Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine, ION Orchard: How Did It Ever Win a Michelin Star?!

Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants once put Imperial Treasure at MBS on its list so I guess Michelin Guide has to pick another outlet, Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine at ION Orchard, to give a star. Funny how Imperial Treasure can always get on lists although it is nothing special, not that I’m insinuating anything.

It is a beautiful space with natural light from ceiling-to-floor windows. It was Saturday and they serve dim sum (Cantonese), which is strange for a Teochew restaurant. We skipped most of the dim sum and went for dishes.

The menu is way too extensive that we had a hard time deciding what to order. They have set menus but the set menus do not comprise of famous Teochew dishes. It’s best to go a la carte, but unfortunately, they lack many dishes. We ordered Teochew classics, cold crabs and pork aspic, but both were not available.

From the dim sum menu, we had prawn-paste chicken ($7.50, 5pcs) and siew mai ($5.60, 4 pcs). Someone at our table said, “Tastes like Kou-Fu foodcourt.” hahaha.

Teochew isn’t as known for their soups as Cantonese but they do have some soups of their own. We had the ridiculously priced pig stomach soup ($13/bowl) and fish maw soup ($15/very, very tiny bowl). The fish maw soup is bland and uninspiring but the pig stomach soup is excellent. It is potent, peppery, sweet, and not gamy.

Teochews are known for their marinated meat and innards. We ordered the medium size version of the four combination ($51). You can pick any, and we chose duck meat, pork knuckle, duck tongue, and pig ears. They are quite good, tender and mildly salty, but a Teochew at our table said it is not herbal enough. I’m not quite sure if being herbal is the point of meats marinated in soy sauce, but that’s my friend’s personal preference.

The manager recommended us something none of us had before: sauteed small oysters with green onions ($42 medium) to be eaten wrapped in cabbage. It is good, but it tastes exactly like how it sounds without any surprises.

Another dish we hadn’t tried before was the pan-fried flour omelette ($33) padded with taro yam. Omelette for $33! It is quite crispy and delicious, kinda like a Korean pancake with much salt.

Another Teochew classic, steamed pomfret ($132), goes by per 100 grams. It’s exorbitant at $132 for us. The fish is very fresh and firm, but it’s disappointing because we all had better steamed fish somewhere else at a much lower price.

My favorite dish for the meal, fried hor fun ($27), tastes similar to fried carrot cake. The Chinese rice noodles is flattened, seared on both sides, and loaded with omelette. The crunchy, bitter kailan breaks up the saltiness of the dish. Bits of pork lard give an orgasmic umami. But given that there is no meat, $27 is pretty expensive.

But the most expensive dish of all is the dessert. The three treasures ($6) consists of a single cube of yam, a single cube of steamed sweet potato and 5 or 6 gingko nuts. 6 freaking dollars! The orh nee ($5), yam paste, comes in a very tiny bowl and it’s only half filled!

All in all, the food is interesting and not bad. But it is way too costly for ordinary ingredients and slightly better-than-average food.

It’s beyond our comprehension how it could ever receive a Michelin star. I have always defended the Singapore Michelin Guide to my friends and other people who protest against it. Although I may not always like the 38 restaurants on the guide, I can understand the appeal of each restaurant and why it could be on the list… except for Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine. Some things remain a mystery.

We weren’t served pickles ($6) but were charged for it. We paid $521 for 6 persons, or about $85/pax. It makes more sense if we had paid $50-$60/pax.

Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine
2 Orchard Turn, ION Orchard #03-05 Singapore 238801
tel: +65 6736 2118
M-F 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-11pm, Sat 11am-3pm, 6pm-11pm, Sun & PH 10.30am-3pm, 6pm-11pm

Food: 6.75/10
Service: 6.5/10
Price: 5/10
Decor: 7/10

You may be interested in…
Chef Kang, Little India: Should Have Gotten 3 Michelin Stars
Crystal Jade Golden Palace, Paragon: They All Laughed (at the 1 Michelin Star)
Lei Garden, Chijmes
Pu Tian, Little India

Written by A. Nathanael Ho.

9 replies »

  1. Perhaps aside from the ingredients, for eg, the fried hor fun, some thought to the technique and training the chef has to go through before being able to prepare that.

    Quite disappointed that many view ingredients as the sole factor in deciding the price of a dish. Wok fry technique is not easy. Because of this, there are lesser local chefs going into Asian kitchens be it in hawkers, or restaurants.

    A chicken chop with fries anyone can do, $5 wah cheap.
    A fried hor fun need skills, $5 wah not cheap.

    Just my 2 cents on the market in Singapore now.


    • I agree with you about the pricing of the dishes and I want to add something. In terms of food, and not looking into decor, service, etc , there are 4 things that contribute to the pricing:
      1. Premium ingredients
      2. Skills of chef
      3. Taste of food: some skilled chefs are very good at cooking the ingredients properly but they cannot achieve the umami, while other chefs can.
      4. Accountability: one head chef is in charge of the quality of food.

      The food at imperial has only 2.5 out of 4 of the factors. It lacks premium ingredients; the taste is passable; and there is no accountability of the head chef because it is not publicized who the chef is on their website. This means that there is no uniqueness in the food. 2 or 3 cooks are trained to be able to cook a dish. As you know, different cooks can come up with different standards for the same dish. So accountability of head chef is important.

      For a restaurant that satisfies only 1.5 factor, it’s hard to justify the pricing.


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