Twelve Straits Times subscribers and their partners were treated to a sumptuous eight-course dinner at the Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant in the Parkroyal on Beach Road hotel on Wednesday night.
The dinner - part of the ST+ news with benefits rewards programme - was hosted by The Straits Times food critic Wong Ah Yoke, along with the restaurant's executive director, Ms Wee Wei Ling.
Mr Wong, together with Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant's executive chef Zeng Feng, curated the menu that showcased the very best of authentic Sichuan cuisine with a variety of spicy and non-spicy dishes.
Highlights include double-boiled minced chicken soup with beancurd and fungus; crispy rice bubble with braised sliced pufferfish; stir-fried Kurobuta pork with garlic and chilli sauce; and the must-have mapo tofu (beancurd in spicy minced meat sauce).
The menu for the event - priced at $88++ a person - is available at the restaurant's Parkroyal on Beach Road outlet from today to Jan 31. ST subscribers can flash the ST Rewards app to get 20 per cent off.
Marketing strategist Geraldine Sim, 28, who was at the dinner with her aunt, Ms Lisa Loo, says: "The meal was a great introduction to Sichuan cuisine for me as I always had the perception that the food is always spicy. I enjoyed the Kurobuta pork dish."
Ms Loo, 56, who has dined at Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant before, adds: "I have a new-found appreciation for Sichuan cuisine. The double-boiled minced chicken with beancurd and fungus soup was unusual and I never thought the soup was part of Sichuan cuisine. I would never have ordered the dish previously."
It was not just about feasting as the diners also learnt about the many facets of Sichuan cuisine, its history and the stories behind the dishes. They also picked up plenty of cooking tips from chef Zeng, who demonstrated how to cook mapo tofu.
There were also plenty of surprises - a gongfu tea demonstration by the restaurant's tea master Xiao Yang; and a celebration for two diners whose birthdays were last month. Diners also received the restaurant's special chilli oil, as well as a copy of the Hunger Management cookbook by Straits Times Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun.
Mr Wong surprised diners by adding an extra dish for the night - his favourite dish of laziji (deep-fried diced chicken with dried red chillies). "It was a lively evening with lots of surprises. The food was a great showcase of the varied flavours of Sichuan cuisine," he says.
Ms Wee adds: "Diners are more sophisticated now and good food is definitely expected. We wanted diners to have a full experience and not just come to eat."