Singapore is home to a number of Chinese restaurants that have established themselves here over many years. Most of them have pride themselves on using fresh produce and in many cases even 'live' ones. One such restaurant is Lei Garden. Well known for its clean refined Cantonese-styled cooking, using fresh ingredients and traditional recipes, Lei Garden ranks as one of my favourite Chinese restaurants.
Although there is a newer branch at CHIJMES, sentimental me decided to head to their original place at Orchard Shopping Centre. After all, it was there that I first visited a number of years ago. On the recommendation of Emily, the captain, my mum ordered a 'Special Promotion Set' at $118. The set was meant for four persons but I found it sufficient for even five or six people.
The set comprises of seven dishes including dessert. The first dish was Braised Shark's Fin with Cabbage and Bean Sprout in Brown Sauce. Shark's fin, just like bird's nest, in itself to me is quite tasteless. Most of the flavours and taste come from the broth or gravy that it is cooked in. And this thick starchy gravy was as tasty as any could get. Tasting of dried goodies like scallops and oysters, the gravy was not overpowering and rather light despite being starchy.
Now that I have assessed the dish, I have to clarify that I do not condone the brutal culling of sharks for their fins. After learning and watching documentaries of how fishing boats would haul these sharks up before cutting off their prized fins and then throwing the sharks back into the sea, leaving them to bleed and die, proved too cruel. I would never have walked into a restaurant to order shark's fin but since my mum had already ordered, I did not want to kick up a big fuss. More importantly, I did not want to spoil a nice Sunday family lunch with my grandparents. After lunch, I just politely informed my mum about my fin-pricked conscience.
Second to be served was the Braised Chicken in Superior Soya Sauce. Half a chicken was chopped into more manageable pieces before being beautifully displayed on a plate. The chicken meat was tender and infused with soya sauce. It was not overly salty but rather fragrant. Best when eaten with steamed white rice.
A dish of Baked Live Conpoy with Golden Egg Yolk was presented next. Still plated in their shells, these scallops tasted fresh and the salted duck egg yolk provided a nice albeit salty touch.
The next dish, Poached Live Sea Garoupa Fillet Prepared in Chef Recipe (Served in Claypot), has my vote as the best dish that afternoon. A Sea Garoupa fillet was patted lightly with flour and pan-fried before being poached in a flavourful stock. The thick flesh of the fish was firm and held together well. It was fresh and not fishy at all. The nutritious stock tasted mainly of dang gui (Chinese Angelica root) and lists gou qi (Chinese Wolfberry) amongst other herbs as an ingredient. I would highly recommend this dish, especially if you are dining with herb-conscious old folks or even your prospective parents-in-law, for that matter.
The Sauteed Hong Kong Kai Lan (Chinese Kale) with Black Fungus and Wild Mushroom was a tad oily but otherwise also good. The strips of chewy black fungus and springy wild mushrooms paired well with the thick crunchy stems of the Kai Lan.
Very predictably, as in all Chinese wedding dinners, the last dish before the dessert was a noodle dish. For this set, it was a Fried Venus Noodle with Shredded Pork and Capsicum. The noodles tasted quite like the common Ee Fu noodles. Nothing to complain about but neither fantastic as well.
Dessert was a weird-sounding Chilled Dried Apried Apricot with Perilia Seed. I do not know what 'apried' and 'perilia' are or if they happened to be a typographical error. In essence, it was a bowl of fruit cocktail (which may have contained apricot)in too sweet a syrup broth. This was probably the worse of the menu. The only thing that intrigued me was how the chef managed to coat the fruits with selasih seeds to the extend that the seeds remained stuck even when immersed in the syrup. Chemical bonding perhaps?
I had a wonderful Sunday lunch and the grandparents loved it. I feel happy to see old folks happy. After all, I have always thought it's better to appreciate, treasure and shower people with love, concern and, of course, good food while they are still around and kicking.
Lei Garden Restaurant
Orchard Shopping Centre (the building beside Orchard California Fitness)
Orchard Road #03-00
Chew On This: Al fresco seating is available and I think the view and feeling of tucking into such delicious Cantonese fare on the third floor of a building along busy Orchard Road will be quite an experience.