We interrupt our regular bulletin yet again to bring you this important news update.
When people mention chinese food in Singapore, thoughts inevitably gravitate towards the ubiquitous Crystal Jade chain. Now, I'm not saying their food isn't good, because it is, I'm merely suggesting that there exist some viable alternatives.
Peach Garden is a restaurant (outlets at Thomson Plaza and Novena) set up former Crystal Jade staff. [Edit: Daniel informs me they actually came from Hua Ting in Orchard Hotel] The seccesionists have done pretty well for themselves, because the restaurants are almost always full. Reservations are therefore recommended.
If you do go to the Thomson Plaza locale, please factor in the half an hour it is likely to take for you to park your car. The queue stretches all the way onto the main road, and is most noticeable during the weekend lunch hour. As a result, now we usually only go to the Novena outlet for dinner.
Like most chinese restaurants, Peach Garden has a well-furnished interior, brightly lit and without too much kitsch memorabilia littering the place. It can get a little cramp when it becomes packed, and those seated with their backs to the walls will find it a little hard to get out of their seats.
Our first course was the restaurant's signature roast goose dish. It's very well done, as the generous layer of fat on the goose renders (pun intended) the flesh exceptionally soft. Sure, it's oily, but that's all part of the experience. The goose is served with roasted groundnuts, which are a little too hard for my liking.
Next was another signature dish - roast pork or siew youk. I love roast pork. The crackle of the roasted skin as you bite down on it is strangely empowering. The spurt of juice from the soft meat is sweet and the meat itself is succulent. What I didn't like though, was the accompanying sauce. It had wasabi in it, and just didn't go well with the pork.
I'm not entirely sure what this dish was, but I think it was braised crabmeat with some sort of egg cake, with vegetables. Whatever it was, it was quite good, helping to balance out the richness of the previous two courses. Balance is very important in chinese cuisine.
I've had the steamed soon hock at Peach Garden on two occasions now, and on the first, it was absolutely fantastic. Steamed to complete perfection, the sauce it came with was sweet but not artificially so, just naturally flavoured with the taste of the fish. This time around though, it wasn't quite as good. The fish was dryer than I remembered; it didn't slip so easily and silkily down the throat. Still above average though, just not perfect.
Now, a soon hock is a pretty big fish (either that or we had two), so we had another dish, this time a fish noodle dish. Kway teow was served in a clear fish broth with slices of the steamed fish. Very satisfying, as the dish was palate cleansing and so soothing. Everyone was saying what a good idea it'd be to have lunch at Peach Garden and only have the kway teow, it was that good.
My sister had very good things to say about this custard bun the restaurant offers for dessert. It's made from the same flour dough that is used to make char siew paus, but is instead filled a very liquid custard. So liquid, in fact, that it almost seems like egg yolk. I'm kind of neutral to it, though I suspect if I were to try a few more, I'd start developing a real taste for them.
Okay these have to be the cutest Chinese desserts I have ever seen. Basically we were given a "special" dessert - a bunch of baked...I don't know what they are...penguins? chipmunks? stuffed with lotus paste. It gave me great pleasure to bite into one of these adorable little animal kins and have lotus paste ooze out of the cavity where the head used to be.
Overall, I'd say Peach Garden is an excellent alternative to the upmarket chinese restaurants like Crystal Jade and the other ones I can't remember off-hand but are usually located in expensive hotels. The food is good, service is pretty prompt and friendly, and prices, I imagine, are lower than those found in the above-mentioned restaurants.
Peach Garden (Cantonese)
273 Thomson Road, #01-06 Novena Garden
Tel: Will update soon - Peach Garden doesn't do much publicity
Location: 3/5 (Bad parking)
Overall: Good, solid Chinese food