If you ever visit the Far Eastern countries and want to have a real Chinese cuisine experience after all those amateur restaurants luring their customers with their ornamented ambiances and charming chopsticks, my recommendation would be Lei Garden.
Because of the food getting highly fabricated and the quality difference between the chain restaurants getting worse, I approach the idea of eating at chain restaurants very cautiously. But since I’ve been satisfied taste-wise at every Lei Garden restaurant so far which is a chain restaurant too, I would choose it for a meal without a second thinking.
Founded in 1973, the very first Lei Garden was a Michelin starred restaurant in Hong Kong and now it has several franchises all over China, Macau and Singapore. As its menu is mainly focused on the classical Chinese cuisine, the popular dishes of the restaurant are dim-sum varieties, Peking duck and Alaskan king crab which were raised in their own special farms.
On my trips to Singapore, I used to visit the first Lei Garden restaurant on Orchard Street for my business meals, a street which is renowned internationally for its attractions that charm the shopaholics. Apart from its delicious meals with a sustained high quality, the most pleasurable thing about the restaurant was its open terrace, where I could enjoy my cigar under the air conditioner which would fend off the hot air.
Unfortunately last year, the 25-years-old Lei Garden restaurant was closed and left its dim-sum lover customers unhappy. Although, the Lei-Garden experience is still going on in Singapore thanks to its second restaurant in Chijmes with a more minimal decoration yet a wider space than the first one.
The overall profile of its customers are generally Singaporeans. Since it offers mostly local tastes, we can call Lei Garden a successful trattoria.
There is an aquarium at the entrance to its refreshing yet cozy ambiance. You can choose from the aquarium which fish or crab you’d like to eat for the meal.
As it is the usual case with the classical lay-out of the Far Eastern dinner tables, there are two different sets of eating utensils on the table. The set on the right side comprising three pieces are for serving ourselves from the big dish in the middle and the cream-colored set on the left side is for eating the meal.
Lei Garden is mainly popular for its dim-sums. Also known as Chinese dumplings, dim sums are steamed in bamboo casseroles. Although the ones filled with sea food are quite successful, my reason for coming to Lei Garden is Peking duck and Alaskan king crabs which are way tastier than dim-sums.
Celebrated as an exclusive dish of the Mandarin cuisine; the skin, the meat and the bones of the Peking duck are presented in a different style.
As it is done at Lei Garden, the most common and tastiest method for presenting its skin is basting the duck with a mixture of honey and bake it until its skin gets real crunchy. Then its skin is duly removed from its body without leaving any trace of meat on it and served inside little crepe wraps.
Accompanied with sweet black soy sauce, an indispensable accompaniment of the Thai cuisine, and some scallions, the mini crepes are like little taste bombs to pop in the mouth.
When it comes to its meat, it is cut into small cubes in the kitchen and although it was baked before, it is again fried in a wok with seasonal vegetables, because when its skin was removed, the meat was yet to be cooked enough.
This delicious dish is eaten in a similar fashion to Turkish çiğ köfte (literally raw meat although the modern versions can be made with no meat at all). The iceberg lettuces that come with the duck are used as a spoon. That means one should leave all the Western politeness aside and fill the lettuce with one spoon of the meal, and eat it with his/her hands in accordance with the Mandarin traditions.
I witnessed before that one can create greater tastes with fewer ingredients. As such, one of the best examples is the steamed Alaskan king crab at Lei Garden.
Right before it is cooked, your crab is presented alive at your table. When it is cooked with steam, it is only slightly flavored with a special Chinese wine and a sauce made with egg white. This way, the crab meat -which looks like rice on the picture- is aromatized delectably.
As some people think it is close to the taste of lobster, king crab is a rather tasteful and meaty sea creature. Of course when it comes to crabs, Joe’s Stone Crab is the most globally known restaurant run by a family in Miami since 1913. Unlike the American who won my heart with their grilled crabs and crab meatballs, Lei Garden cooks and presents crab legs with a soft texture thanks to its sauce and different cooking technique.
In the category of the classical Chinese food, Lei Garden has gained my appreciation with its respectful, careful and hygienic staff, and for that reason, I do not hesitate to recommend it to people.
You should definitely note Lei Garden down for your future trips to the Far East in order to enjoy classical Chinese tastes. And if you would go for specifically Peking duck, Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck is another fine alternative to visit as it entered “the Best 50 Asian Restaurants List” already.
If you ask “Where can I have the Peking duck experience in Turkey as close to its original presentation as it is possible?” my answer would be Shang Palace, the Chinese restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel in Istanbul.
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…
#01-24 Chijimes, 30 Victoria Street, Singapur
+65 6339 3822