Chao Shan Cuisine (Singapore)

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Interior of Chao Shan Cuisine is cramped, to say the least
For decades, the grand dames of Teochew dining – not least Hung Kung and Huat Kee – have held on tightly to their braised goose turf without so much as a hiccup. But the debut of Chao Shan Cuisine (“Chao Shan”) at Beach Road looks set to challenge the old order.

Thanks to Ah Liang, who hails from a family of Teochew cooks behind Guan Hin Restaurant, the bustling Beach Road shop house stretch – opposite Shaw Towers – boasts a Teochew outfit among the crowd of hot pot eateries.

For his maiden debut, Ah Liang has picked an awkwardly tight shop house space and filled it to the brim with linen-blanketed tables and an unsavoury mish mesh of plastic chairs.

Indeed, Chao Shan’s unembellished interior is nothing short of ho-hum but Ah Liang’s culinary finesse, honed from over 30 years of cooking chops at Guan Hin, sings to quite a different tune. Our stellar dinner is proof that Ah Liang has his back of house down pat.

Braised goose
 

Our braised goose meat ($18 for small) arrived as slim tiles resting on bricks of aromatic firm toufu basking in a fragrant dark brew that fuelled our appetites for more.

Steamed crayfish

Crayfish (seasonal price, $40 for 6), another classic Teochew crowd pleaser, was gently steamed and strewed with a riot of yellow chives, ginger and sliced mushrooms. Served in a shallow pool of its own crustacean broth, the crayfish had us rapt with its voluptuously sweet flesh.

Steamed threadfin fillet

For those who don’t mind veering off classics, we suggest you take your chance with the fish. Our steamed threadfin fillet (seasonal price, $23 for 2 slices of bone-in fillet, good for 4 adults) rose to the occasion with pristine flesh topped with preserved mustard green. 
Wok-fried oysters with black bean sauce
And though we’ve heard foodies wax lyrical about how fluffy Chao Shan’s oyster omelette was, we swerved off the beaten path in favour of wok-fried oysters in a light black bean sauce ($16). The dish of perfectly-cooked oysters (some plump and some petite) crowned with sprigs of spring onions will win the adoration of mollusc-lovers.

Crabmeat beancurd

The crabmeat bean curd ($15) tossed with clouds of barely-cooked eggs stood out from any – and every – beancurd dishes we’ve had thanks in no small part to the generous dash of umami-packed ground BBQ leather jacket fish – though, we can’t say that they were equally generous with the illusive crabmeat. The same BBQ fish reappeared again, this time as square crisps on our plate of kang kong with sautéed garlic, elevating a seemingly simple dish to ‘amazing’.

After a round of desserts – of which we suggest an off-menu departure from the norm, perhaps a crisp fried water chestnut cake crowned with crushed peanuts – don’t you get comfortable and linger. This is when Ah Liang’s wife, Nancy, will swoop down and watch your table like a hawk in anticipation of your departure for the next turn.

No doubt Chao Shan’s service was not as refined as the cuisine. But for the exemplary  Teowchew fare, we are quite happy to overlook the less-than-perfect service.

Did we mention there’s no service charge?
Chao Shan Cuisine | 85 Beach Road | 65-6336 2390
This is an edited copy of my review of Chao Shan Cuisine that first published in inSing.com
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