Monday, September 23, 2013

Media dinner at Crystal Jade Steamboat

During the September school holidays, I was invited to attend a media dinner to review the newly opened Crystal Jade Steamboat Restaurant. My first response was, "Huh? But I'm not a food blogger!"

So as it turns out, I'm a "lifestyle blogger". Wah, I didn't know blogging about education comes with such perks! "But what if I don't like the food?" Apparently, that's ok too. No compulsion to say only good things. Honesty is best. Well then, who am I to turn down such an opportunity?

So Kenneth and I gamely turned up at Crystal Jade Steamboat Restaurant at Zhong Shan Mall (at Ah Hood Road). There were two media tables set out. We were on the table with the Young Parents deputy editor while the other table was for the food bloggers. Here's the difference between food bloggers and non-food bloggers: When the food was placed on the photo-taking table, the food bloggers whipped out their fancy SLRs and hybrids.

We shyly took out our three-year-old Canon S90 compact. The food bloggers fiddled with their big lenses. We fiddled with... the macro button. In our defence, the Young Parents deputy editor at our table didn't even bring a camera.

No need lah, the organiser provided food shots like these:

Why bother with getting the perfect shot? We're here to eat! So on with the food then...

Our tasting came in two parts. The first part was the steamboat (duh). You can order two different types of broth - we were given the pork bone soup (which is the most popular) and the tom yam soup. All the soup bases are simmered for more than 12 hours with fresh ingredients.

I'm not into spicy food so I can't tell you how I liked the tom yam soup base but the pork bone soup was extremely tasty.

We were served a variety of steamboat ingredients one of them, the assorted meat steamboat set ($32.80), with beef, lamb, kurobuta pork, chicken, bean curd, golden mushrooms, vermicelli and various types of cabbages.

I loved the pork and the beef especially - super tender and juicy. Oh before I forget, you go to the centre of the restaurant where there is a dizzying array of sauces and you pick your favourite (or mix and match). The one I liked best was the sweet and sour chilli mix.

We also tried other steamboat ingredients like the prawn balls, meat balls, fish balls and squid balls ($6.90 per serving). All are handmade and have a complex flavour that you don't get with the typical factory made ones.

Eg. I loved the prawn balls. You can actually taste the bits of prawn and they were deliciously juicy. The meat ball was also pretty good, considering I don't usually like meatballs. I think it's the water chestnut bits that give it a delightful crunch. Of the four, the one I liked least was the fish ball - I thought it was too mushy and didn't have enough bite.

Then came our second part of the dinner. Apart from steamboat, the restaurant also serves ala carte Cantonese and Teochew fare, great for the supper crowd (the restaurant opens till 2am daily). We had the salted pork bone & dried vegetable porridge ($9.80/small serving),

the grilled tilapia with preserved vegetables ($32.80),

and the  sauteed chicken with dried chilli & onion ($18.80/half chicken, $32.80/whole chicken). This comes in three levels of spiciness and as mentioned, since I'm not much good with spicy, we went with level 1.

Of the three, I enjoyed the chicken best, much to my surprise. It's very tasty, like a cross between mala and kung pao chicken. I imagine it would be a great comfort food in the wee hours of the morning, with steamed rice or porridge. 

All in all, I think the food here is pretty credible and a nice change from the usual offerings at other restaurants. Honestly, I thought the prices were a little high but you really do get quality ingredients. When I first tasted the steamboat soup, I thought, "uh oh, very salty. I'm going to be thirsty all night tonight." But as it turned out, I was not. Which tells me that the flavour came from all the ingredients, not salt or MSG. Wholesome food, great for families.

When we were there, the restaurant was packed. For a new restaurant in a less commonly known area, that's amazing. I guess Singaporeans know a good food place when they see one.

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