Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Dim Sum Day 1: Hai Tien Lo
Hai Tien Lo is no stranger to most people who know Cantonese cuisine. Helmed by Master Chef Lai Tong Ping, this award-winning restaurant is one of Singapore's popular sky dining destinations. Located on the 37th floor of Pan Pacific Hotel, the restaurant commands a breathtaking view of Marina Bay and the city. Even the bubble lift that brings you up is a sensation not to be missed. Pure vertigo.
Anyway, this is my first visit, at the invitation of Cuisine & Wine Asia. Day 1 of the dim sum marathon that would see us chomping though six restaurants.
Steamed prawn paste topped with fish maw and savoury gravy (S$5.40 for 3 pieces). I love fish maw, so this one naturally won me over. Each fine dumpling was topped with a chewy, crunchy curl of fish maw - textural fun.
Steamed shrimp dumplings (S$4.80 for 3 pieces) or har gau. Every restaurant has this staple. But how do you make yours stand out? Hai Tien Lo added finely chopped Chinese celery to its rendition. It perked up the shrimp flavours in a refreshing way. Thumbs up!
Steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce (S$3.90). I liked this, specifically because it had a detectable chili bite (hey, I love chili padi). But many others at the table prefer chili heat that's more subtle and in the background.
Imperial lobster dumpling. This is not on the regular dim sum menu, if I remember correctly. It's a specialty given out at the weekend brunch (which feature more than 60 items, including all the dim sum here). One serve only. It's huge! See the way it dominates the entire steamer basket? It's like a giant har gau, but with lobster meat added. The Chinese celery features here too.
Special steamed crab meat and shark's fin with jin hwa ham stock wrapped in dough (S$12, single portion). This billowy dumpling was suspended in a delicately-flavoured stock. I believe this luxurious soup is also a single serve only in the weekend brunch. You can opt not to have shark's fin if you so prefer.
Steamed vegetarian dumplings stuffed with water chestnuts and mushrooms (S3.90 for 3 pieces). Fiercely coloured but tasted tame and gentle. I'm sure it must have been difficult making so many fine pleats in the skin.
Deep-fried sea perch wrapped in vermicelli (S$5.40 for 3 pieces). The seafood taste was very strong in the filling, and overpowered even the thick bundles of vermicelli. I thought the filling was salty shrimp paste, until I learned it was actually fish.
Scallop dumplings. I could not find this on the menu, it may be a new item. Scallop slices on top of shrimp and spinach. Look at how thin and translucent the skin is.
Stuffed vegetarian rolls wtih bamboo pith, pine mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, carrots and bean gluten (S$3.90 for 3 pieces). Hai Tien Lo has quite a few vegetarian items, for those who don't take meat or seafood. This one tasted really good, and didn't even need the carrot puree sauce at the bottom. Would please even carnivores, I'm sure.
Pan-fried rice flour rolls with crispy conpoy (S$3.90 per portion). Love the crispy bits. The rice rolls were compressed into neat little slabs, but this may have caused it to be too dense and plain-tasting in the centre.
Poached Beijing dumplings stuffed with chicken and prawns in chili vinegar sauce (S$4.20 for 3 pieces). Pretty decent for a chicken and prawn dumpling.
Deep-fried crispy yam pattie layered with mashed golden pumpkin (S$4.20 for 3 pieces); Deep-fried bean curd sheet stuffed with chives and prawn paste (S$4.80 for 3 pieces). These perhaps suffered from their generous size - I had slight surfeit even when finishing one. But it could be because we had too much food already!
Finally, dessert. Bird's nest egg tarts. I remember these won the approval of the magazine photographer. Light, and just very gently sweet. With bird's nest you can actually see and taste!
I told you we had a lot of food. There were also char siew bao, fried vegetarian spring rolls, steamed carrot cake with waxed meats, and siew mai with fish roe. But guess what one thing we all could not stop eating? The little appetiser plate of honeyed walnuts with sesame (see bottom of lazy susan). Those were SUPERB! Made inhouse, of course.
So yes, dim sum is available daily for lunch, and at the weekend brunch. When the Integrated Resort is complete, you'll have some of the best views to go with your dim sum treats!
Many thanks to Cindy and Merissa of Pan Pacific Hotel for hosting us, and to Jackson of Cuisine & Wine Asia for organising the session.
HAI TIEN LO
37th Floor, Pan Pacific Hotel
7 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square
Lunch: 12noon to 2.30pm (Weekdays)
Dinner: 6.30pm to 9.30pm (Daily)
Weekend A La Carte Buffet Brunch: 11.30am to 2.30pm (Weekends and Public Holidays)
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