such a gruesome shot, and yet, so delicious. just had to put it out there.
really, really surprisingly good chinese food at this dodgy-looking, super old-school restaurant in chinatown. the place definitely seems to have had better days – the exterior is just as worn and outdated as the interior, the servers are cantankerous and grouchy, but the food – the food is good.
and – I meant surprising in the sense that I didn’t actually expect the food to be good, with expectations further tempered when I saw the restaurant, and it all turned out to be decent – with some dishes actually much better than average (objectively, all other things aside).
let’s talk about the restaurant first – the unimposing entrance to the place completely belies the hugeness of the dining area. we’re talking old-school, banquet-able (in the region of 20-30 tables, possibly more?), with a huge stage in the middle and private rooms surrounding the side. it looks like it would have been impressive in its heyday, but the furnishings are now pretty worn out, and the staff looking nearly as tired as their surroundings.
but thankfully, the food completely outshines all these (not that it’s terribly difficult to do so). there are some proper cooks in the kitchen that churn out proper cantonese/ teochew food, most of it arriving at decent intervals.
take this duck for example: the skin was well-browned and crisp with the fat well-rendered away, and the meat was succulent (even if the duck was slightly on the skinny side). a pretty good start.
the more mainstream sauteed dishes were also pretty decent – silky mushrooms with greens that still retained their crunch (though with a bit too much sauce and not too heavily sauced, and pork cubes in a sweet-savory sauce. the latter was a tad fatty – but that’s how the old folkies like it, and that’s almost definitely their target demographic (no disrespect meant at all).
the seafood dishes were better, with fresh specimens I didn’t quite expect (seeing as how the restaurant had incredibly low occupancy that sunday night, and low restaurant turnover usually indicate bad seafood). our steamed prawns came in a slightly herbally soup, and shells came straight off – it’s always such a success when those tiny prawn tails slip off without breaking.
and that steamed fish? utterly delicious. I’m a huge – more metaphorically than literally (I hope), thank you very much – fish person, and I stripped the dish clean. the flesh was meaty and springy in the best way, sweet like only good seafood can be, and it all went down quickly and satisfyingly with the coriander and spring onion garnishes.
we finished with stir-fried noodles (not many ingredients apart from veg and noodles, but it wasn’t oily, and was properly dry-fried) and a dish of mashed yam. the first arrived when we were rather too full to appreciate it properly, but the latter went down in spite of the too fullness (my dad had seconds, rather impressively).
so the place is old-school, the furnishings are old, the service is pretty much miss – but the food is really rather quite good, and very traditional family-style. this sort of cooking doesn’t measure up to the more fine dining establishments that usually define our standards – it stands rather aside for having the ability to incite both nostalgia and gratified tastebuds, and it’s a pity (even if not surprising, given my apprehension at the entrance to the place) that it isn’t more patronised.
Yan Palace Restaurant
531 Upper Cross St
tel +65 6476 5305