[Ed: See my father's comments and updates here.]
Today's lunch was at one of the ubiquitous Crystal Jade outlets, in this case, the one at Paragon.
Crystal Jade Golden Palace specialises in Teochew and Cantonese cuisine, and is, in my opinion, probably the best outlet among all of them. This is because Teochew food is very fine and not as oily as Cantonese food. The Cantonese food that they serve, however, is quite good as well and not as rich as the ones you get in other restaurants/Crystal Jade outlets.
Apparently if you want to impress a mainland Chinese, you should take him to eat Teochew food, because Teochew food represents the pinnacle of Chinese haute cuisine, and not Cantonese fare as is commonly supposed. Not sure how true that is though.
Golden Palace is tucked away near the top floor of Paragon, and unlike most chinese restaurants, this one is actually well decorated. It looks a bit like one of those old opium dens you see in Tintin and the Blue Lotus, but smells a lot nicer.
Anyway, we had a dim sum lunch, which for you countless international readers is a very popular form of Cantonese cuisine that involves ordering small portions of many different bite-sized treats. That way everone gets to share everything, and you only eat what you think you can finish. Very economical.
We ordered two plates of shrimp fan gun (a sort of rice roll) for $4.50 each, which is a bit expensive, but very yummy.
Next, a basket of lor mai kai (steamed glutinous rice in lotus leaf) and a basket of char siew pau (steamed BBQ pork bun) for $3.50 and $3.00 respectively. I thought the pork in the pau was a little rich and heavy, but it was sufficiently moist and fluffy. The lor mai kai was very fragrant and not sticky and oesophagus-clogging, unlike the stuff they give you in some restaurants.
This is what my pau looked like on the inside:
A restaurant cannot claim to have a dim sum menu without egg tarts, so we had some of those too. I found these a bit dry and lacking in egg taste. For $2.80 I expected a little better.
At Golden Palace, the one thing you have to order is their Teochew porridge. The picture doesn't do justice to it; it's really very good. Unlike Cantonese congee, which is like rice gruel, Teochew porridge is rice cooked in a very flavoursome broth, and they are quite generous with the pork/oysters/fish that comes with the porridge, depending on which you order. It costs between $5 - $7 per bowl, but I think it's well worth it.
Dim sum dishes seem to be either steamed or fried, and from the latter category we had Deep Fried Whitebait ($7). This dish was substantially more expensive than the others, but I felt it wasn't really a worthwhile order, since it's less substantial than the others. It was also a bit bland and soft.
We rounded off with some Steamed Egg Yolk Cake (literally qin cheng gou - Thousand layer cake, not to be confused with the Peranakan kueh of similar name). I quite like this dish; it's very light and spongy. Theirs uses a custard rather than the salted egg yolks that other restaurants use. Although custard is supposedly less authentic, I like the sweetness of it, which gives this dim sum dish a very dessert feel. For $3, I thought it was well worth it.
Altogether a very satisfying lunch.
Crystal Jade Golden Palace is very nicely situated in Paragon, Orchard Road. Since everyone knows how to get to Orchard, it's a safe bet if you ever eat there that you and your guests won't get lost.
In terms of service, like most Chinese restaurants, Golden Palace's staff are well-trained and attentive. It helps if you speak Mandarin or Cantonese though.
The ambience is very nice, as noted; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more tasteful Chinese restaurant.
Crystal Jade Golden Palace (Teochew/Cantonese)
290 Orchard Road #05-22/24 Paragon
Tel: 6734 6866
Overall: Sets the bar for dim sum in Singapore