Sunday, June 5, 2016

Modern, Creative, Fancy Chinese (Cantonese) Cuisine at Kai Garden, Marina Sqaure.

Chinese restaurants can be a bit indistinguishable, sometimes, with different restaurants across different chains and cuisine types sharing many similar menu items. So it was quite refreshing to hear that Chef Fung Chi Keung, formerly from Mandarin Orchard and the Paradise Group, has struck out on his own and established Kai Garden restaurant in an attempt to put a few modern, creative twists on traditional Cantonese Cuisine. Suitably armed with an excuse to spend (i.e., a special occasion), we paid the restaurant a visit last weekend to sample Chef's cuisine.

Kai Garden Marina Square

The creativity starts off with one of Chef Fung's signature appetizers - Chilled Cherry Foie Gras ($24): Chilled balls of foie gras pâté shaped to resemble cherries. It's a very amusing and playful start to the dinner, but your enjoyment would really depend a lot on whether you like pâté in the first place. The darling and I are huge fans of pan-seared foie, but not the minced variety, so this was taste-wise a bit "meh" for us.

Kai Garden Marina Square Chilled Cherry Foie Gras

We move on, then to the Crispy Whole Peking Duck ($88). The duck itself is superb, with crispy, fragrant skin clinging on to just the right amount of fat underneath. What's unique about the rendition here at Kai Garden are multi-coloured pancakes (the different colours coming naturally from adding charcoal, beetroot, lettuce and pumpkin respectively), and a variety of different dipping/spreading sauces.

If you're a traditionalist you'd probably stick to flavouring your pancakes with the regular sweet & tangy peking duck sauce, but if you're up for some experimenting, there are mixed, black pepper, sesame and seafood (with crab meat) sauces as well.

Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck
Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck

Did I mention that the skin of the duck is oh-so-crispy? Definitely one of the better peking ducks in town.

Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck

Next up - the Live Garoupa in Lobster Soup. This is by far the most well presented (Chinese cuisine) fish dish I've ever been served. The fish is brought to the table with its fillets pre-sliced and still raw, poached in the umami lobster broth, and immediately served in individual portions.

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

The lobster broth is a just-right, perfect accompaniment to the delicate, perfectly-cooked fish slices. It's just the right consistency (it's a soup/broth and not a bisque), and is just flavourful enough to accompany, and not overpower, the fish. The dish tastes just as amazing as it looks.

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

The rest of the fish - bones, head, etc - is then taken away and cooked with salt & pepper so as not to go to waste. This sort of excellence doesn't come cheap, though - the fish is "seasonal price" on the menu; during our visit it was a staggering $20/100gm (this 1kg fish alone cost more than all the other dishes combined).

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

Another of chef's creative takes on traditional Chinese/Cantonese dishes: the Sweet and Sour Pork on The Rocks ($22). Yes ... this is essentially fancy gu lou yuk (咕噜肉). Nevertheless the meatball is delicious, with an interesting core of fresh milk and coconut milk, surrounded by minced pork with a crispy honey shell. I don't really understand what the ice is for, though.

Kai Garden Marina Square Sweet and Sour Pork on The Rocks

Just to check off the food pyramid checklist - the Wok Fried Hong Kong Kai Lan ($20), which had quite a bit of oomph on the flavour department thanks to the umami from the anchovies.

Kai Garden Marina Square Wok Fried Hong Kong Kai Lan

A final tummy filler: the meat from the peking duck, stir-fried with mee sua ($18). Competent and well-executed, if a little bland / normal compared to the rest of the menu.

Kai Garden Marina Square Duck Meat with Mee Suah

Additional costs to the bill: Chinese Tea & tid-bits ($17.40 for 6 pax), service charge and GST, which pushed us up to $450 for 6 people. Other than the Garoupa, I would say that Kai Garden's menu items are good value for money, considering the taste, quality, and effort involved to prepare and present.

The Garoupa, on the other hand ... it was a very accomplished dish, and one of the better fish renditions I've had in a long while, but it is pricey as hell.

In any case, overall my family and I were thoroughly impressed with the effort Chef Fung is taking to try and revitalize / modernize Cantonese dishes, without departing too far from how they are expected to taste, and would not hesitate to recommend the restaurant.

Kai Garden is on the third floor of the Marina Square mall (same wing as the food court). Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Non-halal.

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