Remembering Orchard Lei Garden

Chinese restaurant Lei Garden at Orchard Shopping Centre closed on Monday, after 25 years in business.

Lei Garden has been part of the local food scene for many years. The Orchard branch opened in 1989, after the first Lei Garden restaurant opened in Singapore in 1987 at the now-defunct Boulevard Hotel on Orchard Boulevard.

The restaurant served Cantonese roasts, such as char siew and crispy skin roast pork, as well as more decadent fare like abalone and lobster. The chain's remaining branch in Singapore, Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant, is at Victoria Street.

The restaurant chain was founded by the Lei Garden Restaurant Group's chief executive officer Chan Shu Kit and opened its first restaurant in 1973 in Hong Kong. Besides Singapore, it also has restaurants in China and Macau.

Some well-known names in Singapore reminisce about this great dame of the local dining scene.

Mr Willin Low, 42
Chef-Owner of The Wild Rocket Group

The first time I went to Lei Garden was when I was in Victoria Junior College more than 20 years ago. I was 17 years old then, and my friends and I would often go to Lei Garden Orchard for lo hei during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

If not for the lo hei, I usually go to Lei Garden for the dim sum. Generally, everything is quite good. The standard of the food is always high.

It is a nostalgic place in the past where there weren't many great places to eat. There are many other eating places nowadays, but it is one of those comfort places you would go back over and over again.

Ms Shen Tan, 42
Executive Chef at Ujong at Raffles Hotel

I remember my first time eating at the restaurant was during the school holidays, when I came back from Sydney, Australia, in 1999.

It was one of the first few places where I had really good dim sum. I always go there for yum cha, and will order dim sum such as har gow (steamed prawn dumplings), char siew sou (roast pork pastry) and lai tong (soup of the day).

I remember once I was driving to have a meal there when I was involved in a car accident. The car was pretty banged up, but I still managed to make it to the restaurant!

I used to patronise the restaurant once a month, but I haven't been there in ages. The last time I went was probably in 2002.

Mr Dennis Wee, 62
Chairman of Dennis Wee Group

I can't remember (the date of) my first memory of the restaurant - probably about seven to ten years ago. One of my business friends took me to the restaurant. I remember taking the really small lift up to the fourth floor.

The food and service are pretty good! One of my favourite dishes is their roast pork. I usually go there with my family on weekends to have lunch or dinner. But, the last time I went there was four to five years ago.

I think the Lei Garden at Chijmes looks more impressive because it is newer, but the Orchard location is more central.

Ms Violet Oon, 65
Restaurant owner of Violet Oon's Kitchen and food consultant

I do not eat out often but, when Lei Garden opened, from the beginning it made a name for itself for the amazingly high culinary standards it set. The food was exquisite. The branch in Chijmes never quite got the same respect.

I must admit that I haven't eaten at Lei Garden for over 15 years! My favourite dish was the spectacular solid comb shark's fin braised in thick superior stock gravy, which I no longer eat.

In the last 10 to 15 years, it has been eclipsed by the Crystal Jade Group and now by the Paradise Group and the Imperial Treasure Restaurant Group, not to mention the dynamic remakes by Andrew Tjioe of the TungLok Group. But, I personally still hanker after the old-fashioned Chinese restaurant flavours and textures.

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