I don't usually return to the same restaurant within short periods. With so many options available, I rather explore new places or rotate about the few tested-and-proven ones. But if a new discovery can lure me to return thrice in 3 months, that certainly speaks volume! Chao Shan Cuisine did just that!
Located at Beach Road, we first chanced upon the teochew place when walking to Tom's Palette. We then had our first meal there when the girlfriend treated her extended family to dinner, as everyone left impressed by the quality. Subsequently, I brought my club committee members, my parents and a brunch of close friends for dinners as well!
With very limited tables in the tiny restaurant, reservation is a must to avoid ending up eating along the sidewalk or waiting for second/third rounds of the night.
Table Tidbits ($1.00), Tea ($1.00/head)
Before food was served, I was already confused with the array of dips available. Ask the experienced staff for the best combinations!
Pork Jelly ($10.00), Prawn Balls ($12.00)
When I saw this on the menu, I knew that they were serious about authenticity! Using the meat of pig trotters, it is soaked with pork stock and left to chill, turning into wobbly jelly due to its high collagen content. The jelly portion immediately dissolved in my mouth while leaving behind chunky pieces of tender, lean meat. Very good stuff!
The prawn balls were what I would describe as the real stuff (真材实料), chokeful of crunchy prawn meat and none of that flour-like texture from cheaper variants.
Cereal Prawn ($26.00), Sambal Kangkong ($12.00)
While you can find this almost everywhere, Chao Shan Cuisine's precised control made it even more enjoyable. The fresh prawns' sweet, natural flavour were well-balanced with savoury cereal flakes that weren't soaked with oil. Cleared to the very last bit!
Greens were well-oiled with hints of "wok-hei", though the sambal flavour could really be stronger.
Oyster Omelette ($20.00)
The simplest dish that left the biggest impression! Fluffy omelette that was still slightly runny on the inside, throwing in generous amount of huge, juicy oysters. Amazingly well done!
Chestnut Chicken ($28.00), Steamed Buns ($3.00)
While I was never a fan of Singapore's chicken, the other ingredients in the dish and its preparation method made it a worthy order. Filled with pork belly, chestnut and mushroom dices, it was probably stewed for considerable amount of time for the chicken meat to be so easily separated from the bones. The thick, flavourful gravy was also perfect to be mopped up by plain buns.
On my other visits, the braised pork belly was also excellent and if you have enough dinner companions, don't hesitate to go for one of their steamed fishes. My fresh pomfret was so huge that it could feed 10 of us comfortably!
But the one thing that I cannot stand is their poor quality of rice ($0.60/bowl). Imagine broken grains that simply brittle on the tongue. They really should do something about the supplier!
Yam Paste with Pumpkin and Ginko Nuts ($10.00)
A classic teochew dessert, this was faultless with its smooth, creamy texture and rich yam flavours.
Bill for 5 was $132.40 with no GST and service charge. With its reasonable pricing, Chao Shan Cuisine certainly put much effort into every dish, using only quality ingredients and exercising excellent control, such that my four visits were consistently good. Definitely on the tested-and-proven list!