Taste Paradise at Ion Orchard is one of the cornerstones (read: most atas concept) of the Paradise Group which arose from humble beginnings. The Group started as a kopitiam at Defu Lane in 2002. Now, it has 11 concepts across 9 countries, with more than 30 restaurants in Singapore and 60 restaurants worldwide. Their concepts include the wildly popular Beauty in the Pot, Canton Paradise, Seafood Paradise, and the now defunct Paradise Inn.
Not to be confused with Paradise Dynasty serving xiao long bao and Sichuan food on the same floor in the same building , Taste Paradise specialises in Cantonese cuisine. Actually, we had been to Taste Paradise when it was still in Chinatown 8 years ago, but there have been great changes and I’m afraid these changes aren’t good.
Their five signature dishes are sharks fin in stone bowl, XO carrot cake, char siew, char grilled spare ribs with sweet plum sauce, and lobster ramen with XO sauce ($38 per pax). When we were there on the 16th day of CNY–which officially ends on the 15th day–they didn’t have set menus and the price was still inflated. They had yet to bring the price down to normal.
So for example, we paid $98 for the Peking duck, which was $78 before. The Peking duck itself is excellent. The skin is crispy with a naturally smoky sweetness. The sauce is super sweet in a good way. But unfortunately, when eight years ago, they used egg crepe to wrap duck skin, now they wrap it with a popiah-like skin that is too thick and has powdery residue (flour?). The texture of the wrap ruins the dish for us.
We requested the meat from the Peking duck to be stir-fried with a noodle and they used ee mian. It is outstanding: aromatic with wok hei with enough oil to be moist but not greasy on the lips. Very tasty. But strangely, they didn’t serve us this dish towards the end of the meal, which is customary; they served us as and when they had cooked it.
Each cube of the XO carrot cake ($14.80) is coated with a egg-flour mixture, which, along with the big size, gives a great mouthfeed. But their famed XO sauce isn’t fragrant.
My picky ten year-old nephew said, “The char siew ($26) tastes expensive,” and proceeded to finish it, leaving only a slice or two each to us adults. It is nice. They use belly so it’s tender with a strip of fat running through it. But I think the marinade is too sweet.
I’ve been dreading to talk about the sharks fin. When I posted it on my insta-story, someone messaged me, “How dare you?” Some people can be self -righteous like vegans. 😝😝😝 But here goes: they have ten varieties of sharks fin soup and they are famous for their shark fins in stone pot, which comes in three grades: supreme ($138 per serving, 75g), superior ($58 per serving), or (off-the-menu) one piece ($138 / $148 / $158).
We ordered the $158 version to share between 5 adults. It was enough for us but perhaps it’s better to share between 4. The showmanship of the dish is magnificent. The shark cartilage broth comes sizzling in two stone pots. A large white plate, as big as my fat face, carries to the brim a whole piece of pale yellow, nacreous fin. To witness it plop into the broth is akin to seeing an iceberg collapse: a terrible beauty. See the youtube video below:
But oy, the magnificent show does not translate to great taste. My parents and Chiobu found it OK. But my brother and I disliked it. The broth itself was bland and too gooey, making it difficult to swallow. The only other taste, besides blandness, is a mild remnant of the turpentine-like, choking causticity of sharks.
Because of this pungent taste, we requested for vinegar and pepper to cover the sharpness. Apparently the soup is supposed to be so good you drink it straight and don’t add any condiments. Turned out that they had only red vinegar and pepper. So weird to add red vinegar. But it’s even weirder that the restaurant didn’t have black vinegar. Surely we can’t be the first patrons to ask for vinegar.
The last dish to be served, char grilled spare ribs with sweet plum sauce ($16 per pax, we ordered three portions), is excellent. Extremely tender. The sweetness and sourness (almost vinegary, cidar-like) play off each other very well.
I also want to praise a full-bodied server (manager?) with a broad face who was very patient. (I took down her name but I forgot. Urgh. Bad memory.) She was amicable but not obsequious. I asked her the same question a few times (because bad memory and Mandarin isn’t good) and she repeated her answers patiently. Excellent service.
Maybe, on our visit, it was an off day and maybe most chefs had gone back to their home towns to celebrate CNY and hadn’t returned. That may account for the mediocre food. But comparing with my experience at the Chinatown outlet 8 years ago, the Ion experience is terrible; at Chinatown, it felt more personal and homely and we were valued guests but at Ion, it feels like we are overcharged by a commercialised casual mid-range chain restaurant that rushes customers to pack more seatings. We paid $450 for 5 adults (my nephew ate only the char siew and the keropok).
2 Orchard Turn ION Orchard #04-07 Singapore 238801
Tel: +65 6509 9660
M-F 11am-3pm, 6pm-11pm; Sat, Sun & PH 11am-4.30pm, 6pm-11pm
Food: 5/10 (wah I haven’t given a 5/10 for food for so long)
Decor/ ambience: 6/10 (the place looks tired and old. Time to renovate.)
You may be interested in…
–Spring Court, Chinatown: Oldest Surviving Family-Run Restaurant in Singapore is 姜还是老的辣
–Majestic Restaurant, Marina One: Excellent Contemporary Cantonese Restaurant with AMAZING Truffle Fried Rice and Durian Dessert
–Chef Kang, Little India: Should Have Gotten 3 Michelin Stars
–Joyden Canton, Orchard: When Traditional Cantonese Food Meets Modernity
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.