Beloved Chiuchow Garden has, after an extensive revamp, finally lifted the bamboo scaffolding curtains and flung open its doors with gusto. Melding continental European design features with contemporary elements of an open kitchen, beechwood furniture, bold sofa seats, floor-to-ceiling windows and chrome accents, Chiuchow Garden and its new interior take a large step out of the shadows of a traditional Chinese restaurant and into the light of modern, innovative regional cuisines. Perennially popular amongst the workers and lunchgoers of the Tai Koo area, this refreshed Maxim’s Chinese Cuisine brand made impressive promises with its revitalised menu of Chiuchow delicacies, but we’re not so sure they’ve fully convinced us that the grand reopening went in the right direction.
Pan-fried e-fu noodles stuffed with meat
Steamed shrimp dumplings
Assorted steamed dumplings
The highlights of our meal were easy to spot – and, sadly to say, shockingly few. The steamed shrimp dumplings ($36 for 3) were generously fleshy and decorated simply with a splash of colour, their filling perfectly cooked and well seasoned – a true har gow triumph if we’ve ever seen one. Crisp and light, the pan-fried e-fu noodles ($118) had a savoury, tender meat stuffing that balanced out the textures quite well. The sautéed prawns with pineapple in sweet-and-sour sauce ($178) were expectedly tangy and well executed, and we enjoyed the duo of deep-fried mashed prawn balls with mashed crabmeat balls ($138) for their honest and homely flavours that reminded us of Hong Kong street-stall snacks (albeit much less oily and likely much healthier). Overall, we would have happily helped ourselves to seconds and thirds of the steamed dumpling dishes.
Lotus-seed paste buns
Several dishes flopped, but some more than others – the lotus-seed paste buns ($88 for 6; soon to be discontinued) come to mind. The severity of the wrappers’ unparalleled stickiness presented us with a unique challenge when sampling these pretty moulded goods, leaving us with a persistent unfavourable impression of their bland flavour long after moving on to the next course. The baked chicken with bread in Portuguese sauce ($168) was another miss, a muddled faux-fusion pudding. Visually impressive but lacking in flavour, the Asian-style bread was a bit too sweet and heavy for the coconut-heavy sauce.
Speciality soyed goose
We wanted to love the speciality soyed goose (from $138) in all its soy sauce glory and held high anticipation for it, but call it misfortune or mediocre execution, the cuts we gleaned from the sharing plate didn’t leave an impression on our taste buds. Perhaps we should have done more serious battle with the other diners over the lazy Susan rather than wait politely for the platter to circle around the table – and ultimately back to us – when only less-desired cuts were left untouched. It was adequate, but we didn’t come to Chiuchow Gardens to be satisfied with “adequate”.
Both my dining companion and I agreed that the meal was sadly – and surprisingly – unmemorable. We quite enjoyed the classic dim sum staples of steamed shrimp dumplings – the fresh, plump ingredients and understatedly simple presentation spoke volumes – but the other, more experimental dishes fell flat. Knowing as we do that Chiuchow Garden serves spectacular traditional dim sum, this was a bit of a let-down. We recommend a visit for the classics, but tread carefully around the newfangled concoctions.
Shop 100, 1/F, Cityplaza Four, 12 Tai Koo Wan Road, Taikoo Shing, 2885 0212
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.
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