Saturday, December 25, 2010

Paradise Inn ( Marina Bay Link Mall)

Mom is a quintessential Cantonese. She likes soup, braised meats, rice and dim sum.

For her birthday this year, we brought her to chi chi Paradise Pavilion at the newly opened Marina Bay Link Mall for a quick lunch.

Marina Bay Link Mall in the morning

Paradise Pavilion is the latest addition to restaurateur Eldwin Chua's empire of eateries. Eldwin started off with humble beginnings, operating a highly successful seafood restaurant "Seafood Paradise" out of a dingy industrial estate in Defu Lane. To this day, I remain a fan of his succulent Sri Lankan Butter Crabs which go exceptionally well with battered mantou.

Everything about Paradise Pavilion screams "high class", from the fine cutlery to the plush curtains, spectacular waterfront view and baby blue furnishings (strangely similar to Royal China)

Since the media was waxing lyrical about the restaurant's famous Peking duck, we (like almost every other table in the restaurant) decided to give it a try. It takes 1 hr to prepare the duck as it is painstakingly roasted over apple wood so remember to make advance reservations to avoid a long wait.

At the waiter's recommendation, we also ordered an assortment of ala carte dishes.

Trio of appetisers- Foie Gras, wasabi prawn and scallop: Judging by the lightning speed Hubby polished off this dish, I can only assume that it was good stuff.

Seafood beancurd roll: My favourite dim sum dish in the menu. The chef steams a thin layer of tofu on a glass dish before placing a delicate stack of fresh prawn, scallop and asparagus (secured by a ring of seaweed) over it. Doused simply with an addictive XO sauce, the resulting medley of flavors was exquisitely refined.

Sorry...this picture doesn't do the dish justice

Battered custard rolls: This came highly recommended by the waitress. However, I found the custard cream artificially sweet. We should have ordered the mini egg tarts instead.

Not nice at all. We should have ordered the egg tarts

Char Siew Pau: A simple yet delicious treat. The light fluffiness of the pau skin blended well with the smokey sweetness of the char siew.

Steamed chicken feet: My parents really liked this very much, leaving only a clean trail of bones behind. I suspect it must have been finger lickin good. We subsequently learnt from the restaurant manager that we could order this dish in XO sauce next time.

Siew Mai: Whilst this version was reasonably well executed, the one at Peach Garden still wins hands down in terms of bite and flavor.

Sharksfin dumpling soup: Sharksfin soup for the poor man, this is one treat not to be missed. The price tag ain't that expensive either at under 10 bucks per bowl. It was fun breaking through the thin dumpling skin and unraveling all the yummy treasures (mushroom, bamboo pith, sharksfin etc) hidden within. Some people like to take this with a dash of vinegar.

Quick! Pop it!

Trio of desserts (coconut ice cream with chilled pulot hitam, mango puree and flaky custard puff):

The coconut ice cream with pulot hitam was my favorite of the lot, boasting an intriguing mix of sweet, salty and savoury. Once again, I couldn't help comparing it against Peach Garden's legendary pulot hitam served in young coconut, which outranks this version by a mile.

Peking Duck: This was the centerpiece of our meal. At SGD88 per duck, (30% off if you pay with HSBC credit card), expectations were naturally high. This is how it works:

Step 1: A gloved (and masked) chef armed with a cleaver smartly rolls out a cart containing the prized poultry.

Step 2: Upon obtaining your blessings, he proceeds to deftly slice the first layer of glistening skin (just skin, nothing else) off the duck's breast and invites you to dip it in sugar before consuming it. The end result is almost orgasmic. Crispy crackling and sugar are like a marriage made in heaven.

Step 3: Thereafter, the chef thinly slices the remaining pieces of skin (this time with meat attached) onto platters for guests to help themselves to.

Each person is also furnished with an individual dish of assorted condiments (black bean sauce, julienned vegetables and sugar) for added pleasure.

I was a little put off by the gamey taste of the duck after awhile. There was also a whiff of ammonia from some of the pieces I ate, which made me wonder if I was eating out of the duck's butt area. Since the restaurant doesn't provide diners with the option to enjoy the rest of the duck's carcass cooked in other ways (which I personally find a waste), we decided to doggy bag it home and stir fry the meat with some beehoon for lunch the following day.

A basket of crepes is provided for those who wish to savor this dish in its traditional form. I found the crepe skins too thick for my liking but understand from the manager that this has been intentionally done to give the dish more bite. As no measures were taken by the restaurant to keep the crepes warm and moist, it was only a matter of time before the individual pieces started to stick together and harden.

Verdict: Decent but not mind blowing. I like Paradise Inn for its palatable offerings, pretty waterfront views and accessibility to my office. Parking in Marina Bay Link Mall itself can however be an expensive affair and first time visitors making their way to the restaurant would probably get a little lost along the way.

For better dim sum at more pocket friendly prices, my vote goes to Peach Garden (OCBC Centre).

For Peking duck, my favorite haunt remains Imperial Treasure Super Peking duck at Paragon.

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