SINGAPORE - Paradise Teochew is not new. The first outlet opened at the Chinese Swimming Club last year.
But it is getting bigger and better.
Its second outlet opened last month on the third floor of Scotts Square, a space previously occupied by Crystal Jade.
While the Chinese restaurant suffered from poor foot traffic in the mall during the four years it was there, Paradise seems to be having quite a different experience. Its Teochew restaurant was packed when I dropped in unannounced for dinner last Sunday.
I'm not surprised because the cooking is even better than at the outlet at the swimming club.
Open: 11.30am to 3pm (Monday to Friday), 10.30am to 3.30pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday), 6 to 10.30pm daily
Food: 4/5 stars
Service: 4/5 stars
Ambience: 3/5 stars
Price: Budget from $70 a person, more if you order the suckling pig or live seafood dishes
One of the dishes that has improved by leaps and bounds is the Braised Sliced Duck (from $18 a portion to $60 for the whole duck).
The restaurant now uses Irish ducks instead of ones from around the region. While the substantial layer of fat under the skin may look daunting to some people, it renders the duck beautifully juicy and flavourful. And it doesn't feel at all greasy in the mouth, making this the best braised duck in town for me.
You can get the duck in a combination platter too. The $26 platter I order comes with braised octopus, sliced pork belly and tofu. The pork belly, which is tender and also not greasy, is a standout too.
Another cold dish worth trying is Chilled Yellow Roe Crab In Teochew Style ($8 for 100g). The crabs, which weigh about 600g each, look small, but are packed with sweet meat and golden roe inside very thin shells.
Make sure you order the Teochew Style Roasted Suckling Pig (now sold at a special price of $178) at least a day ahead. Unlike the Cantonese way, Teochew-style suckling pig is eaten with the crackling and meat together. The crackling here, which is amazingly crispy, makes the dish.
The restaurant has not decided when the special promotion will end, but the pig here is now one of the cheapest you can find at a Chinese restaurant.
The Pan Fried Oyster Omelette In Teochew Style ($16) is perfect, with the edges crisp and the centre fluffy. It is also so delicious and fragrant that I eat most of the omelette without the accompanying chilli dip. That, I reserve for the plump oysters, which are nicely undercooked.
I also cannot resist the Crispy Sweet And Sour Noodle In Teochew Style (from $14).
It is such a simple dish - a flat sheet of pan-fried egg noodles that on its own tastes boringly plain. But sprinkle some sugar and a tiny spoonful of black vinegar on them and the noodles suddenly transform into an alluring combination of sweet, sour and savoury flavours that I cannot get enough of.
The texture of the noodle sheets - crispy on the outside and springy in the middle - adds to the charm.
If you like crispy textures, order the Crispy Pumpkin, Yam And Sweet Potato Strips ($12) for dessert. The three types of vegetables have slightly different textures as well as varied flavours, making each mouthful such a pleasure.
But you may have enough of one crispy dish after another. In which case, the old Teochew stalwart of Mashed Yam With Gingko ($4 a person) is the dessert to order. Better known among Singapore diners as orh nee, the yam paste here is silky smooth and well worth the calories.
Another reason to return to Paradise Teochew is the good service. Extra effort seems to be put into training the staff. While entering and leaving the restaurant, you are greeted with a smile by everyone who catches your eye.
That is something other restaurants should emulate if the industry wants to rid itself of its poor service standards.
•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
This article was first published on July 24, 2016.
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