Duo Le

While generally a ghost town during the week, Orchard Central—its eateries, in particular—tends to spark into life over the weekend. So while cruising its floors one Saturday evening we noticed quite a bit of bustle at Duo Le. We thought best to leave the madding crowds behind and return on a weekday. And when we did, what a complete contrast it was! For on the Tuesday after, only one other table was occupied when we walked in a little after 8pm, which was a shame because the place lacked a bit of atmosphere. Now, Duo Le’s reputation (in its native China) precedes it, and we have been looking forward to its opening ever since we received word of its plans to set up shop here. And it’s been worth the wait; the excellent dishes aside, what a handsome outlet this is: Bright and contemporary with clean lines and tastefully understated flourishes of chinoserie. Anyways, being famished office plebs, we dove straight into the menu—which included signature cold dishes, Shaanxi cuisine (with influences from the Han, Tang, Zhu and Qin dynasties), along with Guangdong and Sichuan dishes. We went for the soybean with dried shrimps—a simple, rustic and nutritious dish that dazzled our taste buds, as did the deep-fried fish with homemade sauce—which will blow you away to the other side of Orchard Road. Meanwhile, the deep-fried bean curd with chives, though a little oily, is extremely flavorful and (for us, at least) a wonderful complement alongside the scrumptious three-flavored (and well portioned) spicy, garlic, sweet baby back ribs. Please eat all this with a bowl of steamed rice—the combo is quite sensational. One of Duo Le’s signature dishes is the hand-made Shaanxi noodles, boasting a comforting homey, soba-like quality to it (the topping sauce of pork mince and bean paste was divine). The service was a little over-the-top, but with (now) just one table and four wait staff around, that was bound to happen. So cue the “How’s everything?” question every few minutes (which we didn’t mind as the staff were extremely friendly); interspersed with constant refilling of our Taiwan Tung Ting Oolong Tea, which is just dandy for cutting through all that oil that’ll surely be clinging to your stomach walls after a meal here. This place was real eye opener; to the uninitiated (hey, there are loads of us around) this is a veritable (and magical) portal to the delights of first-rate regional Chinese cuisine. Anthony Bourdain once remarked that if China ruled the world, we’d all be eating better. He’s spot on.