In celebration of one of China’s most famous culinary regions, Gold Garden centres around the delicate sweetness of Shanghainese and Huaiyang cuisines. Still in its soft-opening phase, the restaurant actually opened its doors late last year just before the fifth wave of COVID swept across Hong Kong, bringing forth strict dining restrictions.
Drawing inspiration from Ge Yuan, the famous historic garden in Yangzhou that was constructed during the Qing Dynasty, both the menu and decor of Gold Garden reflect the refined traditions of the region. Bamboo, a symbol of integrity in Chinese culture, is a key feature of the original Ge Yuan and is also prevalent within the decor of Gold Garden. A massive pink bamboo art installation dominates the main dining room, while bamboo motifs can be spotted throughout the restaurant, from the tableware to the wall paintings.
Designed by award-winning In Cube Design, the restaurant houses eight private rooms and eight semi-private rooms in addition to the main dining room, creating an intimate ambience of private dining for all guests – perfect for social distancing in the time of COVID!
At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Man Fong Lam, a Yangzhou native with more than 30 years of experience in Huaiyang cuisine. Chef Lam started his culinary career in Hong Kong in 1986 within the kitchen of private club Shanghai Fraternity Association and then moved to Shanghai Min, a modern Shanghainese restaurant, in 2001. From there, he became the production director of Crystal Jade in Singapore before taking on the same role at Dragon-i in Malaysia until 2021.
Our tasting began with a classic – roasted gluten puffs with black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, black fungus and peanuts ($88). This dish is a traditional appetiser within Huaiyang cuisine and a much-loved favourite of ours thanks to the contrasting crunchy and chewy textures and sweet brown sauce. It’s a satisfying and delicious vegetarian dish that’s great for both the environment and the taste buds.
The braised shredded tofu soup with sea moss and bamboo pith ($78) is an intricate affair, and our minds boggle just thinking about the precise knife work needed to accomplish such a feat with the tofu strands. The tofu strands are soft and delicate, yet the soup maintains the integrity of each strand, which melts instantly on the tongue. The crunchy texture of the bamboo pith and sea moss add contrast to this complex soup.
Another classic appetiser, the smoked soft-boiled eggs with black truffle ($68 for 2) come with a side of syrupy, soy-based sauce made for drizzling on top. We really enjoyed the taste of the sweet sauce against the smoky silkiness of the gooey eggs, although we couldn’t detect a strong truffle aroma. For us, this dish is all about the smokiness, so we didn’t miss the truffle fragrance at all.
The slow-cooked smoked crispy chicken ($268 for ½) is the kind of dish that truly shows the experience of the chef. Chef Lam’s version is heavenly, featuring juicy, succulent flesh encased in crisp, golden skin. The smoky undertone gives the chicken a flavour akin to preserved meat, adding layers of complexity to an already perfectly executed dish.
The pan-fried xiao long bao on a hot plate ($80 for 5) is a signature of the restaurant and a combination of everything we love about soup dumplings and traditional 生煎包 (pan-fried pork buns). The delicate dumplings have a paper-thin skin and juicy, flavourful filling, along with a crunchy base thanks to pan-frying on the hot plate. These are scrumptious morsels, although be careful not to bite in too quickly and burn yourself! We bet you can’t eat just one… or three.
Another Shanghainese classic, the stewed Dongpo pork belly ($188) resembles candy with its glaze of shiny, sugary sauce. The marbled belly is cut into quarters tableside, and there’s a delicious balance of fork-tender meat and melt-in-the-mouth fat. A guilty pleasure that’s worth all the calories.
We wrapped up our meal with bowls of chilled mango sago cream with pomelo ($58). Gold Garden’s version of this popular Chinese dessert is a bit more sugary than we had anticipated and also light on the sago. We really liked the texture of the nata de coco (coconut gel), which gives the soup more body and bite.
Gold Garden is a beautiful restaurant that’s not all about looks; it’s built on a solid foundation of culinary expertise. Each dish showcases the years of experience of the chef and is a formidable representation of refined Huaiyang cuisine. Coupled with a gorgeous interior, Gold Garden is a treat for family and business gatherings alike.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.