While many restaurateurs go for the latest dining trends, the owners of Joyden Concepts prefer to look to the past for inspiration.
They opened Joyden Treasures in Leisure Park Kallang last month and, like the restaurant's name suggests, the menu focuses on treasured recipes from the owners' family. They also own Joyden Seafood in Clementi and Joyden Canton Kitchen in Hillview Rise.
Dining at the new restaurant is a bit like taking a time-travel capsule to my growing-up years.
I find some dishes similar to what my family would put on the dinner table on festive occasions in the 1970s. Others reminded me of what I had eaten at wedding banquets at the time.
But there are differences as well, mirroring the way family recipes tend to reflect individual tastes and preferences.
02-42 Leisure Park Kallang, 5 Stadium Walk tel: 6446-8488
Open: 11.30am to 3pm and 6 to 10pm (Monday to Friday), 10.30am to 3pm and 5.30 to 10.30pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Food: 4 stars
Service: 3 stars
Ambience: 3 stars
Price: Budget from $80 a person
An example is the Joyden Jumbo Prawns In Traditional Dark Sauce (from $26), which, to me, is a combination of two of my family dishes. The dish of king prawns are first deep-fried, then cooked in a sauce that is similar in essence to one my mother cooked, except that instead of dark soya sauce, she used oyster sauce and ginger juice.
The dark sauce here, however, tastes exactly like the one she used for stewing pork belly.
Joyden's combination works because the sauce, cooked with aromatic, viscous Malaysia-style dark soya sauce, is delicious, especially when drizzled over steaming hot rice. Singapore-style dark sauce is more watery and often sweet, without that distinctive intoxicating aroma.
Joyden Phoenix Beancurd Skin Prawn Roll (from $16) is something you would find at home parties in the old days.
A whole prawn, with shell removed except for the tail, and butterflied, is wrapped in a sheet of beancurd skin and deep-fried till crispy. Dipped in a piquant chilli sauce, it is an appetiser that easily pleases everyone at the table, especially the kids. I have it both times I dine at Joyden and everyone enjoys the crispy texture of the beancurd skin and the sweet prawn blanketed inside.
Joyden Crispy Fragrant Duck ($58) is a restaurant dish that is more popular in Kuala Lumpur than in Singapore, so I am glad to see it on the menu. The whole duck is rubbed with herbs and spices and goes through various cooking steps before being deep-fried.
The trick here is to get the duck crispy without burning it and the best version is one that is aromatic with spices and so crispy that you can eat half the bones.
Joyden's version is a tad disappointing. The seasoning is too salty and the duck is not as crispy as I would like.
The old-fashioned Winter Melon Pond, a soup brewed in a hollowed- out melon, is cooked in a mature cucumber instead. The Double Boiled Seafood Soup In Whole Yellow Melon ($14) is ideally sized for one person and comes with diced seafood and mushrooms. It is a delicious broth with the sweet flavours of the cucumber and dried scallops. There is also a surprise that you discover only when you reach deep into the soup - a single wonton sitting at the bottom.
The Joyden Original Steamed Red Grouper In Homemade Soy Bean Broth (market price) is something I have never eaten. The grouper is steamed in soya bean milk, which I find rather odd. The milkiness masks the natural sweetness of the fish, but does not add any complementing flavours the way a sweetened soya sauce does. It is not a dish I would order again.
Joyden Lobster And Noodles With Ginger And Spring Onion (market price) is not a retro dish, but it is a Joyden signature item that won over fans at its seafood restaurant in Clementi. The dish is just as good at the new outlet, with sweet and springy lobster meat topping a platter of ee-fu noodles soaked in delicious shellfish gravy.
It is certainly a recipe to be treasured.
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- Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.