National Day in Singapore has just passed, and since my in-laws were visiting, we surely had a lot of fun discovering – or re-discovering – the major food attractions in the city. From the very first time I visited Singapore, the Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine in Marina Bay’s Shopping area has been a restaurant that made an impression. For Singapore National Day we headed there to enjoy their dim sum menu, exclusively available during lunch hours. You could say the Imperial Treasure left us longing for more, as we headed there again on Friday evening for dinner, when we indulged ourselves in experiencing their Peking duck and other traditional staples of Chinese cuisine. Overall remarkable for the attention to detail that goes into their refined cooking, we recommend this restaurant because it serves dishes that the average Chinese food lover would have tried many times, but will find an element of surprise when trying the same dishes here.
Traditionally served for breakfast or brunch, dim sum is the ancient tapas consummed by travellers on the silk route. Travellers were offered tea in tea-houses along the way, so they could rest from their long and strenuous journey, and snacks were added to the traditional yum cha (literally ‘drinking tea’). In time, the quiet ritual of yum cha changed into a dining experience, served from early morning till mid afternoon. As we know, dim sum includes mainly steamed buns and dumplings, and the small portions let you enjoy so much more flavour in one meal; while sharing with others makes it a very intimate and special experience for all diners. Let me show you just how the Imperial Treasure offers such a great sample of this dining experience.
Their bbq pork buns are steamed to perfect fluffiness, and the pork is tender and flavoursome (not too sweet, as can happen with this type of sauce).
We of course dared where most Western diners wouldn’t and tried the chicken feet with black bean, this would be a dish for the poor in most European contries, but the elaborate balance of the ingredients also confirms the saying that the dishes of the poor are the best.
A popular dish in Singapore, carrot cake (Chai tow kway), was served in its splendor. Well remembered for its misnaming, this is stemed radish cake (a mix of rice flour, grated radish and water) stir fried in pieces with garlic, turnips, eggs, bean sprouts and spring onion. This was light and far from the soggy version we sometimes get at street stalls.
The steamed prawn dumplings were gentle to the palate and enjoyable, but unremarkable. Instead, the pan fried chive dumplings really were a surprise and an explosion of joyful flavours.
Similarly, the dried scallop soup dumpling was a big dumpling stuffed with goodness. A challenge to eat for its double size, this small parcel contains an addictive seafood mix, and the soup was rich and comforting.
The dinner menu at the Imperial Treasure is extensive and entertaining – don’t get surprised when you start dwelling over your decision! Most tables here will end up ordering too much, and packing left overs to enjoy at home from piles of disposable boxes. Mind the price though – this restaurant also serves traditional delicacies, such as bird’s nest and abalone, and they have set menus that reach $338 per person. We recommend leaving the western concept of ordering one meal each and open up to sharing; all portions are big enough to allow that and let’s be honest, Chinese cuisine is all about sharing (I’m sure the Chinese half of Blender and Basil agrees).
Peking duck is definitely a must-try here! Their sister restaurants Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck in Orchard Road and Asia Square even star it in their name. The pancakes are the softest I’ve ever had; the meat, cooked almost to perfection, carries the right balance of crispiness and tenderness. But let me admit that the ritual of the cook coming in person to carve and serve to diners really adds to the whole experience. This master of carving will bring your whole duck over to your table. He will then slice a rectangular shape off the skin on the belly of the duck. Then they will cut this in four small thin sheets of skin and will offer the sinful bites to the diners. This should be dipped in sugar before savouring. Then he starts carving, serving first the meaty part of the belly and then the tender parts closer to the thighs and bones, for you to pick and choose the filling of your pancake rolls. A divine experience!
Century eggs are an appetizer I love and order every time I go there. I’m used to them being served with a very spicy sauce in other restaurants, but these came alone with refreshing ginger on the side. The taste is so rich and the melt-in-your-mouth texture is definitely addictive.
Successful amongst the mains is also the barbecued pork belly in honey sauce, which has a great flavour, but it felt a little too dry in places. While instead we absolutely loved the seafood fried rice wrapped in lotus leaves..this was a huge portion but it was so good that we could not stop eating!!
If you’re more of a noodle person, go with the braised crispy noodles with seafood. I wouldn’t think this was as tempting as the rice, but it was definitely worth ordering. The crispiness was a pleasure for the palate, while the seafood and velvety sauce wrapped up the flavoursome experience.