $3 bowl of mee pok tar (bah chor mee) you can get at hawker stalls around the island is the braising liquid used. The mee pok was cooked just right...I am not sure if the Chinese, or Cantonese have the concept of Al Dente, but the term serves the texture, and feel of the noodles rather well. The sauce, which is also the braising liquid is quite specatcular. Savoury, it is rich and full bodied on the palate. Punctuated with spicy and pungent slices of cut chilli padi, this makes a very good mee pok.

The dessert is an unusual one. Two light steamed buns apperared. One lighter than the other.

Within the darker one, black sesame paste. Within the lighter one, a very light custard paste. Delectable.

I have included the Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck Restaurant as one of the restaurants, which to me qualifies to be known Well Tempered. The chef(s) demonstrated their ability to select excellent fresh ingredients, but also mastered the control of the fire to ensure that the dishes are able to fully develop in flavour, taste and visual impact.

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck Restaurant (Paragon)
290 Orchard Road
#05-42/45 Paragon
Tel: 6732 7838
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