We were greeted by ornate chandeliers and disturbingly dark surroundings upon entry—which we thought more appropriate for a club. We quickly opted for a table at the corner by the balcony, with a bird’s eye view of the restaurant. Something not very common was the smoking section.
We started off with a delightful Champagne Cocktail, a masterful blend of brandy, sugar and champagne, and a promising start to the evening. We didn’t enjoy ordering in the dark, and help wasn’t forthcoming from a soft-spoken waiter who wasn’t informed about the restaurant’s offers. To start, we had the Summer Duck Palace, crispy duck wrapped in pancake tortilla with vegetables and black sweet sauce that seemed like it came out of a bottle. Although it was satisfactory, the duck was a tad tough.
We quickly moved on to our mains, which all came at once. The dishes were precariously placed on our table, at one point with half a plate peering off the table edge. The Imperial Banquet Chicken did not impress. The dry oven-baked chicken and king prawns were rather dull, were it not for the rose wine dressing. Just when it couldn’t look bleaker, the Beef Rump and the Cod de Hue drew unanimous nods from the table. The beef was cooked with mushrooms in an XO sauce and served in a claypot. The flavorful meat was tender but chewy. The Cod de Hue was equally good. The black cod, steamed with dried shrimps, ginger, shallots and garlic, melted in our mouths. Our main gripe was that we would have preferred our food to be as hot as our steamed rice. It also took a good 15 minutes to get our rice refilled.
The best part of the meal was dessert—Romance of the Kingdom, tang yuan with red bean filling paired with sweetened gingko nuts and coconut and served with sesame ice cream—definitely a must try.
The overall experience was lackluster, considering the inconsistency of the food and the lassez-faire attitude of the waiters. The toilets were out of service, and we had to cope with monosyllabic service staff.
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