When it was announced that Crystal Jade Golden Palace at Paragon received a Michelin Star, my foodie friends laughed and mocked, “Does Michelin know Crystal Jade or not? It’s a chain restaurant leh. It’s not even Crystal Jade Prestige.”
To be fair, Golden Palace is the atas arm of Crystal Jade, like when H&M got Kim Kardarsian to design the series, slightly more expensive than their usual range, but still affordable. In fact, Golden Palace is slightly cheaper than Prestige, which we went earlier this year.
Golden Palace offers set menus starting from $48/pax. They also serve a la carte dim sum, which is very affordable, at about $5-$6 a basket. Two of us ordered the $48 set and some a la dim sum to share, and were so stuffed that we had to tabao some food home.
The entrance to the restaurant is impressive. At the far end of 5th level, it occupies the entire corner, with a shiny black veneer facade. A long walkway from the entrance will bring you to the main dining enclave of very high ceilings. But on closer inspection, when we settled down, we thought the furniture, with the gitzy tablecloth, looked tired. Golden Palace is in need of revamping.
The main hall was full and we were given a private dining room to be shared with other diners. There were two shrieking babies, and the small room amplified the bawling. We requested to move to the hall, and when there was a table, they shifted us. PHEW.
I’ll first talk about the set menu, and then the dim sum. I didn’t like that they piled food from the set menu on us when we hadn’t finished the previous dish. The first 3 dishes came 2 fast 2 furious. For a proper Michelin-starred restaurant, I’d expect them to serve one dish at a time, and not fill up our table.
The food from the set menu is, however, quite good. The chicken soup is very bitter from the herbs, but Mr Fitness enjoyed it. The 2 types of dim sum are delicate: the “crystal bun” is nicely chewly, and the fried tofu skin wrap, crispy and pleasantly pungent. Prawns done 2 ways are slathered in different sauces: one in a Maggi-mee-curry-powder-like sauce, and we couldn’t decipher the other (it was blueberry mayo). The prawns are nice, but I didn’t like any food that tastes “artificial.”
This was when we moved to main hall, and the dishes started coming one by one. The stewed vermicelli with seafood and egg white smells very fishy, and looks so white it doesn’t look appetizing; BUT it is very delicious. The vermicelli still has some bite, and absorbed the essence of seafood.
It is strange that the kurobuta pork was served after the carb dish; usually in Chinese restaurants, the carbs come at the end. In any case, the pork is outstanding. It tastes like an elevated, refined version of those stir-fried beef in green bell pepper at cze char shops. But here, you can taste subtlety: an underlying fragrance of garlic, the sweetness from the hoisin sauce, slight spice from pepper.
Now I’ll talk about the dim sum. It’s not bad. The char siew bao ($5.80) is so packed with char siew that it overflows—this is a compliment, by the way, not a complaint. The skin is so soft, and slightly savory, which complements the sweet honey pork. This is the first time that I have eaten a bun that goes together with the char siew.
Mr Fitness enjoyed the lotus rice ($5.80) because the fragrance has seeped into the rice, reminding him of childhood memories. But he didn’t like the shark fin dumpling soup ($8.80/serving, below). I, on the other hand, enjoyed the soup with its mild, refreshing, chicken-like flavors.
The hong you chao shou ($6.20) has good vinegary flavors, but needs to be more mala, and the dumplings disintegrate upon picking up; they are cooked too long. Har Kau ($6.80) is ordinary.
Speaking about the har kau, we didn’t order it. This happened in the private room with the toddlers. Every service mistake we encountered happened in the private room, before we moved to the main dining hall. In the private room, they took our orders wrongly. We ordered fried yam dumpling, but they gave us ha kau. This is clearly stated in the slip which we ticked the dim sum we wanted ourselves. We verified it with the slip of paper, but we didn’t want to cause trouble, so we accepted the ha kau. We ordered an iced drink and a tea, they charged us an iced drink and two teas, an extra charge of $3.20+. They kept piling our table with food, as if rushing for time.
But when we moved to the dining hall, the service was impeccable. Florence took amazingly good care of us. She didn’t dump all the food on us at once. She made sure the dishes came out one by one, and asked us if she could serve the next dish. She gave us sharing cutlery, she changed our plates, and she was friendly with us. She anticipated our needs and fulfilled what we needed. Kudos to Florence!
In terms of service then, it’s a mixed bag, a roulette of luck.
Does Golden Palace deserve a star? They all laughed, but as Ella Fitzgerald’s song goes, “ha ha ha, who’s got the last laugh now?” It still received a star in the end. In reality, it’s not risible that the restaurant received a star. While there are better Chinese restaurants that didn’t get stars, Golden Palace is not shabby at all. An all rounder, it does everything just slightly above average: good food, good service, nice ambience, good price. We paid $119 for two persons.
Crystal Jade Golden Palace
290 Orchard Road, Paragon #05-22, Singapore 238859
T: +65 6734 6866/ +65 9177 2091
M-F 11.30am-3pm, Sat 11am-3pm, Sun 10.30am-3pm, Daily 6pm-10.30pm
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.