Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Review: Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

The problem with reviewing restaurants run by a chain is that they're a pain to organise. This is the second post about Crystal Jade's increasingly ubiquitous la mian chains, the first being this one.

Despite being located in Holland Village, I've only been to this place twice, and both visits were in the past three months. However, on my most recent visit, I was very severely irritated, so I don't think I'll be returning any time soon.

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Holland Village is, naturally, convenient for me, but is unfortunately rather removed from any MRT station, though there are several buses that service this route. Oh and parking could be a problem.


In terms of ambience, the Holland Village outlet doesn't do too badly, featuring a large glass pane that allows you to watch the world go by. At night the place becomes even more cosy as the light mellows and the smells and sounds of people enjoying their steaming la mian surround you.

Chinese appetisers

I've never had (what I assume are) Shanghainese appetisers before, so the fried mushroom and celery rolls were pretty unusual. I did think they were a bit oily though, and somehow not quite as delicate and appetising as the Cantonese appetisers.

I forgot to take a picture of my la mian, which was the braised beef option. The beef was suitably tender, if sliced a bit thin.

I suspect the point is to fill you up with large quantities of noodles so you don’t have to eat so much meat.

Xiao Long Bao

We also had an obligatory basket of xiao long bao, which Crystal Jade does very well. The soup contained in these dumplings comes out absolutely boiling hot, which is of course the way it should be.

So all in all this would be a nice place to come for a meal, except for one small problem that ruined my evening. Service. The staff take great pains to welcome you to the restaurant, chiming out welcomes in unison as you enter the restaurant. Personally I find this a bit robotic, but that’s not what got me so upset. What happened was, upon entering the restaurant, I passed my card to one of the waitresses, leaving her specific instructions that I would pay for dinner, and that on no account was she to allow the other diner to pay. She seemed to find this amusing, but agreed nonetheless.

When the bill arrived, a different waitress brought it to us, but without my card. Although it was passed to me, obviously I could not pay for it since I didn’t have my card. What followed was therefore the embarrassing situation I was hoping to avoid in the first place; my dining companion and I had to argue over who would settle the bill. What made matters worse was that the waitress who brought us the bill encouraged me to let the other diner pay, with very patronising comments like “you can pay next time” and “you should make him happy by letting him pay”, all the while smiling very ingratiatingly at us. I was so irked I very nearly told her to be quiet.

Furthermore, the waitress I had handed my card to clearly saw what was going on, but was either so absent-minded that she forgot she had my card, or simply couldn’t care less to rectify the situation, that in the end I had to give in and allow myself to be bought dinner.

Adding insult to injury was that by the time we were leaving, I still hadn’t been returned my card, and had to very specifically and embarrassedly ask them to return it to me, whereupon they finally realised their error and had to apologise sheepishly for screwing up what would have been an abundantly simple instruction. Thankfully this was a fairly friendly dinner, but it could easily have been a much more important dinner socially or financially, in which case the effects of their mistake would have been compounded.

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
241/241A Holland Avenue
Tel: 6463 0968
Location: 4.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5
Service: 2/5
Food: 4/5
Overall: Food offers fairly decent value for money, and is a quick and easy pit stop in Holland Village.

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