Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine, Singapore

sometime last year, yet another addition was made to the array of imperial treasure and crystal jade restaurants within ngee ann city (there are so many variations of the 2 brand names within that one building that i always find that i have to triple check which outlet is the one i’m meant to be heading to) – imperial treasure shanghai cuisine. head up to the 4th floor of the building and you’ll find it where coca restaurant used to be; its hard to miss because of the row of cocoon-like booth seats lining the side of the restaurant.
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if not for the fact that our shanghainese family friends took us for dinner there one night, i probably would never have ventured into this restaurant. it exudes a fancier and more upmarket vibe than the regular chinese restaurant chains like crystal jade la mian xiao long bao or din tai fung, more like somewhere that you’d go to for a sit-down extended family dinner rather than somewhere i’d head to with friends for a casual dim sum meal. boy am i glad they took us there that one night though, because that was the fateful meal where i discovered my current favourite xiao long baos in singapore!

i was so impressed with the food we had with our family friends (we had a proper shanghainese feast – starters, pork buns, dim sum at the side, fish, duck, rice cake, rice wine dessert etc etc) that i vowed to return, and jumped at the opportunity to do so when a craving for xiao long baos came around…

the great thing is that they serve dim sum even at dinner time, so i visited after work on a weekday night for my yummy shanghainese dim sum fix. service is top-notch and extremely attentive, and we were given a booth seat which was nice and cosy for two. besides booth seats, they also have a good number of private rooms and regular tables. i love how the area is quite spacious and the tables are well-spaced to afford diners privacy and a pleasant dining experience.
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 here’s the dim sum menu:
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between the 2 of us, we ordered 4 different dim sums and a bowl of noodles to share. would definitely have gone for more if not for the fact that i had a huge and late lunch that day! the meal started with the usual chilled braised peanuts that you get at chinese restaurants, and its worth mentioning that they were pretty good – well-braised to soft perfection and very nicely-flavoured too.

first of our dim sums to arrive was the xiao long bao:
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shanghai steamed pork dumpling – $7.80

as i said above, these are my current favourite xiao long baos in all of singapore – they are divine! served piping hot, the xlb skin is smooth, delicate, moist and thin (but not too thin such that you have soup leaking out everywhere), bursting open to reveal wonderfully tasty soup and tender and juicy meat.
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all i can say is it’ll be a while before/ it won’t be any time soon that i return to din tai fung or taste paradise for their xiao long baos. this is officially my new go-to place for these little packets of tasty goodness! perfection in a mouthful mmm…

we also ordered a plate of pork buns:
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pan fried shanghai pork bun – $4.20

these were some beautiful buns 😉 just check out how perfectly pan fried they were:
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love the crispiness that the lightly-charred base added to the pau which was a great addition of texture to the pau skin. the pau skin itself was great – soft (but still retaining a nice chewy bite), light and of just the right thickness. as for the meat within the pau, it was actually pretty much like the xiao long bao filling, as moist and tasty and juicy as ever! together with the fluffy pau skin, this made for a great little pau. such perfectly pan-fried paus are not that easy to come by, so i’d recommend ordering this for a taste of some typically shanghainese dim sum.20140812_191245

 moving on with the pork filling agenda, we also got a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings:20140812_191320
pan-fried pork dumpling – $4.20

the last of our porky items for the day – guo tie, and they didn’t disappoint either! these delicious dumplings literally exploded when you bit into them, the piping hot porky juice filling your mouth. the skin was soft and thin but wonderfully crisp on the bottom, and each of them contained as much juice as the xiao long baos. definitely one of the better guo tie renditions i’ve had!

the final dim sum we ordered was the scallion pastry aka chong you bing:
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deep fried scallion pastry – $3.20

this wasn’t quite what we expected as we were imagining more of a flat chive pancake-like dish. nevertheless, it was pretty good! the pastry was flaky and light, encasing a generous amount of scallions that were fresh, crunchy and well-fried. even though it was deep fried, it wasn’t too oily and was very tasty.
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 finally, we ordered a bowl of noodles to round off the meal:20140812_190932
noodle soup with pork and vegetable dumplings

i very fondly remember this to be a very delicious bowl of noodles! much finer than the regular la mian or noodle soups that you get at other more mass-market xlb restaurants, the soup was delicately flavoured and noodles cooked to perfection. they were thin, tasted very fresh and had a nice bite to them. as for the soup, it was extremely tasty and had a very strong taste of natural sweetness from chicken (i think? if our taste buds didn’t fail us). what we liked most about it was that it didn’t taste like any old noodle soup; instead, the soup tasted like very well-done double-boiled-type chicken soup that they serve on a per bowl basis to start the meal in good chinese restaurants (sans the fancy ingredients that normally go with it eg abalone, mushrooms, chicken etc). the dumplings in the soup were also great:
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they were big, the dumpling skin was extremely smooth, fine and thin, and they were generously stuffed with yummy pork and fresh vegetables. i’m sorry i don’t have the exact name and price of this bowl of noodles, but it was really good and i’d certainly order this (or any other bowl of noodles to try something new, for that matter) again when i return.

imperial treasure shanghai cuisine is a great place for a spot of shanghainese treats. besides the divine dim sum offerings, they also serve a range of main dishes and more substantial food for a full-blown chinese banquet. because not many people know of or pay much attention to its existence, i’d say their xiao long baos are a hidden gem (for now, at least). reasonable prices (our total bill came up to less than $40 if i remember correctly), great ambience, wonderful service, delicious food and a convenient location smack in the middle of orchard road – what more can one ask for? definitely worth a try!

Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine
Takashimaya S.C., #04-22
391 Orchard Road
Singapore 238872

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Shimbashi Soba, Singapore

today i shall write about my newfound love for this soba place in paragon’s basement: shimbashi soba!!!
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i remember having tried it once with my parents when it first opened; it was quite a long time ago and we didn’t like it enough to pay it any return visits in the following years. it was only about 3 weeks ago when it was suggested as the venue for a dinner with some friends that i returned for them oodles of noodles. and i am glad i did!

shimbashi soba is a casual family-friendly set up with pleasant and efficient service and an extensive menu. besides a range of hot sobas and cold sobas, they also have set meals, some sushi rolls and assorted japanese sides, along with a decent array of desserts (which i hear are worth a try). we were there at half past seven on a weekday evening, and the place was full, with a queue forming outside the shop a while after we were seated. they have quite a few tables though, and food is served quickly so the turnaround time for tables is pretty quick.
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some info about their soba which is handmade on site daily:
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on my first visit there, i ordered the tenchirashi soba which is soba topped with mixed tempura fritters and a poached egg. this is the bukkake style of serving, where the soba is served chilled, with sauce poured over it. my eyes lit up when the plate of soba was laid before me, and i was not disappointed when i took my first bite!
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it is a generous serving of soba and there is seriously a mountain of tempura on that plate, so much so that its hard to mix everything together without having pieces of tempura falling off the plate, and you can barely see the noodles hidden below when the dish is served. the mixed tempura consists of prawn and assorted mushrooms and veggies like ladies fingers – just my cup of tea! the tempura wasn’t oily which kept the dish light, and the amount of batter coating each piece was just nice. the ingredients were fresh and the oil used to fry the tempura was definitely fresh (always a plus point! nobody likes the taste of reused oil…). together with the sauce, egg, and topped with spring onions, everything came together very well to make a super yummy and refreshing cold soba dish. i loved this so much when i had it the first time that i ordered the same thing when i returned yesterday night! i contemplated others but figured the probability of not being as satisfied and leaving disappointed were too high…

as for the soba itself, the noodles are delicious – they are of perfect consistency, springy with just the right amount of bite. the texture is spot-on and the best part is that the noodles are really light and you don’t feel overly full even after having a whole plate of noodles! the very yummy noodles are made fresh daily and are cooked and served only upon each order; this shines through in the taste and texture of the noodles. no preservatives or additives are added, and the soba is said to contain a range of nutrients not only beneficial to one’s health but also having anti-ageing and beautifying properties.

if you want to really appreciate the noodles in a completely unadulterated form, i would suggest going for the options on the menu with less toppings to distract from the noodles themselves (they have plenty). other things my dining companions have ordered at our meals:
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cold soba with kimchi

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cold soba with sesame dipping sauce

this is the best way to really savour the noodles as they are – just plain noodles dipped into a delicious cold and creamy sesame sauce. despite being thick, the sesame sauce is not heavy and goes very well with the noodles.

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cold soba with clams broth

the broth here is a warm broth and we were pleasantly surprised at the clams in it. they were rather big and plump compared to clams used at other places which tend to be small and completely unsubstantial. the broth was yummy when taken with the soba, but was too salty for my liking when taken alone.

sorry i don’t have the exact prices for the different dishes above but they all range from about $16-$20! for the quality of the soba i’d say its worth it, but it is a little on the pricey side for the plain sobas which just come with dipping sauce (like the sesame one).

i’ve gone twice since i rediscovered this place, and i’m sure i’ll be going back pretty often, especially when i’m looking for a light, refreshing and quick meal. they also have an extensive vegetarian menu with a range of vegetarian sets that include vegetable tempura, vegetarian soba, vegetarian sushi etc. they all look good and seem to be a draw for vegetarians looking to enjoy some japanese food. oishi!!! soba so good 😉

Shimbashi Soba
#B1-41 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
Singapore 238859
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PS. if none of the desserts on the shimbashi soba menu catch your eye, there’s always honeymoon desserts right opposite to satisfy those cravings for some yummy chinese desserts:20140717_211325
green tea x durian x vanilla x watermelon: weird but (very) wonderful

Ramen Bari-Uma, Singapore

the search for my favourite bowl of ramen in singapore continues, this time with a trip to bariuma ramen. we decided to give this place a try after many people dubbed it underrated and after checking it out, i must say i have to agree!

a corner unit in the basement of the unremarkable tanglin shopping centre (accessed from the main road; there is no need to enter the mall at all) is where you’ll find this great ramen joint that hails from hiroshima. what i like about its location is that it is tucked away at the quieter side of bustling orchard road, making it central yet well away from the crowds.20140623_193708

we were there on a monday night and though there was no queue (which seems to be a prerequisite for ramen joints in singapore), there was quite a healthy crowd and even as we left at close to 9pm, there were still customers streaming in and several who placed takeaway orders.
20140623_194129its a really casual and fuss-free place that i felt gave off a very homely/family-run vibe, probably due to a combination of the relatively hidden location, simple decor, open kitchen and friendly staff. in fact, i could imagine this being a traditional ramen house in japan where customers came for piping hot bowl of ramen to hide from the cold outside!

this huge sign plastered on the wall at the entrance of the shop also cracked me up and seemed very typically japanese:
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the menu is mainly focused on ramen:20140623_194334
but they also have some sides that you can order to go with your noodles, like gyoza and yakitori. they also have some hot stone rice bowl options: 20140623_194225

we had read about and seen the sign outside the shop about the ajitama-uma ramen being their specialty, so that’s what the both of us opted for.
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ajitama-uma ramen – $15.50
the ajitama-uma ramen comes with a thick-cut slice of flamed chashu, a whole onsen egg, bamboo shoots, and a sprinkling of fresh spring onions. the soup base is a combination of shoyu and tonkotsu – this is quite interesting and unique to bariuma, given that most ramen shops in singapore serve bowls of ramen that are either shoyu or tonkotsu based, never really a combination of both; i think this is the first place i’ve seen and tried this! it was super rich and tasty, and was not only served piping hot but also managed to stay that way for quite a long while after, something that doesn’t happen with bowls of ramen as often as it should (i find that many of them tend to cool down really quickly ie if you snap a few pics of it before tucking in, it is no longer as hot as when first served!). i slurped up every last drop of the collagen-filled soup that was simmered for hours.
(pictorial evidence:
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we soon realised our initial apprehension that the chashu wouldn’t be enough (since each bowl only comes with 1 slice) was unfounded when we saw how thick the chashu slice in our soup was. check it out:20140623_195506
look at it glistening irresistibly in all its glory – it was an extremely substantial slice and was surprisingly enough to go with the whole bowl of noodles! despite its thickness, it was not tough or dry; on the contrary, it was moist and tender, and the fact that it was flamed made it extremely flavourful and yummy. (i am clearly quite a fan of their chashu) if you really enjoy the chashu, you can even order a plate of aburi chashu as a side (see menu above); i can only imagine how delicious that melt-in-your-mouth goodness will be!

as for the egg, 1 of us got a perfectly done onsen egg with a wonderfully viscous yolk, while the other (me, sadly) got one that was completely overcooked.
the perfect:
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the far (far far) from perfect (i was the sad and very disappointed recipient of this completely overcooked onsen egg):20140623_200600
the only saving grace was that when i told the waitress that my egg was completely overcooked, she immediately brought another over with no questions whatsoever. the 3rd egg was an in-between – the yolk could definitely have been more liquid, but thankfully it was not overcooked:20140623_200900
so do note that the eggs are quite hit and miss! i also felt that the egg white could have been a little more strongly-flavoured.

the noodles were great – i like my noodles to have some bite, and their homemade noodles provided just that; they were of the long and thin sort, and are freshly made at the restaurant. oishi!!!
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oh yes, there is an ongoing promotion where if you sign up for their mobile membership, you get a free serving of 3 gyozas:20140623_201551

indeed, free food is hard to resist and so we ended up with these goodies to share between us:20140623_195333
chicken gyoza
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we thought they were pretty good, but nothing exceptional. i liked how the filling was fresh and didn’t taste like the frozen sort, and how it was pan-fried till they had crispy bases like guo tie. they make a decent snack to stave off hunger pangs while waiting for the ramen to arrive. (although come to think of it, our gyozas arrived after our ramen hahaha!)

other than the problems with the eggs, i would say bariuma serves an extremely satisfying, and sadly underrated, bowl of ramen. i will undoubtedly be back for more and would even go so far as to say that in my humble opinion, bariuma serves up a better (and much more value-for-money) bowl of ramen than ippudo does! also, the fact that you don’t need to queue for the former is icing on the cake.

face of a very satisfied customer (aka my date for the night):
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2 thumbs up!

this little ramen joint is certainly a hidden gem, and i’m already looking forward to the next time i can again tuck into this bowl of porky goodness! see you there 😉
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Ramen Bari-Uma
19 Tanglin Road
#B1-01, Tanglin Shopping Centre
Singapore 247909

ps. they’ve opened a 2nd branch at united square