New look, better menu at Crystal Jade Palace
Crystal Jade Palace at Takashimaya Shopping Centre has just been renovated and I love the new look.
It is simple and elegant, with parts of the restaurant transformed into courtyards, communal dining halls and tea rooms.
If you are feeling refined, ask for a table in the tea room, but if you have some Yanxi Palace fantasy to play out, the courtyard provides palace maid realness.
The Crystal Jade group has sharpened its menu in this overdue redo.
Group executive chef Martin Foo adds modernity to classic dishes in terms of plating and lightness, without losing the familiarity of Cantonese food. That is his gift. That is why he has fans following him to every restaurant he has worked in.
One of the dishes his fans hanker after is the signature roasted Irish duck with black truffle (from $24). With him, duck will always be a safe bet.
This has everything I like - a crispy skin, with a layer of buttery fat underneath, and juicy tender meat. Truffles can be a mixed blessing. Too much of it can dominate. Here, it is balanced. There is the aroma to entice but the duck remains the star. It remains a must-order.
My favourite new item is the deep-fried chive stem pancake ($14.80). As expected, it is a pretty dish and the flavours are as stunning.
I love the mix of umami and sweet, with the crispy spring roll skin for texture. It is a dish suitable for all ages and is hard to fault, except that there never seems enough of it.
Even chef Foo cannot make soup pretty, but the double-boiled chicken soup with Peruvian ginseng and sea whelk ($26 a person) doesn't need to be, because if it is good, who cares how it looks?
Food from the Crystal Jade group may have some detractors, but I have always found the soup, congee and anything chicken reliable.
And this soup lives up to that belief.
Each sip is comforting and coursing with flavours with the almost-nutty ginseng and the umami from the sea whelk.
Although shishito peppers are a common sight in Japanese restaurants, Crystal Jade Palace combines it with beef cubes and black pepper sauce ($36).
The peppers add a hint of spice and the beef has appropriate tenderness. The black pepper sauce is slightly distracting, though.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I fight a losing battle against carbs. And it was game over the moment the crispy fried rice and orzo pasta with prawn and shrimp ($26) came out.
You don't even need the crustaceans because the combination of the grains and pasta is already a winner.
I couldn't stop eating it and was picking on the leftover bits by the time dinner was done. It is that addictive.