Monday, July 18, 2011

Crystal Jade Golden Palace: refreshing new menu

This is an invited tasting.

Crystal Jade is 20 years old! Imagine that. And I have been eating there for almost as long. It comes as no surprise this old stalward is a family favourite. Edward wrote about it some years ago, when this blog was in its infancy. And I have brought business associates to lunch several times as well.

I was recently invited to the Press Lunch by Linea Communications (Thanks to Ann Chan) to mark the occassion of the 20th anniversary and introduction of some new dishes.

The occassion also saw the unveiling of their new logo...a smart yellow and purple one, and is part of a rebranding focus they embarked on this year. Their new tagline: " Prepared with love, served from our heart" resonates well. Currently with 100 outlets, Crystal Jade will continue to expand this year, adding 22 new outlets, 9 of them in Singapore.

The Chairmand and CEO Mr. Ip Yiu Tung addressed the press group, providing insights to the early formation years, and how he grew the business from one restaurant to its current presence in 18 cities in 9 countries. All within the span of 20 years.

But on to the food review....

First course is a starter combination:

Comprising of cold lobster in Teochew style and marinated pig's knuckle and pickes.

The lobster is a live Australian lobster. The lobster is poached, and cooled at room temperature. Apparently this is the authentic Teochew method of preparation. And I can testify that I can taste the freshness. Of course, it was a live lobster you say, but the texture and flavour of a lobster is so delicate, overcooking or use of spices and seasonings can easily overpower the freshness.

The pork knuckle is marinated in a traditional Teochew marinade of cinnamon bark, and spices with Chinese rose wine.

For the second course, a delightful soup:

This is a double boiled sea whelk and chicken with starfruit and pomelo.

The sea whelk is also live, and boiled for 3-4 hours till tender. Chicken, compoy, cordycep flower, dried logan and wolfberry are then double boiled with the whelk. Starfruit and pomelo is then added. The starfruit provides a nice crunch and acidic counterpoint to the smooth and savoury taste of the soup and whelk. I found the pomelo a bit too sweet, though not incongruent with the taste of the dish, seems a bit out of place.

A deep fried chicken was then served:

You just gotta love the presentation. Two thin slices of what seemed to be a pink water guava adorns the plate....indeed not just adorns but provides some crunch which aleviates any greasiness of the deep fried chicken. The chicken was excellent...with a wonderful crunchy skin and tender, moist meat within, and was served with a side of black truffle and mushroom, with a knob of purple cauliflower. The unleaven bread on which the chicken is seen resting on is also quite delicious. Quite shiok.

The fourth course was a simmered cabbage:

I found this curiously heartwarming and very tasty. The cabbage is simmered with cordeycep flower, and a pumpkin soup added to provide a nice, mild sweetness. Some shreded dried scallops which have been fried to a crisp is added as a garnish and to temper the soft, juiciness of the cabbage.

An interesting rice dis followed:

As the dish was served, we were told this is the Chairman's own recipe...tweaked by the chef for maximum taste. A variety of 10 ingredients: white, brown, red, black glutinous rice, wheat, black and green beans, sesame, sweet corn and diced taro are individually prepared and mixed and steamed. Prawn, dried shrimp, diced chicken and mushroom are then added. Instead of being fried, the rice is healthier. The starch proved to be quite tasty...and the chef cooked it al dente...leaving a nice bite and chewiness. Teh prawn was superbly fresh and crunchy.

And finally dessert.

A combination fo a chilled pea cake and a sweet soup with Bird's Nest.

The chilled pea cake is a traditional preparation, reputedly a favourite of Empress Dowager. The preparation is reputedly very difficult, and the creamy texture of the chilled cake provided a nice refreshingly sweet aftertaste.

The soup is another traditional tonic dessert. The Bird's Nest was nice, smooth, gelatinous. And the soup provided able support in its glorious natural sweetness. A fitting end to a nice meal.

It would seem to me that Crystal Jade continues to maintain its place amongst the best Chinese Restaurants in Singapore, and possibly the region. The ingredients used are high quality, very fresh, and the preparation methods seem to be thouroughly traditional. The chefs seem to adhere to old recipes, tweaked for modern palates and more healthy eating habits, but still utilizing traditional, labourous methods. Their creations show this passion.

Crystal Jade Golden Palace
290 Orchard Road #05-22 The Paragon Singapore
+65 6734 6866
11.30am – 3pm, 6 – 11pm
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