Monday, February 19, 2007

The Family that Eats Together...

The sister, S, who is back in town for the CNY festivities, was hankering for some GOOD dim sum. Crystal Jade would have been our usual choice for dim sum but this being reunion lunch we wanted something a little special. My suggestion of Red Star was vetoed by Mum who was worried that the more traditional approach there might mean "very porky" dim sum (neither she nor S are fond of pork.) A Hong Kong restaurant might be a safer bet, for lighter, perhaps more innovative, dim sum choices. In the end, we plumbed for Lei Garden on the basis that we had all had some spectacular meals there. We theorised that the dim sum, in the hands of such excellent chefs, should be equally spectacular.

After we had settled into our seats, a waitress appeared, bearing duck rolls (braised duck wrapped in bean curd skin and drenched in sauce). We had a plateful of those while we pondered the dim sum menu. Sorry, folks, no pix of those; we were too deep in thought... (Incidentally, the duck rolls were nice but way too salty.)

And then the food started arriving...

marinated pork shanks

S had suggested that we order this, even though really only Dad and I are into pork. However, when the dish arrived, S decided to give it a try and even she thought these were great.

deepfried squid

These appeared courtesy of a wandering waitress. Not exactly dim sum, but squid is hard to turn down and these were nicely done.

har kow (shrimp dumplings)

Har kows are a must-have as far as I am concerned. These were juicy and fairly delicate but not as impressive as the next item.

fu pei quin (bean curd skin wraps)

The fu pei quin were a standout, in my opinion. These were crispy without being oily (well, not significantly oily anyway) and without being cruel to the upper palate. Lovely stuff.

shui jeng pao (crystal dumplings)

These were Mum's favourite - the transparent skin was superbly delicate.

Up to this point, we were enjoying the dim sum, but truth be told, we weren't swept off our feet. And then the soup arrived...

double boiled soup - what's the secret ingredient?

a teeny-weeny quail (and assorted "good stuff")

Trust a Cantonese restaurant to serve up a soup that we will speak of for months to come. This was really the GOOD stuff.

chee cheong fun

Sad to say, we didn't think as highly of the pei tan chok or century egg porridge (oops, no pic of this) or the chee cheong fun. The first was so-so and we weren't sure what to make of the latter. The fun itself as a little sticky rather than silky smooth and the chilli-type sauce did not add anything to the experience.

smoked honey glazed duck (at least we think that's what it was, since we barely registered what the wandering waitress had announced)

Then along came the duck to save the day. Although just a tad fatty, the duck was moist and succulent, and the glaze was quite delicious indeed.

At this point, the family was ready to fold (I could have eaten more, but then I always can), so we ordered three desserts to be shared by the four of us.

black glutinous rice with coconut milk and ice cream

almond cream

double boiled dried tomatoes in sugar syrup

Of the three desserts, Mum's verdict was that the almond cream was mediocre, the double boiled dried tomatoes were novel but not that special, and the glutinous rice was good except for the use of canned coconut cream. S and I both liked the double boiled dried tomatoes - kinda like a twist on cheng tng - and Dad just quietly slurped everything up.

To summarise, the meal was good but not great. One of our aunts, a gourmand in her own right, has a way of putting it. If a restaurant is not up to her expectations, she'd say the prices are high, the food not nice to eat, and the carpet is ugly (yao kuai, yao mm ho sek, dei jin yao mm leng...) In this case, the carpet was not as pretty as it could have been. We had come with high hopes and perhaps that was the problem. We still think that Lei Garden is THE place to go for top of the line Cantonese food, but perhaps for its ala carte menu rather than its dim sum. Certainly, at SGD$140 for that lunch, I wouldn't be surprised if Lei Garden finds it hard to compete with Crystal Jade and a host of other mid-range restaurants which offer equally good if not better dim sum at lower prices.

(Steve, think you'll like these pics too...)



Anonymous chloe said...

OMG!! i ate dim sum ALSO! @ YUMCHA // CHINATOWN.

the har kow and pei tan chok there was AWESOMEE (it was buffet, so i ate 3 bowls)



3:55 pm  
Blogger blobbes said...

heh maybe we should have gone to Yumcha huh?

9:06 pm  

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