Restaurant Review

Old and new Teochew at Swatow Garden Seafood Restaurant

Swatow Garden Seafood Restaurant is more spacious than its older sibling and serves dishes unique to the outlet

Swatow Garden Seafood Restaurant, which opened at Serangoon Gardens Country Club in April, is the second outlet under the Swatow brand. The first, Swatow Seafood Restaurant, opened in Toa Payoh in 2010.

Compared with its older sibling, the new restaurant is less cramped as the dining room has a high ceiling and there are two spacious and comfortable private rooms equipped with karaoke systems.

What it lacks, though, are the Friday night Teochew opera performances that the Toa Payoh outlet stages. Its menu, however, is largely similar to the original, except for a few dishes that are unique to the new outlet.

Among them is an original creation thought up by owner Jimi Tan, called Imperial Fried Egg With Duck Meat ($12). It sounds odd, but my initial misgivings that the duck will turn out dry and tough vanish quickly when I bite into the tender shredded meat.

The omelette is delicious and a good alternative for those who are allergic to or do not like oysters. Otherwise, another good option is the restaurant's signature Crispy Oyster Omelette ($15).

Unlike traditional versions of the dish, in which the oysters are fried with the egg, Swatow serves them separately in a small bowl of savoury-sweet sauce. This allows the chef to get the omelette as crisp as a cracker, which makes this a hit with kids - and many adults too.

  • SWATOW GARDEN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

  • 22 Kensington Park Road, tel: 6343-1717

    open: 11am to 3pm (weekdays), 9am to 3pm (weekends and public holidays), 6 to 11pm daily

    Food: 3.5/5 stars

    Service: 3/5 stars

    Ambience: 3/5 stars

    Price: Budget from $70 a person

The first two times I order the dish, raw oysters are lightly cooked in the sauce.

However, at last week's dinner, the recipe had been tweaked and the shellfish was coated in starch and deep-fried before being added - which I do not find an improvement.

Perhaps the extra step is to stop the oysters from going bad, but the shellfish gets overcooked and the coat of starch dilutes the flavour.

Fans of traditional Teochew cooking will be happy to find two old-fashioned dishes among the starters - Chilled Jelly Pork Knuckle ($8) and Teochew Chilled Slice Braised Pig's Head ($8).

Both are seldom served in restaurants these days because they require too much time and effort to prepare, but I enjoy the combination of tender meat, crunchy skin and gelatin that melts in the mouth.

They are refreshing on a hot day too.

Another cold dish I enjoy is Teochew Cold Crab (seasonal price). The small crab I get, which looks to weigh between 300 and 400g, costs $45, but it is packed with sweet meat and rich roe.

Another must-try dish is the Swatow Signature Crayfish (seasonal price; I pay $60 for 1kg). It is fried with egg and onions with a hint of chilli and boasts good wok hei.

More common Teochew dishes such as Steamed Pomfret In Teochew Style (seasonal price; I pay $80 for 800g) and Teochew Braised Duck Meat With Bean Curd ($15) pass muster too. I will not say they are stand-outs, but they taste as good as those served in other Teochew restaurants here.

The pomfret is fresh and steamed just right in a pool of delicious stock flavoured with sour plum, tomatoes, mushroom and salted vegetable. And the duck is tender and flavourful - though, for me, it lacks the fragrance of braised goose, which Swatow does not offer.

The biggest disappointment in my three visits is the Deep Fried Crispy Pork Trotter ($28), which fails to deliver on its promise of a crispy skin.

I find the diced pieces of chai poh (preserved radish) in the Fried Kway Teow With Kai Lan & Preserved Radish ($10) too big.

Many other restaurants serving this dish mince the vegetable, which is a better idea because its salty flavour blends in more evenly with the flat rice noodles.

Leave room for dessert because the Sweet Yam Paste With Ginkgo Nut ($5), or orh nee, here is good.

The paste is smooth and not too sweet and it is covered in a layer of fragrant shallot oil that smells lovely.

The serving is small, but that means I can finish it without feeling too guilty. Do not think of sharing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Old and new Teochew'. Print Edition | Subscribe