Mom's birthday dinner. One request. Roast suckling pig. Ok, so I pinged my tweeps and settled on Hua Ting, which many say do the best on the island.
This little piggy wasn't so little and fed the 11 of us amply, with even enough to doggy bag. The skin was done to a perfect crisp. De-skinned off the carcass, the skin was served with a smear of Hoisin sauce under a flat Chinese bun, accompanied by a stalk of spring onion and cucumber for a touch a heat and a touch of cool. The meaty chunks underneath were very tender and had a crunchy layer of fat, as opposed to an older pig's greasy fat. Even when refried a day later at home with garlic, chillies and dark soy, it retained its tenderness. No "porky" smell but rather, a fragrant meat worthy of its price.
Our set dinner started with a trio of appetisers - a deep fried beancurd sheet stuffed with crunchy shrimps (腐皮卷), a sea cucumber and minced pork stir-fry which was very spicy and tasty done in the style of the ever popular Szechuan dish of spicy eggplant with minced pork (渔香茄子煲). And of course, the house special roast duck smeared generously with a plum sauce was my favourite. Succulent pieces of the bird with very crispy skin made for a poultry version of the suckling pig.
The next dish looked almost boring but the surprise is when you tuck in. Lightly fried scallops with snow peas, the accompanying sauce which used fresh shrimp roe as a base was the highlight. The shrimpy goodness would make anyone forget the cholesterol content and just enjoy.
The sharks' fin broth was a disappointment though. There was little fin and the chicken and Japanese fake crab meat did nothing for me. So while the broth was decent enough, there was little else to savour about this very ordinary dish.
Vegetable dishes at set Chinese meals usually are a "blah" which you want to get over quickly but this one was one of the better ones I've had and which I genuinely enjoyed. Baby Chinese cabbage (奶白) accompanied by a well braised Deer tendon (a softer chew than beef tendon) as well as a slice of abalone. Both added chewy textures of 2 different kinds and allowed you to enjoy the sauce in which it sat braising for hours, and of course the vegetables soaked up whatever you couldn't lift onto the palate with mere chopsticks.
The dish was a hot favourite among the diners. Excellent cubes of USDA beef stir fried with a variety of mushrooms in an extremely tasty sauce. There was enough beefy goodness to be enjoyed but not at the expense of fatigue from excessive chewing. Even as some started to fade from a lot of food, everyone finished their individual servings with gusto.
The steamed Patin or Silver Catfish from neighbouring Malaysia is an excellent fish if you like your fish to be full of fatty goodness. So "marbled" it is that this fish withstands even poor cooks who overcook this. Here, the chef did a decent job by Singapore standards although I like mine a tad less cooked. But this was still enjoyable and it was a pity that I was too full to attack the head and fins which they placed on the Lazy Susan.
While not a fan of the broad egg noodles, it seemed the lesser of 2 evils as compared with the dreaded E-Fu noodles. Since it was Mom's birthday, noodles were mandatory since Chinese equate it to a symbol for longevity on account of the length of the noodles. Unfortunately, this was easily the worst dish of the night. The noodles had far too much alkali on them and even my request for vinegar could not neutralise the pH value on them. The strong alkali was even apparent on the wanton. So I left most of this uneaten.
Of course, no birthday is complete at a Chinese restaurant without Longevity Buns. In Chinese folklore, the peach is a symbol of longevity and so these peach-shaped buns fulfilled their role nicely and offered a sweet finish with its smooth lotus paste on the insides.
Our finale of fruit and complementary mooncakes made for lingering finish as we chatted over tea and mooncakes till it was almost midnight.
I would have preferred to make up my own menu but the set option seemed the easy thing to do. So I can't really complain about the couple of misses we had. Overall still enjoyable and especially memorable for the suckling pig. Service could be a little more efficient though since there were pockets where we couldn't get anyone's attention and of course, it took a lot longer than we expected to get the bill.
442 Orchard Road