Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Dim Sum Day 3: Cherry Garden
Part two of Dim Sum Day 3 saw us crossing over to Cherry Garden at the Mandarin Oriental for more dim sum, right after testing nearly 40 items at Si Chuan Dou Hua. How could we possibly eat more? Well, when it comes to good dim sum, there can never be enough!
I've always liked Cherry Garden, so I knew we were in for a treat. The place is gorgeously decorated, in darkly elegant wooden pavilion settings. It's incredible that the restaurant has retained its original decor from when it first opened 22 years ago. It still looks very contemporary.
The food, however, is a constant innovation. Steamed Pork with Preserved Vegetables Siew Mai. A very simple addition of the humble "mei cai" or preserved mustard greens, and the siew mai is given an instant lift in flavour. One of the best siew mai we've had in the tasting rounds.
Steamed Crab Meat Dumpling - plump, juicy and dare I say Rubenesque? Voluptuous dumplings of shrimp enhanced with crab meat. They look almost naked, but there's a very fine skin enveloping the seafood goodies. However, I think an asparagus spear might be a better choice than the strong-tasting green bell pepper stuck into the dumpling.
Steamed Prawn Dumpling with Carrot Puree. The "har gau" with a beta carotene tan. The skin is given a light infusion of carrot puree for colour. There is no heavy carrot flavour to overpower the dumpling, which is good.
Pan-fried Chives and Chicken Dumplings with Netted Rice Crispy. Pot-stickers given a dramatic presentation. Fried with a thin, crispy base, and overturned onto a plate. Nice.
The Steamed Kurobuta Char Siew Pork Bao won raves all round. Maybe it was the magic word "kurobuta" but the char siew really tasted tender and well-seasoned. The pau skin is incredibly soft and fluffy too. This is a must-have if you come to Cherry Garden.
The thinly sliced kurobuta pork char siew melt in your mouth!
Steamed Shark's Fin Dumpling with Dried Scallop and Shrimp, so very pretty. These look like har gau with cleavage. The dumpling skin is good on these - translucent but resilient, holding their bounty well. If you do not like eating shark's fin, you can skip this.
Netted Rice Crispy Turnover Stuffed with Prawns Apple and Mango. I've tried this before on a previous visit. They were good then, but I think we had too many prawn-based dim sum items today.
Truffled Essence Crystal Dumplings stuffed with Assorted Fresh Mushrooms. Whoa, these dumplings have grown since my last visit. They're still tasty, but I prefer them a smaller and more manageable size. The truffle aroma is thankfully scant (yes, surprisingly I'm not a big fan of truffles even though I love most mushrooms).
Xiao Long Bao - expertly done and pleated. The juices are delicious.
Now this scores big on the Cute Factor. Fried Potato “Pear” Stuffed with Pumpkin, Jicama and Vegetarian Ham. I'm sure kids would love this pear-shaped croquette, but it's a bit too starchy for me. The use of lemongrass as the stalk is interesting though.
Scallop and Spinach Crystal Dumpling. Yes, by this time, we all had had too much prawn. These were still good, with bits of salted egg yolk enhancing the flavour.
Even cuter than the pear-shaped croquette was the Steamed Grouper “Crystal Fish” Dumpling.
This is part of the Symphony of “Live” Pacific Grouper prepared three ways. This is something akin to Peking Duck with the duck done three ways, i.e. skin roasted and carved, bones boiled for soup and meat done in a stirfry.
Here, for the first course, the grouper's skin is used for the skin pattern on the fish dumpling. When the dish was unveiled, it drew gasps of "Wow!" for the sheer artistry.
The fish skin is wrapped around a firm slab of fish meat, and the whole thing is encased in a transparent chewy skin shaped like a fish with tails. It was too beautiful to eat, and maybe we tarried too long admiring and photographing it, because it was a bit cold when we finally took a bite. Eat it with the soy seasoning, as by itself it can be a bit bland.
The fish bones are used in a very hearty soup. Grouper Fish Broth with Ginger, Onion and Silken Tofu. Love the baby mushrooms.
The meat of the fish is finally stir-fried with vegetables. Sautéed Grouper Fillet with Asparagus in a generous portion. Simple but so good.
Cherry Garden has a weekend dim sum brunch for S$45++, which includes some a la carte dishes. Prices have gone up since my last visit, but the quality is still assured. There are two seatings, and reservations are essential:
11am-1pm (1st seating)
1:30pm-3pm (2nd seating)
My heartfelt appreciation to Kelly Tan of Mandarin Oriental for hosting us, and to Cuisine & Wine Asia for arranging this dim sum tasting. Check out Ladyironchef and TheHungryCow for their take on the dim sum. Will link to Aromacookery and Ieatishootipost when they post.
5th Floor, Mandarin Oriental Singapore
5 Raffles Avenue
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