Chinese is Chinese.
With Titus a proud member of California Fitness, it’s much easier to find coherence with him. That’s the thing about all kinds of human relationships, really. You could spend an eternity together, you could write your entire adolescence together, but if you can’t commit to each other for whatever reason, if there’s no present common interests, wishing for immortality could be a tall order.
As with any individual, Titus is always seeking the best bang for his buck, and his most recent interest, is the Palate card.
The Palate card is just one of the many diners club initiatives that has sprouted alongside the growth of restaurants in Singapore. The template is the same: an annual membership fee that opens up discounted access to a decent collection of restaurants, and in other cases, lifestyle services and exclusive sales. I consider myself a more economical and exploratory diner, so memberships like these don’t immediately appeal to me. However, in the long run, these programs appear to offer significant value savings – one could dine at a upper mid-ranged restaurant for the price of dinner at Fish & Co.!
This evening, he invited me to join him at Tung Lok XiHe Peking Duck at Orchard Central. The concept is a venture between Singapore’s Tung Lok Group and Beijing’s XiHe Group. Positioned above Beijing’s tourist friendly Quanjude, XiHe shares the pinnacle of Chinese imperial fare with rival chain, Da Dong. The result is a menu that marries the quality consistency and assurance of the Tung Lok brand, with XiHe Group’s opulent and modernist interpretation of Chinese cuisine.
The Palate Card diners club offers Tung Lok XiHe Peking Duck’s regular set valued at SGD 68++ per person, to just SGD 40.
Ubiquitous to any Chinese dinner is soup, and Tung Lok XiHe Peking Duck’s regular set was no exception. The seafood soup, decorated with classic treasures of the ocean including prawn, fish maw and scallop on a foundation of a rich yet light chicken broth, balanced with wolfberries, was served in a coconut husk. Typically refreshing, the exotic presentation was not without purpose – anchoring the rich salinity of the seafood on a lighter note, a sensible appetizer and precursor to the rest of the meal.
Building up the momentum on this uphill gastronomic coaster ride is the classic Cantonese steamed fish. Deceptively pedestrian, the dish, essentially steamed fish with ginger and spring onion in a concoction of a light sauce that can only be mastered through experience, is remarkably easy to cook but the odds of serving up a flawless run is infinitely improbable at home. Tung Lok XiHe Peking Duck manages an agreeable attempt, but it is not necessarily exceptional.
The vestiges of flavor climaxes with the third dish, a prized steak of Black Berkshire pork in a caramelized pepper sauce served with greens. Free range, natural foods and disuse of any synthetic supplements – allegedly – bestow these pigs a natural sweetness and richness of flavor that one might expect of any red meat. The sweet caramelized sauce attend to meat’s natural flavor, and the result is a nectarous “melt-in-your-mouth” sensation.
Leveling off, a collection of earthy greens including macadamia, asparagus, black fungus and beech mushrooms is served. Lightly stir-fried, it retains the natural flavor of the vegetables.
The fried rice however, was shockingly bland.
All in all, it was a very nice meal despite the fried rice misstep, but at the end of the day, is it worth it? There’s no doubt: for the price saved, it’s value for money, but was there anything that was remarkably exciting for me to recommend? Meh, not really. It was just nice, but “nice” is not exciting, at least for me.