Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Review of Imperial Treasure Teochew Cuisine, Ngee Ann City - Superb Food, Not Necessarily Teochew

So there I was on the train back one recent evening, craving another hit of that delicious Peking Duck from Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck at the Paragon.  So I called them up, only to find that they were closed for renovations until the end of October!  Which was a big surprise to me because I had visited only as recently as July and I thought the decor was perfectly comfortable and elegant.

My Montrachet-loving friend Liz suggested we instead try Imperial Treasure Teochew Cuisine at Ngee Ann City; she lives in the area now and ITTC has apparently become her local canteen.  I had never been there before so was glad to fall in with the plan.

Things do not get off to a good start.  Liz told me she had made the booking for 7 pm, so after a desultory stroll on the closed-off Orchard Road (as it is on this first Saturday of every month), I front up to the restaurant at 7:07 pm, only to be told that the booking was made for 7:30 pm! (Liz actually showed me the booking confirmation for 7 pm, so this was obviously a service snafu).  Frustration ratchets up when I return to the restaurant at 7:30 and am still rebuffed by the reception staff as "your table is still not ready".  

We are finally seated at 7:43 pm; a 43-minute delay is not really acceptable in any restaurant, let alone at an high-end Imperial Treasure outlet.  We leave Liz, as our local regular, to order.

Soup of the Day: Pork Bone and Barley

Two of our Cantonese dining companions comment, this is much more a Cantonese soup than a Teochew soup.  But that doesn't make it any less delicious or restorative,  and the sweetness of the barley pairs gorgeously with the meatiness of the pork bones.  An absolutely superb start.

Deep-Fried Calamari

A very good version of the classic Chinese appetiser, crispy, tender and not too oily.  An excellent pairing with a 2010 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet from Vincent Girardin.  I don't have much experience with the Montrachet family of grands crus (the parlous state of my finances may have something to do with that), but the wine is surprisingly open and assertive.

Sauteed Prawn with Egg White and Truffle Oil

Regular readers know that I have a love-hate affair with truffle oil.  With this dish, that pendulum swings strongly to lust.  This is a sexy dish, make no mistake about this.  A beautifully-cooked prawn resting on the purest, fluffiest pillow of egg white, lifted with the merest whiff of truffle oil that makes me weak at the knees.  The egg white, cooked to various degrees of smoothness and discrete little nubbins, provides a gorgeous textural contrast to the crunchy prawn.  A very deserving Dish of the Month.

Roast Duck

Decent.  The meat was a little dry for me, although a couple of glasses of 1988 Latricieres-Chambertin (Domaine Guy Castagnier) provided some much needed moisture.  It certainly doesn't compare with the superb cherrywood-roasted duck at Jade Palace, lacking the latter's smoky, aromatic complexity.  The weakest dish of the evening.

Sauteed Beef Cubes with Fried Garlic

The beef is beautifully cooked, meltingly tender yet with a very nice sear on the exterior.  I thought the garlic was a bit overdone, with the beginnings of an unwelcome burnt bitterness.  With this, we had a very pleasant 1994 Chateau Clinet and another bottle of my rapidly dwindling stock of Patrice Rion's 2005 Chambolle Premier Cru Charmes.  The sweet strawberry confiture nose of this wine is utterly seductive; I could just sniff it and swoon all night.

Deep-Fried Frog's Legs with Ginger Chips

Anyone who knows me knows I hate ginger (although I do admit to having a soft-spot for gingers).   The kitchen slices young ginger wafer-thin and deep-fries them into ginger chips.  If they ever decided to mass-produce these chips, I would eat them by the bagful.  The frog's legs are super-juicy and tender and taste nothing like chicken. 

I remarked earlier that the roast duck here had nothing to say to Jade Palace's rendition.  Now the boot is on the other foot, for this ginger frog leg dish is far, far superior to Jade Palace's.

Other Dishes

We had a mixed asparagus and kai lan dish, which was perfectly edible if not extraordinary.   Seafood hor fun comes with a large crystal prawn and not much wok hei, which was a little disappointing.  

Chinese restaurant desserts are about as inspiring as old oven mitts, so a 2003 Weingut Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenburg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese concludes our repast with the necessary sweetness, and then some (20/20 from Jancis Robinson, for those keeping score).  An absolutely superb drop, with Grand Marnier and honey followed by sweet apples and caramel (tarte tatin?).  I usually like my late-harvest Rieslings young and mouth-watering, but this will do alright, First World problems and all that.


A superb evening, lubricated by some superb wines and better company.  I was, however, puzzled by the lack of Teochew flavours.  Maybe there is a bit of an identity crisis going on with the Imperial Treasure restaurants, segregated as they are by cuisine groups.  You could easily come here and enjoy an excellent menu of Cantonese favourites, as I just did.

Not to say this is the best part of the whole experience, but corkage is waived for all customers, proper stemware is provided (including for Burgundy, hurrah!), and the entire meal cost only some $65 nett a head.  In this age of rampant inflation and shaky economies, that is something to truly be thankful for.

391 Orchard Road
#04-20A/21 Ngee Ann City
Tel: +65 6736 2118
BYO Policy: Corkage-free 7 days a week.  Please click here for a list of Singapore restaurants which allow BYO, and their corkage policies.

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