SINGAPORE - (THE BUSINESS TIMES) We wonder if shopping centres gossip among themselves. As in, does Tangs nudge Lucky Plaza's grubby walls and whisper: "Look at Scotts Square - what's the point of being all shiny and fancy when no one bothers to walk in?"
In turn, Scotts Square turns to Far East Plaza and snipes: "So where are the queues for Krispy Kreme in Tangs' basement food hall, huh?" While Far East Plaza kind of shrugs and asks Lucky Plaza: "Do you think our names make us sound old?"
In the case of Scotts Square, it's not just the malls that are talking. The temperature of its air-conditioning already hints that it could use a few more warm bodies to liven up this cold temple of high-end chic. At the moment, food helps - roast duck in the basement, or all-day breakfast on the third floor. If new entrant Paradise Teochew Restaurant plays its cards right, it could be a crowd puller too.
While other Paradise restaurants tend to dabble in a bit of fusion, Paradise Teochew plays it straight by focusing on the classics. But it bends a little to cover all bases, so Cantonese-style dim sum is also available.
PARADISE TEOCHEW RESTAURANT
#03-04/05/06/07 Scotts Square
Open for lunch and dinner daily.
Mon to Friday: 11.30am to 3pm; 6pm to 10.30pm.
Sat, Sun and public holiday: 10.30am to 3.30pm; 6pm to 10.30pm.
We're not sure if it has anything to do with City Gas and the Paradise restaurant group playing "where's my gas?" recently, but the folks at Paradise Teochew are hell bent on making a positive impression - from the effervescent greeter to the parade of staff who all seem to be jostling for a chance to serve you. Then again, we were the first ones in so everyone seemed really happy to see us.
We soak up the attention, and dutifully follow some of their recommendations. The suckling pig is supposed to be really good, but it requires a day's advance notice. We opt for the next signature dish - Teochew yellow roe cold crab (S$9 per 100gm). If you were brought up thinking that restaurant food should be freshly cooked, it's hard to understand why one deliberately serves food that's been pre-boiled and left in the fridge overnight. But it just goes to show how one's leftover can be another's prized delicacy.
We like it, regardless. Chopped into manageable pieces, the smallish Sri Lankan crab has plump meat in every crevice, topped with that prized yellow roe - that may not be roe but a crab's unmentionables that would sound less appetising if its real name was used. So roe it is - crumbly-textured egg yolk that's not as plentiful as in hairy crabs, but enough to be classified as a delicacy. We actually prefer the meat, which pulls out into sweet chunks, dipped into home made vinegar sauce and a sweet lime oil that tastes like diluted plum sauce.
A duck's nationality has never been hyped up as much as in Chinese restaurants. English ducks used to be the go-to fowl, but an Irish uprising is afoot. Usually roasted, Paradise Teochew braises them in the traditional soy-based style, with a delicate perfume from the likes of cinnamon and five-spice. The meat turns out tender, thanks to the thick layer of fat under the skin that still remains despite the long braising. We order it as part of a braised trio combination (S$26) and you get to pick the other two items - the highly recommended braised "octopus" and pork knuckle. Everything comes sliced in wafer thin slices, and the pork knuckle is a satisfying gelatinous chew. The "octopus" looks more like chemically bleached squid and tastes like rubbery scallop, but not unpleasantly so. Next time we'll get the pig's intestines.
One little dim dum surprise is the steamed glutinous rice roll ($4.80). While the original was more like png kueh, the chefs give it a Hong Kong spin by wrapping the smooth, chewy, peanut-studded glutinous rice with a very thin layer of pau dough. It's surprisingly tasty, with a peanut buttery aftertaste.
The steamed diced chicken wrapped in an egg white crepe (S$16) like an anaemic money bag is not so fun. We wish we could dunk it in a deep fryer just to give it a slight tan. Chopped water chestnuts in the filling give it some crunch but generally this lies in steamed beancurd, health food territory. Not really our idea of a happy place.
Speaking of health food, we actually like the quadruple seasonal vegetable dish braised with ham, Teochew style (S$18). Melting-soft cabbage, mustard greens and mushrooms could pass for a vegetarian dish if you remove the ham and lie that the surrounding silken gravy isn't made from a stock of pork knuckles, ham and chicken.
Salted egg yolk may be a tired trope, but we can't get enough of the deep fried chewy glutinous dumplings that oozes tongue-burning hot molten salted egg cream (S$4.80). It tops our passable tau suan (S$4) with mashed gingko bits prepared by someone who replaces yutiao with whatever leftover batter bits he can salvage from the deep fryer. The yam paste with gingko (S$4.50) is ok - a consolation prize winner in an ohr nee smackdown.
The good thing about Teochew Paradise is that we get through our meal wanting to try more things than we have room for. Oyster omelette, pork knuckle jelly, crispy sweet sour noodles . . . we'll be back. With a few more warm bodies in tow.
This article was first published on June 12, 2016.
Get The Business Times for more stories.