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Monday, 12 January 2015

[Media Invite] Dinner at The Cathay Restaurant

2 Handy Road #02-01 The Cathay, Singapore 229233
Tel: 6732 6623

This is a media invite attended by the representatives of Hungrygowhere as well as fellow reviewers who have beome familiar faces now - Ivan and Alvin.  Coincidentally, I have always wanted to check The Cathay Restaurant (subsidiary of The Cathay Organisation) and its legendary Chinese dishes out.

Now a renowned Chinese Restaurant situated in The Cathay Building on the fringe of Orchard area, you might be surprised to learn that this authentic Chinese restaurant serving Cantonese and Shanghaiese food - one of the oldest restaurants in Singapore - used to be a European restaurant instead.

Anyway, evolution happened after its closure in 1964. It now boosts an unstated elegance in its modernistic yet tastefully vintage Oriental settings, complete with black-and-white framed photos as well as olden days' Chinese songs playing softly in the background.

We were first served a pot of Chinese tea and some light starters. A pity that the Fried Fish was cold - we believe that in its hotter, crispier form, it might have tasted pretty good. Now it became somewhat indiscernible. The chilli was good though.

Next, we had the Fresh Prawn with Fresh Fruit Salad - a conventionally lovely, cold dish that boosted fresh prawns and cubes of sweetened canned fruits but nothing that stood out distinctively.

Then the Marinated Sea Whelk, something unique and exotic. The mysterious sauce tasted akin to Thai sauce, and the texture was interesting. It was smooth and chewy, similiar to squid but a lot more tender. It was so delicious I could easily eat a few pieces at a go.

The Shark's Fin Soup with Crab Meat and Bamboo Pith was no doubt a delicacy, there were actual pieces of fins within the broth, and the broth was tasty and light, nothing like the starchy sort we probably get at wedding dinners or D&Ds.

It is not hard to see why everyone adored the Drunken Chicken Roll here. The chicken meat was ultra tender and juicy, infused generously with alcohol to give it the in-your-face good taste yet not overpowering the natural sweetness of the chicken.

Following that, we were served the Crispy Eggplant with Pork Floss - luscious, tender eggplant covered in crispy golden batter, ensconced by a good portion of pork floss. I enjoyed the crumbly texture of the dish as well as the sprinklings of pork floss, but thought the overall flavor was rather bland.

Braised Baby Abalone with Mushroom was brought to the table, with a bed of spinach. The abalone was scrumptious, courtesy of its gravy, and had a buoyancy to its texture; the mushroom was boiled to a very soft texture as well, though still retaining its full-bodied flavor and meaty texture.

The Deep-fried Soon Hock came in a rather artistic posture, like a deep U. That was, before the waitresses helped to slice the fish up for our ease.  The exterior was crispy and light, while the flesh was firm in its fresh sweetness.

Now, time for the Fried Crayfish with Black Pepper - a combination of two of my favorite things. Bouncy, saccharine flesh that is complemented by the spiciness of black pepper, heightening the overall taste.

Then we had the Fried Prawn with Wasabi Cream. It was good enough in the sense that the fried prawn was crispy on the outside and had a fresh, bouncy interior. The wasabi cream was, in a nutshell, sweeter than spicy and hence not doing much to enhance the naturally luscious flavor of the prawns it coated.

And we had Fried Prawns with Crispy Oats - another delightful dish with crispy-coated exteriors giving way to succulent, springy flesh - lovely blend of sweet and savoury flavors perfected by the light overture of basil leaves. Some of them commented that the prawns were so crispy that even the shells could be eaten.

The other palate pleaser would be the Cathay Roasted Crispy Chicken, crackling skin that flanked delicately soft flesh within it - yes, unbelievably tender meat that one never expects of a roast chicken dish. Flavor was adequate, especially when eaten with the crumbs of garlic (and something else indiscernible) that are sprinkled over the chicken.

We also had the Pan-fried Beef Tenderloin - supple slices of tenderloin beef that were suitably moistened, and boosts of light, natural flavors of the beef itself.

This was another "palate-opener" - the Braised Beancurd with Conpoy, exceeding expectations beyond its rather average name and appearance. Brocooli cooked to a nice mellow texture, beautifully flavored by the gravy. The beancurd was soft but not mushy; able to cushion the teeth gently before disintegrating into a tasty pulp when eaten.

The Stir-fried Fresh Scallop and Cuttlefish with XO Sauce was comforting enough - succulent scallops and chewy cuttlefish all sporting light hints of XO's bitter-spicy taste.

Last but not least - the last savoury dish of the evening, Stewed Ee-Fu Noodle with Chives. I always feel somewhat sorry for this dish because it is always served at the end of multiple-courses meals, when everyone is already too full to really appreciate this simple noodle dish.

Anyway, the noodles tasted pretty all right despite the absence of chives, and we liked it for the moistened texture as compared to the usual drier versions served at other restaurants.

Time for desserts next. We began with the Crispy Chinese Pancake - it was not greasy at all, and the crusts were crispy, cracker-like in lieu of the softer, oily-er ones that we get conventionally. We were told the filling was lotus but we definitely detected hints of a tropical fruit that the lotus was concocted with. Nonetheless, the pancake was tasty and we were glad we ordered it despite everyone being full already.

Finally, individual desserts - starting with my Herbal Jelly, then the rest had Almond Beancurd with Longans, Honeydew Sago and Coconut Jelly.

My herbal jelly was cooling and taut in texture, a welcome respite from the savoury dishes of earlier on. It was not too bitter ; I realised I gradually finished the entire bowl over chatter, and did not have to add a single drop of the syrup / honey provided on the side.

Overall, it was a great meal with some favorites, and some superior items that we were glad to have laid teeth on. Thank you The Cathay Restaurant for the fabulous recommendations and Hungrygowhere for the invite again.

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