$68+ dim sum buffet is available during weekends and public holidays (11am-1pm, 1.30-3.30pm). The decor is fantastic and luxurious, transporting us back to an imperial courtyard. The service was OK. Huccalyly and Chiobu kept perv-ing on the porcelain-skinned China waiter with beautiful dimples, who should be cast as Ning Cai Chen, Leslie Cheung’s scholar role in A Chinese Ghost Story 倩女幽魂. (I betray my own age with that reference.) But we had to pour tea ourselves. A good Chinese restaurant never allows customers to lift a finger except to eat.
We must have ordered 20-30 items, but still didn’t make it to half of the dishes on the menu. Most items we had were marvelous, but the non dim sum items were generally better than the dim sum. My favorites were (1) cherry wood roasted duck (extremely succulent, fat without being greasy, a mild aroma of that beautiful cherry wood); (2) roast pork (crackling, a delicate proportion of fats to meat, not at all oily, just a touch of natural sweetness which differentiated itself from elsewhere. If you give me a blind taste test, I could point out exactly which Cherry Garden’s sio bak is);
Carrot cake in spicy xo sauce
(3) braised cod with spinach-tofu (cod was deep fried in high heat, searing in the juices, while crispy outside; the tofu had a layer of spinach on one side, make the combination tasting a little of seaweed, rather special);
(4)wok fried Kurobuta pork, a chewy soft texture; and (5) any of its desserts, especially the refreshing and sour cherries in nu er hong and kuei hua chen wine with lychee sorbet, and osmanthus jelly.
Besides my favorites, there were some delightful surprises on the menu. For instance, escargots (above) in creamy sauce in filo pastry were rather pleasing and interesting; and crystal dumplings were redolent with truffle oil, unmentioned on the menu.
Har gow in spinach skin
There were, however, some disappointment in abalone on siew mai. I had never seen such tiny abalones, even the nail on my little finger was bigger. I joked, “Next round, let’s order the abalone siew mai without the siew mai.”
Another disappointment was the custard bun. Crusted with seeds? NO. BAD IDEA. Change custard to yam paste with a salted egg yolk? NO NO NO. Don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Two other dishes that needed improving: chilli crab man tou (overly sweet, no spice, and no crab); double boiled soup of the day (chicken and melon that day), too light.
But on a whole, the food here scored well, a solid A- grade. And it was nice they customized the amount: 4 people get 4 siew mai, 3 get 3, etc. With taxes, we paid $80 each. BFF Paul said eating dim sum buffet wasn’t worth the money because you will never eat enough to cover the cost. He estimated we only ate at most $50 each. I didn’t mind because the ambience, service, and quality of food made me feel like a mantai. We were surprised that the restaurant with such high culinary standards was so quiet.
5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Singapore 039797
T: +65 6885 3500
Brunch: Sat, Sun & PH 11am-1pm (1st seating), 1.30-3.30pm (2nd seating)
Cherry Garden Dim Sum Buffet Menu
Rating: 3.406/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.