I’ve heard of Chinese Box but in my typical “sotong” (read: scatterbrained) fashion, thought it was located at Adam Road, which was pretty far from my home and thus put it on my backburner as I doubted that my buddies would want to travel so far unless the food was worth the trouble.
Picture courtesy of Chinese Box
I was fortunate to have been invited by Sipei of Blugrapes for a tasting session. The restaurant was preparing to launch its S$2 Peking Duck Roll promotion. Thank you, Chinese Box and Blugrapes for your kind hospitality.
I forewarned Dim Sum Dolly that the restaurant was pretty far out…she told me that it was actually pretty close to Botanic Gardens (about 5 – 10 minutes away from the shopping district, Orchard Road). Yeah, I knew that…like, seriously. Anyway, getting there proved to be quite a pain in the posterior as there were no signs pointing you to the restaurant. On the contrary, there were signs saying that access was restricted to authorised vehicles and people. These signs were found on the road leading up to the restaurant. I drove up anyway figuring that I was an authorised visitor since the restaurant had invited me.
1. Vietnamese Spring Rolls:
Mango & Duck / Soft Shell Crab & Mango
We started with an appetizer of Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls.
Soft Shell Crab & Mango Roll
@ S$8 (a la carte)
I ate the Soft Shell Crab & Mango Roll first. The vegetables were crunchy and refreshing but I could barely discern the crab as the morsel was overwhelmed by the rest of the ingredients.
Mango & Duck Roll
@ S$8 (a la carte)
The Mango and Duck Roll fared better as the piece of duck made its presence felt when the roll was bitten into. The flavour was mostly that of the greens enhanced with the sweetness of the sauce and the delicate tang of the mango.
Poet Drunken Chicken
@ S$8 (a la carte)
& Taro Strings
@ S$4 (a la carte)
The Poet Drunken Chicken
dish is named after an iconic Tang Dynasty Poet, Li Bai
. He was an alcoholic wordsmith who was known for his creativity. Drunken Chicken is one of my favourite Chinese appetizers. I was pleased to note that the chicken here was succulent and had been infused with the fragrance and flavour of the Shaoxing wine. There was a hint of Chinese herbs which some of my fellow diners weren’t too keen on. I thought it tasted like Dang Gui (Angelica root) and loved it as I love herbs and spices.
The marinated Taro Strings looked familiar. Then I realised that this restaurant was affiliated with The Magic of ChongQing Hot Pot (a Sichuan Ma La steamboat restaurant). The strands of taro noodles were springy and crunchy. They were infused with a hint of the tongue-tingling flavour of Sichuan Peppercorns. The Taro Strings here had a slightly stronger Sichuan Peppercorn flavour than the ones served at The Magic of ChongQing Hot Pot. I prefer this version.
Chinese Box Signature Peking Duck
@ S$2 per roll (minimum 2 rolls) OR
@ S$38 (half duck) & S$68 (whole duck)
Next we were served their Signature Peking Duck and told not to eat it till after the introductory speech was over. The Manager, Irene, was so enthusiastic about the promotion that she waxed lyrical about the history of the restaurant, their philosophy and how they’re the only restaurant to offer Peking Duck with only a minimum order of 2 pieces (as opposed to the convention of ordering either the whole duck or half a duck). Unfortunately, the speech was rather lengthy and the airconditioning was on at full blast so the duck turned stone cold.
After all the anticipation, I was very disappointed with the bland flavour of the duck. I couldn’t taste the American Ginseng or the other Chinese herbs that had been used in the preparation of this dish. The coldness of the duck didn’t help either. The egg crepe that was used to wrap it was dry, partly due to the strong airconditioning. Dim Sum Dolly remarked that they tasted like the frozen egg crepes sold in supermarkets. Irene probably sensed our disappointment and said that the duck would have tasted better if it was warm.
Teochew Tai Pan Superior Thick Shark’s Fin Soup
75g @ S$38 & 150g @ S$68
The soup had been prepared using superior stock and the dorsal fin
of the shark. The thick soup owed its consistency to the use of Fish Bladder
(Cantonese: Fa Gao 花膠). This ingredient is used in soups for its thickening properties and is rich in collagen. Fish Bladder is supposed to aid with joint health (like Glucosamine). In recent years, the prices has risen exponentially, such that it has become more expensive than shark fins. The soup had a slightly sourish note and could do with a little more Jin Hua Ham in the preparation of the stock.
Pan-Fried Cod Fillets in Superior Soy Sauce
@ S$9 per piece
The Cod Fillets were well-fried with a crisp crust and a moist interior. The slightly sweet and savoury soy sauce helped to enhance the flavour of the fish.
Signature Golden Roast Duck
@ S$18 (quarter duck), S$32 (half duck) & S$58 (whole duck)
& Teochew Five-Spice Meat Roll
@ S$8 (small) & S$12 (medium)
Another Signature Duck dish. I preferred the Roast Duck to the Peking Duck as it was more flavoursome. However, whilst it was reasonably good, it wasn’t fragrant enough to fuss about. The Teochew Five-Spice Meat Roll (aka Ngoh Hiang
) looked promising. It was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside but it could well do with a little more Five-Spice powder.
Signature Golden Tofu Bar with Sauteed Mushrooms
@ S$10 (small) & S$13 (medium)
Yet another Signature dish. The tofu bar was not extraordinary as many restaurants and Cze Char outlets have their own versions of homemade tofu. The differentiating factor was the topping of deep-fried strands of dried scallops. The scallop strands would have stood out more but for the sauce, which was a little too salty. The word “Signature” had been used superfluously which resulted in raised expectations and disappointment when the dishes failed to hit the sweet spot.
Stir-Fried Taiwan Peashoots
@ S$13 (small) & S$18 (medium)
The Taiwan Peashoots were well executed as they had a firm texture to the bite, a sign that they had not been overcooked. Overcooked peashoots can be pretty mushy.
Garlic Steamed Fresh Scallop with Tofu
@ S$16 (small) & S$23 (medium)
Though my tofu looked gouged out, this was my favourite item. The scallop and tofu were perched atop a bed of beaten egg whites and steamed in a shallow bath of stock and garlic-infused oil. The scallop was fresh and firm but it’s sweetness was smothered by the nuttiness of the browned chopped garlic. I love browned garlic but there was a little too much garlic in this dish. I enjoyed the soft yet slightly firm texture of the egg white which lent a slightly different dimension to the smooth yet firm texture of the tofu.
“Orh Nee” – Taro Paste with Steamed Pumpkin & Gingko Nuts
@ S$6 per bowl
We ended the meal with a Teochew dessert of Mashed Taro Paste (aka Orh Nee) with Steamed Pumpkin & Gingko Nuts. They had not used any lard or coconut cream in the preparation of this dish, which made for a lighter variation of the traditional version. The taro paste was not excessively sweet but would have fared better if some shallot oil had been used in its preparation to make it more fragrant. Though I am not a huge fan of desserts, this is worth a try if you’re in the vicinity.
1D Cluny Road
Telephone: +65 6219-7877
Located inside NUS Bukit Timah Law Campus. Map
Daily: 12pm to 3pm & 6pm to 11pm
From Dunearn Road / Bukit Timah Road: Enter through NUS Law Campus Main entrance or Evans Road entrance
From Holland Road: Turn into Cluny Road and enter through the Evans Road entrance