Fans of Cantonese cuisine, here's another restaurant for you to check out: Kai Garden 嘉苑.
The dining establishment was recently opened in December last year, and nestled in the newly revamped wing of Marina Square shopping mall. Its draw lies not only in the sumptuous delicacies that it has set out to deliver, but I also want to see what deliciousness owner & Executive Chef Fung Chi Keung has up his sleeves.
If the name rings a bell to you as well, Hong Kong-born Chef Fung is the award-winning culinary master previously of highly acclaimed Paradise Group and Xin Yue. He believes that there is still so much to discover about food, and want to create new and memorable experiences for the diners.
The restaurant comprises three main sections, Dim Sum, Roasts and the Main Kitchen.
Its 200-seats capacity includes a spacious main dining hall, as well as a function room for up to 60 guests and four private rooms for groups of 4 to 16 people.
A quick glance at the menu revealed that prices ranges from average for dishes such as Crackling Pork Belly ($14.80 per serving), Crisp-fried Prawns in Wasabi Mayonnaise Dressing ($28), Braised Homemade Crispy Tofu in Abalone Sauce ($20), to the rather extravagant for indulgences like Buddha Jump Over The Wall ($138 per pax), Superior Shark's Fin in Supreme Broth ($44.80 per pax) and Braised 2-Head Mexican Abalone ($198 each).
For you who might be quite new to Chinese dining and intend to order seafood like Live Prawns, Australian Lobster, and Sri Lanka Crab which goes accordingly to seasonal prices, it would be wise to check prices beforehand with the servers to avoid any heart attacks when the bill comes.
Most of the dishes mentioned in this post are their signatures.
Our dinner commenced on an invigorating note with some Chilled Mini Tomatoes with Sweet Plum ($10.80 per serving) that was quite perfect as an appetite-whetting starter. It was followed by a plate of cherries..... oops my mistake!
These are not just any cherries but Chilled Cherry Foie Gras with Red Wine In Cherry Sauce ($24)! Shaped to look like the little red fruit, the distinct taste of foie gras was not intense enough but certainly scored in terms of creativity and aesthetics. After eating 33 Different Foie Gras Dishes In Singapore, I'm still intrigued by how versatile goose and duck livers can be as an ingredient.
To say soups are an indispensable part of a Cantonese meal is an understatement as this soup-drinking culture is deeply-rooted in the heart of possibly every Cantonese household with many Cantonese housewives having their own unique soup-making recipes and techniques. Home-cooked is always said to be the best but we wouldn't expect anything mediocre from a Cantonese restaurant either.
I must say both soups I tried at Kai Garden were nothing short of spectacular!
The Double-boiled Japanese Matsutake Served in Hot Pot ($38 per person) seemed like a light and clear soup from the look of it, but astounded with the rich and earthly taste of the prized mushroom.
Braised Whole "Ya Jian" Shark's Fin in Supreme Collagen Stock ($34.80 per person) luxuriated with lip-smacking goodness in every sip. It was naturally thick, creamy and full of collagen from the shark's cartilage stock which is slow-cooked for 6 hours. Definitely none of that starchy nonsense which some places assault our tongues with.
The Signature Peking Duck (Half $48 / Whole $88) is one dish that got us all excited.
Looking immaculately plump and gorgeous in a glistening shade of brown, the whole roasted duck was skillfully sliced in no time for us to have a taste of those coveted pieces of paper-thin crisp skin.
I would be contented to just enjoy the skin on its own, but Peking duck is conventionally meant to be eaten as a "pancake" rolled together with scallion, cucumber and sweetish plum sauce.
At Kai Garden, their Peking Duck is served with 5 Different Wraps and 5 Dipping Sauces. Unfortunately, 5 + 5 does not equate to a perfect 10.
The choice of wraps are Original, Pumpkin, Spinach, Bamboo Charcoal and Beetroot, and sauces include Traditional, Black Pepper, Sesame, Prawn & Crab and a Special Mix.
To enhance the textural bite of the Peking duck roll, crunchy corn crackers are also introduced but it overwhelmed the delicate crisp of the skin.
It's interesting to see the Peking duck dish being fancified, but I would still prefer to savor it the traditional way.
Another highlight was the Garoupa in Lobster Soup (seasonal price).
The fish was sliced and beautifully presented as a "whole". It was then briefly poached in not the usual chicken soup, but a pot of bubbling hot lobster broth to retain the natural firmness of its flesh and enhancing its freshness in taste.
Simple yet luscious, light yet highly flavorsome. You can imagine how wondrous this combination is. The garoupa was easily one of favorite dishes of the evening.
Sweet & Sour Pork ($22), the all-time perennial Cantonese favorite is served chilled "On The Rocks", supposedly to enhance the crunchy texture of its crisp shell, while accentuating the richness of the meat.
Instead of the usual chunks of meat, soft minced pork balls are used. The sauce it's coated in had a well-balanced taste of sweet and sour.
My guess is that most diners would order this dish for novelty sake and perhaps find some fans amongst them. Undoubtedly creative and perhaps to the point of being funky. For me, it's more a case of "been there, done that, give me the classic Gu Lou Yoke 咕噜肉 anytime".
The rest of the dishes such as Deep-fried Vegetable Roll ($22) which we had were comparatively "safe".
Kai Garden also serve Dim Sum during lunch. Besides staples such as Prawn Dumpling "Har Gow" ($6.50), BBQ Honey Pork Bun ($5.60), Signature Steamed Custard Bun ($5.80), one item to try would be their Pan-fried Charcoal Pork Bun ($6.80).
What lovely burst of juice and flavors from the pork filling as I bite into the black squid bun! Its bottom was pan-fried to a crisp crust, contrasting beautifully with the fluffiness of the bun itself. An immensely delightful treat which I'd love to have over and over again.
The food during the tasting session were satisfying enough for me to make a personal return visit to the restaurant. Wok-fried Carrot Cake In XO Sauce ($9.80) made a deep impression this time with cake that was of the right consistency, fried with a savory spicy sauce and exuding that fragrant breathe of wok (wok hei).
It wouldn't be surprising if I make a third visit just to try more of their dim sum items.
Lighter desserts work well after the heartiness of a Chinese meal to refresh the palate, so the Chilled Coconut Puree ($6.80) and Chilled Mango Puree with Sago & Pomelo ($6.80) were natural choices for most of us. The latter was especially pleasing.
Most of us wouldn't know what working in a restaurant kitchen feels like, but it's easy to figure that without a genuine passion for whatever one is doing, carrying on would be a difficult task. To be behind the apron for over 30 years, and constantly keeping a standard of excellence while not forgetting to add in pinches of innovation, Chef Fung certainly gets our admiration.
Even though not all the dishes are 100% to my preference, I must remind everyone that these are my personal opinions and taste is subjective.
Service was expectantly impeccable during the tasting, but the subsequent personal visit had me experiencing the so-called double standards with preferential treatment given to the "bigger camera".
Overall, Kai Garden is worth the visits and I would recommend this place for that business luncheon, family gathering, or simply you who are looking for a delectable meal .
Kai Garden 嘉苑
Address: Marina Square #03-128, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039594
Contact: +65 6250 4826
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am-3.30pm & 6pm-11pm / Sat-Sun 6pm-11pm
Prices stated are in Singapore dollars and subject to 10% service charge and 7% GST.