Monday, September 04, 2006

Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Pao, Ngee Ann City, Singapore

Over the years the Crystal Jade group has spawned up eateries at the rate of jellyfish in the Seas of Japan. With branches now spreading out to Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, I won't be too surprised if I see their company listed pretty soon. I normally frequent their La Mian Xiao Long Pao at Ngee Ann City because it's the most convenient. Most of my meals have been ok. Not spectacular but predictable enough to keep me fairly satiated. Having not come here for quite a few months, I was in the building and decided to patronize them again. Maybe I went on a "bad day" but this has got to be my most unsatisfying Crystal Jade meal.

The meal started on this high-note serve of beef brisket and dumplings in spicy sauce and practically went downhill from there. The beef brisket and tendon were stewed to the right texture and consistency and the dumplings were flavored just nice to complement the chilli-oil gravy.

Crispy pork ribs, these arrived hot and crispy but it was lacking one thing. Flavor! It seemed like marinade (or salt) had become taboo in this restaurant because the major flaw in most of their dishes that followed obeyed a common theme - blandness.

Sichuan "saliva" chicken. The chilli-oil had absolutely no kick in it whatsoever. It's almost as though all the "hotness" in this Sichuan dish was toned down to be rated G.

I normally really enjoy this dish of crispy beanskins, ham and steamed buns because it's like Peking duck, you get to have some fun fixing it up yourself. The beancurd skins and buns were as good as I remembered them to be, the ham was slightly dry but still not too bad, however, the major kick in the face was the orange sauce. This sauce used to have a subtle sweet flavor but today it seemed as though they just went crazy with the sugar (there should be a diabetic warning on this dish). I felt as though I could scoop up some of this sauce and stir it in cold-water for a refreshing glass of Tang.

Nevertheless, I still had some fun playing with this dish and arranging the pieces. A pity I can't say the same when I ate it.

Fried chicken with dried chillis, another Sichuan dish that just went wrong. No flavor, no chilli hotness, nothing...all that lovely grease for nought.

Even their signature dish of xiao long paos could not save the day. They were quite dry today and didn't burst with the soupy goodness I once knew. I do appreciate the touch that they still use chinese cabbage as the dumpling platform rather than just paper.

For some weird reason, they didn't serve the chilled dishes first but interspaced it throughout the meal. Maybe I had to request for the chilled dishes to be served first and probably just took it for granted because that's what they do in Shanghai. This chilled salted duck was quite good, it actually had some salt in it, I figured the chef chould not blatantly ignore the "salt" since it's in the name of the dish.

Marinated boiled belly pork, another chilled dish which tasted pretty decent. Come to think of it, most of the chilled dishes were actually still quite good (with the exception of the saliva chicken). Maybe the chef for the rest of their regular dishes had changed? Or perhaps chilled dishes could be prepared in advanced and hence would taste more well marinated as compared to churning out hundreds of hot items on a crazy crowded weekend afternoon? We may have to call in Mulder and Scully to solve this one.

We ended our savories with a bowl of la mian with fragrant oil. I think that oil would have been pretty fragrant, if I could find any of it that is. It was so dry that all the noodles were just stuck together, luckily we asked them to pre-cut the noodles if not, I would have probably picked up the whole clump of noodles with my chopsticks.

I actually liked this dessert of rice wine grains and glutinous rice balls in syrup. But it's really one of those desserts that begs an acquired taste because some of my dining companions didn't share my sentiment. It's slightly sweet, fragrant and leaves a mild sour taste in your mouth which I thought was a pretty good way to cleanse my palate after this disappointing meal. Was this dessert good? In my opinion, "yes" but it wasn't good enough to pull us out from this sad gustatory abyss we had crashed down into.



J said...

Its really sucky! Cannot compare to the real shanghainese food we had in shanghai huh. Oh yah u din post the pic where i found a hair in it.

D said...

Well I didn't really want to be that mean and put in the picture of the hair... but to be honest I also forgot about it as well. Forgive and forget heh.

Anonymous said...

Wow I cant believe how a place can go down hill so least you've found another place for my small dragon bun craving! - Oh yeah...dont tell me this was worse than the one in Seol?! :S