SINGAPORE - Imperial Treasure Teochew Cuisine moved from Takashimaya Shopping Centre to Ion Orchard at the beginning of this month to bigger and better premises.
To someone walking past the new outlet, with its small entrance dominated by a generic-looking reception counter, the restaurant may not look particularly impressive. But a long and winding passageway leads you past a glass-walled wine cellar, a semi-private dining area and the kitchen, where attractive rows of marinated ducks and cuttlefish hang behind a glass window.
At the end, you enter the main dining room - spacious and high- ceilinged, with a wall of windows that looks out onto Paterson Road and Orchard Boulevard. In the day, the sunlight streaming in gives the place plenty of cheer, accentuated by a pretty flower arrangement in the middle of the room.
With the move, the restaurant has also gone a bit more upmarket and its name has been upgraded to Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine. Its menu has gone finer too.
I discover that with a bit of a shock when I get the bill and realise my order of Chilled Flower Crab In Teochew Style costs a whopping $200.
It is my fault, I guess, for not checking the price beforehand, but most other Teochew restaurants charge about $8 for 100g for cold crab. I certainly do not expect to be paying $20 for 100g for the flower crab here. And it is a 1kg whopper, the biggest I've ever seen.
It is packed with sweet meat, with lumps of it coming off the thin shell easily. But it does not have any roe, which is what I relish most in a cold crab.
Other dishes come with friendlier prices, however. And many are good.
The Deep-fried Prawn Ball and Deep-fried Black Moss Roll (both $5 a piece) boast delightfully springy textures that avoid coming across as plasticky.
The black moss roll is the less common of the two and the characteristic smoky flavour of the hair-like moss is quite a treat for me. It will make a good dish for Chinese New Year because hair moss is called "fa cai" in Mandarin, which sounds like the words for "prosper".
IMPERIAL TREASURE FINE TEOCHEW CUISINE
03-05 Ion Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, tel: 6736-2118
Open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11am to 3pm (Saturdays), 10.30am to 3pm (Sundays), 6 to 11pm daily
Food: 3.5/5 stars
Service: 3.5/5 stars
Ambience: 4/5 stars
Price: Budget about $80 a person, but be prepared to double that if you order live seafood
After walking past those marinated ducks hanging so temptingly in the kitchen window, I cannot resist ordering a platter.
Imperial Treasure offers much more than just duck for its marinated items, which are poached in a mix of soya sauces and spices. There is also duck's tongue and beef tripe, for example.
Many Teochew restaurants call these braises, but they are actually not. A braise requires a two-step cooking process that involves searing the food first.
At Imperial Treasure, you can order these items individually (from $10) or in combinations of two (from $22) to four (from $34).
The sliced duck meat boasts good flavour, but what interests me more are items such as the crunchy duck's tongue ($12), the tender pig's intestine ($16) and the pork knuckle ($16). I do not get to eat these often and they are cooked very nicely here.
The marinating sauce is light, closer to the Hong Kong style of Teochew cooking than the stronger, heavier flavours among Teochew Singaporeans. Its mildness gives the food an elegance that I appreciate.
The Pan Fried Baby Oyster In Flour Omelette ($24) is another typical Teochew dish done very well here.
As its name promises, the omelette is fried with a generous amount of starch that gives it a gooey texture. But there is also enough egg to provide a crisp coat and a nice contrast in textures.
I recently discovered a very simple Teochew noodle dish that I like a lot and, to my delight, I see it on the menu here.
So even though I think $20 for a small serving of the Crispy E-Fu Noodle Accompanied With Sugar & Vinegar is a bit too much to pay, I go ahead and order it.
When done well, the combination of sugar and black vinegar seeping into the crispy noodle pancake is magic on the palate. But the version here is disappointing.
The noodles are boiled for too long before being pan-fried and the sheet of noodles is too thick. So although the exterior is crispy, the noodles in the centre are soggy and a bit wet. The thickness also means the vinegar does not reach the centre.
I would recommend the Fried Hor Fun With Diced Kai Lan & Preserved Radish ($18). It's not only better value for money, but also much tastier. The hor fun boasts good wok hei too.
•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and on Instagram @wongahyoke
•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.