Thursday, December 25, 2008

Suntec Pearl River Palace - Chinese Ala Carte Buffet

My brother used to work as a part-time kitchen helper at Suntec City some years ago. He kept telling us that there is this Chinese restaurant that serves rather good quality ala carte lunch and dinner buffet. He of course tasted the food there before and thought it was quite worthwhile for the quality of the food and good for people wanting to try out Chinese restaurant’s food without breaking the bank.

Located at level 3 of Suntec Convention Centre, Pearl River Palace Restaurant is probably one of the few quieter places to have your meals there, I read. I called to make a reservation in the morning and was rather surprised that there are still seats available since it was Christmas eve. Not that we really celebrate Christmas, but perhaps bitten by the holiday spirit bug, we decided to splurge a bit for a nice dinner. Hmm, sounds like the reviews which I read are rather true… so I was rather curious how the food would turn out.

Upon reaching there, I noticed their advertising poster. It appears that they are trying to "tell" people about their ala carte dinner buffet too. I read in a hurry and was a bit mislead that each diner will get a glass of free Champagne... it turned out that the free champagne was for Christmas set meal...

Ala Carte Dinner cost $38.80++ each from 6.30 pm onwards till 10.30 pm. Last order was at 9.15 pm. Besides the ala carte dishes, each diner will get a complimentary "Buddha Jumped Over the Wall" (expensive seafood stew like dish) and 100 g Poached live Prawns. There are also unlimited serving of Peking Duck. Sound good so far...

Like typical Chinese restaurant, the table was lined with sauces and peanuts.

First stop was to of course try out their Peking Duck. It was served at a station, freshly prepared by three kitchen helpers . The restaurant regulated that each of diner can only take 2 pieces per time. I thought this rule was rather unfriendly. Perhaps it was stipulated to ensure that all diners get to taste the dish, but I find the system can be improved by letting diner decide how many pieces of Peking Duck they want to have. By stating that diners can have unlimited serving of Peking Duck, but control the amount given in a rationing manner is not the way to go.

Well, to clarify when asked if we can have more pieces since there are a few of us on the table, the servers agreed. Service is still not that bad.

The "Peking duck assembly line" worked rather seamlessly. One dapped the egg crepe with sauce, the other one place the meat into the sauce crepe. Another is in-charge to crave the meat.

Just look at the smooth, shiny and crispy skin of the Peking Duck! It was kept "warm" under the hot spot light. Looking good...

It was the first time we ever eaten such buffet and thus we order whatever we like as we go. To make it more convenient for readers, I arranged them accordingly to categories - Appetizer, Main course, Rice and Noodles etc.


Jellyfish with X.O. Chili Sauce

Though it stated Chili sauce, it wasn't spicy in my opinion (I can take very spicy food.). Can't really taste the X.O. sauce. Slightly blend in fact. Nothing interesting. Can skip.

Peking Duck in Egg Crepe

Not really good. I think the sauce is too sweet. They offered cucumber on the side, so that diners can put it in on their own, but it would have been better if there were spring onion too.

Salmon Sashimi

Nope. I am not at some Sushi joint or restaurant. They offered Salmon Sashimi as one of their appetizer. I am confused on what they are trying to do here. It is very clear that Pearl River Palace offered Chinese food, so it is unnecessary to put such a Japanese food item on the menu. If they insist to put this up on the menu, they should perhaps come up with a oriental sauce (sesame oil) to go with the sashimi like Chinese's Yu Sheng, so that the Chinese theme is not deviated.

Roasted Crispy Pork

My brother ordered this. Look common enough, but it tasted really good. It has crispy skin at the top but unlike those we eat at hawker centre, the meat is succulent and juicy. They have also paired this with unusual mustard sauce, a bit like eating German Pork Knuckles. Just one thing, I would have preferred normal English mustard more, but that just me.
Vietnamese Spring Roll

Like common poh piah. The plus point about this was that it was served piping hot. Can skip.

Compliamentary Dishes:

Poached Live Prawns

Tasted very good on its own and needed no sauce. Really worth it.

So, how does one differentiate a live prawn and a really fresh prawn? Well, some science lesson here. The first part in a prawn to decompose will be the head. It decomposed really fast. The head consisted of brain and etc gluey matter, as it decomposed, it liquefied. As a result, there will be a gap between the head and the body when the liquid escaped.

A live prawn would have no chance of decomposition since it was hauled freshly out of the water until cooking time. Therefore, the head and the body would stick closely with each other, with no gap. However, a fresh prawn would have encountered some decomposition, so the gap between the head and body would exist.

Lengendary Mini Buddha Jumped Over the Wall

I had thought my brother ordered some herbal soup, but it turned out to be the "Buddha Jumped Over the Wall" dish. Hmm... Not that I have eaten this before, but I always thought it is a stew...

As I was taking pictures, I digged in the last. I heard my mum and brothers saying that theirs have abalone etc expensive stuff. I spooned and scoped in the bowl, but cannot find those expensive stuff that they got. My portion looked soupy and almost like a spare ribs herbal soup... So unlucky and not fair.. I therefore asked the waiter why my one does not have abalone. He immediately apologised and promised to get a new one for me. Guess what?

The new one had ingredients stuffed full. There is the abalone and lots and lots of Sharks Fin. But, it did not have the mushroom this around, Hee hee but I am not complaining. I hope the restaurant would be more careful with the ingredients portion of the soup. Everyone should get the same ingredients to be fair. It was then that my mum then remarked that hers does not have shark fins...

Anyway, the soup was light and flavourful. It is one of those that when you drink, you know it is good for you. Yummy.

Main Dishes:

Braised Sea Cucumber and Fried Fish Maw in Garlic Chili sauce served in Claypot

Served in a claypot, the dish has huge chunks of Sea Cucumber and some Fish Maw. It has a rather strong bean paste taste, but not salty. In fact, it tasted just right. However, my brother pointed out that it has a slight rancid taste to it which my mum explained that might comes from the fried fish maw. For those who do not know, fish maw has to be boiled first to clear up the oil taste before it can used for frying or stews. However, I am guessing that the weird taste might comes from shrimp paste. It is very typical in Cantonese cooking to add a bit of shrimp paste into their Claypot stew.

Claypot Beancurb and Seafood

This dish has a lot of expensive ingredients in it. Tasted very good, a bit like Yi Pin Guo that we had at Zi Char stall.

Sautee Prawns with Dried Chili (Gong Po Style)

This is one of the good dish. Just like how Chinese restaurant should serve prawns. Their prawns had a very chewy and crunchy texture. It has the seafood sweetness to it which goes very well with the slightly sweet and smoky sauce. This dish is one of our favourite.

Deep-fried Prawns with wasabi sauce

This would taste better if executed properly. Firstly, it stated deep-fried, but the prawn wasn't really that crunchy. Then they coated it with too much wasabi mayo sauce which made the deep-fried prawns soggy. A pity. I would have enjoyed it better if there were less sauce and prawn more crunchy. I must say the proportion of the wasabi and mayo is just nice that one gets the hint of wasabi taste without getting too overpowering.

Deep-fried softshell crab with almonds
Another poorly executed dish. I can taste what the chef is trying to project - a slight almond fragrant aroma among the soft-shell crab. However, the minus point was that the already very small soft-shell crab hacked into too many small pieces. When fried, it retained oil and became very oily. It did not come through as it should have. It definitely needs improvements.

Another of our favourite was the deep-fried marble globy fish. Here you see the waitress dividing the fish into portions for us.

Deep-fried marble globy fish

The fish was fried to ultimate crispiness that even the bone can be chewed and eaten. I like how the fish fresh is still tender inside and that the fried dry surface would soak in the drenched over soy-sauce. Only thing is that it could do with a bit more sauce so that fish can taste better. It is a little blend.

Steamed Sea Perch with Preserved Soy Bean Crumbs

This dish is a definitely must order! I personally felt that waiter cheated us on it. We ordered the first time around and waited to realise that waitress did not record it down. We had to re-order and waited very very long time for this. It then finally made appearance just because the last order so that we can only order once or twice...
For those who did not know, Sea Perch had a cod-fish like oily delicate texture. It goes very well with the crispy Soy Bean crumbs. In fact, the fish itself is slightly flavoured and that the bulk of the taste comes from the Soy Bean crumbs. Now that you know it, do make sure that the waitress records it down for you.

Deep-fried Fillet Grouper, Thai Style

Disappointed. Nothing much. The fish does not have much taste, but relied on the sauce to flavour it. The sauce tasted Thai and salty, but nothing interesting.

Deep-fried Scallops with Cuttlefish in X.O Chilli Sauce

Another must order dish. A simple stir-fry of seafood and crunchy vegetables in X.O sauce. I like how the vegetables retained it crunchiness in the stir-fry and that the Scallops and Cuttlefish were in big pieces.

Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapples

Nope, it did not have pineapples and tasted very common. I have tasted better ones elsewhere. Disappointed.

Grilled Spare Ribs Flavoured with Coffee topped with Cream

Taste very good. The coffee taste was not as strong as I imagine it would be. It tasted just nice with a nice coffee aroma aftertaste. The meat was juicy and tender. Should try.

Deep-fried Chicken with Shrimp Paste

The chicken was marinated just nice. Fried crispy outside, but the meat remained juicy inside. Not bad.

Thick Soup with Fish Maw and Dried Scallop

Not my cup of soup. Though it mentioned Fish Maw and Dried Scallop, I tasted only chicken shreds and black fungus. They should have offered us vinegar to go with the thick soup, but there are none. Can skip.

Rice and Noodles:

Braised Ee-Fu Noodles with Preserved Vegetables and Shredded Duck Meat

One of the Chinese Restaurant's stable dish. No one should screw this up. They cooked the noodles well. Should try.

Fried Rice Vermicelli with Crab and Garlic

This Mee Hoon is not bad too. It has a peppery and ginger taste and cooked very moist. I suppose the crab imparted some seafood sweetness to the Mee hoon which makes it very rich.

Seafood Fried Rice

It is a healthier Fried Rice as it wasn't too oily. You can taste the "Wok Hei" in the rice that it had been stir-fried fast in high heat. However, I had a hard time trying to find the seafood. They were too well camouflaged. I mean if it not seafood, then don't name it seafood...

Crispy Noodles with Seafood

I have eaten better ones... This is again Char Siew with bean sprouts and it is not crispy either, but no seafood. Do not be mistaken. I scolded my brothers for ordering these... We are eating buffet here, not trying to stuff ourselves silly, but yet they ordered one carbohydrate dishes after one another... Angry.

Dessert Station - Look Beautiful Decorated Isn't it? There were many Christmas cakes and cookies for selection.

This is the Gui Ling Gao - Herbal Jelly which I have tasted. Not bad. I like the one mouth size, so that we can taste more.

I guessed it was Christmas eve, thus it rather packed like 90 % full. The decorated the room with helim balloons free for all to take. We took a bunch home.

I love their nicely decorated waiting area which heavily reeks of Chinese essence.

On the other side of the entrance was the beautifully decorated Christmas tree!

In case you did not know, Pearl River Palace was awarded as one of the best Restaurants in Singapore!

It is also one of the top restaurants in 2008!


Though the price of buffet was rather steep, but the quality of food is good. They served rather good food overall especially with the Sea Perch, Prawns dishes and Coffee Ribs.


Some of the dishes were not properly executed and could do with improvements.

I am however irked by some of the staff's attitude. The first lady which brought us to our seat and took our first order had missed out some of our order. Not sure if this was done intentionally or not, since it was the nicer dishes that were missed out. Furthermore, she could not even bring herself to smile. Then when we ordered plain water, she signalled to another of the waiter to try convincing us to order re-fillable drinks... See ah, it is not about the money here. I am already here to eat a lot of food, why should I stuff myself with more calories with sugary drinks? Dislike this hard-sell attitude.

Then when make payment, another of the lady staff asked why we had ordered so little food. I stared at her suspiciously. I must acknowledge we ordered quite a bit. However, she said we ordered little compared to other guests. I wondered if this was delivered with intended sarcasm. In any case, it makes me very uncomfortable!

I must say the rest of the staff was rather ok. They cleared our dirty plates very promptly and including the one which changes my Buddha Jumped over the Wall soup, all of them are quite courteous.

Finally, I realised that plain water and warm water was charged at $1 per person. I am sure many had debated on whether there should be charges for plain water. I must say it was rather petty of the restaurant to charge each of the paying diners $1 for the drink considering that we had paid a considerable amount for the buffet.

It is quite a good restaurant with good quality food, but the service standard needs to be improved further.

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Anonymous said...

thanks for your post, but i think ur english is quite horrible. makes reading quite irritating though.

Photosophize [ 影.像.物语 ] said...

Woh, my first hate mail! Cool! What’s the motive? Is it jealousy?

I could have taken this as a prank and deleted your comment. However, I will not do so this time round. I will leave it and let others judged for themselves if it was as atrocious as you made up to be. Grammar mistakes are inevitable since I am not aspired to write for BBC or Straits Times. I do not have to be so accurate.

Then again, you don't even have the guts to leave your name and contact details and just want to throw that liner and go… Tsk Tsk. That is a very cowardly act. At the very least, try to impress me with a better statement – use proper punctuation marks and better vocabulary. Something proper like below would probably make me more “humble and conscientious” next time round:

Thanks for your post, but I think your English standard is not up to mark. I have difficulty understanding it which irritates me.

Instead of:

thanks for your post, but i think ur english is quite horrible. (I do not owned English and English is not horrible...) makes reading quite irritating though.(Who is reading? Why is readng irritating?)


eB said...

about $50/pax for the full price?
the foods looked not bad, quite a market price for the buffet. yum yum, any where else want to try out?
zhou's kitchen? :D

Photosophize [ 影.像.物语 ] said...

Hi eB, the buffet is about 45 dollars after the service charges. I went to Zhou Kitchen before, but it was ala carte and dim sum which is not bad. I assumed you should be referring to their tea-time buffet. I have not tried that before, thus not sure whether the food served is ok. However, the price seems quite worthwhile already - $11.90 or $12.90 ++.

I will probably blog my Zhou’s Kitchen experience sometime later like next year (2 days aways only), do come back and read about it then. :)