Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Singapore Food Blog - Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant @ Takashimaya 御宝南北小馆

Location: Orchard, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

To visit a restaurant along Orchard Road usually entails a significant lightening of your wallet. So when a friend of mine recommended Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant for their tasty dim sum at a not-so-significant reduction of the bills in my wallet, I should be forgiven for showing doubt. Even reviews online shared the same recommendation, and despite my cynical approach, I have to say that I was intrigued enough to give it a try. 

Imperial Treasure group is one of the large restaurant conglomerates in Singapore, bragging numerous awards and restaurants across the island republic. I would usually avoid such restaurants. For one, some of these restaurants are really a splurge – spending at least $30 or more per person is normal and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy without constant checking of the amount of bills in my wallet. The other reason is that the taste does not justify the price – a tastier version could be sampled in a stall rather than a restaurant, and at a lower price too. 

My misgivings on the restaurant proved unfounded. 

Diners are already lining in wait for their lunch.
Welcome to Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant!

Despite the chain’s numerous restaurants lying throughout the island, only 2 of them hold the name ‘Nan Bei’, literally ‘North and South’ – one lying in Tampines, the other in Orchard. The restaurants held two points of the compass in their name mainly because they purported to serve the best of Northen Chinese cuisine, such as Shanghainese, and of the Southern Chinese, which includes Cantonese.

Although it is located on the top floor of Takashimaya Shopping Center, it is by no means unknown to the public. The queue waiting to dine in front of the restaurant is evidence to that fact. A rather unimpressive outlook greeted diners on the front, but a look past the entrance will show a glimpse of an interior decorated along imperialistic Chinese styles. 

A logo of the dragon suggested imperialistic relation with the restaurant's namesake.

The waiters and waitresses of the restaurant are to be commended. Friendly smiles, with a few of them able to even communicate in Cantonese, greeted diners and stood ever ready to elaborate the description of a dish and, in our case, dim sum. You will be asked for your choice serving of Chinese tea, and be served a fresh pot while you make your choice from the 4 sheets of menu, which included Shanghai dim sum, Cantonese dim sum, and noodle and congee.

Eating dim sum does not mean that congee need not be included. Getting ourselves a bowl of warm Century Egg and Lean Meat Congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥) (SGD7.20) could be one of the best choices we made when visiting this restaurant. Even without adding pepper, the congee brings with it a subtle sweetness. Century eggs may not sit well with certain parties, but not for me. The slightly chewy slices of pork adds on a lingering taste in your mouth. The bowl of congee is no small portion, so be prepared to have 2 persons to help finish it!

We ordered a few dim sums from each menu, notably the ones which seems to permeate dim sum menus from the world over - siew mai (烧卖), ha kau (虾饺), xiao long bao (小龙包) and other assorted buns. Needless to say, we were rather impressed by the taste, meeting our demanding taste buds honed from our hometown Ipoh, a town renowned for its large variety of delicious food.

Anyone who wished to sample dim sum for breakfast should not miss out trying out congee. In traditional Cantonese or Hong Kong style dim sum breakfast, a bowl of congee usually accompanies baskets of dim sum, and for a always hungry fellow like me, no congee means not full. Hoho...

Shanghai Steamed Pork Dumpling (上海小龙包) (SGD4.80) needs no introduction, and is one of those items which you must order when sampling dim sum. Famously hailed as the epitome of Shanghai delicacies, the correct way involved nibbling off the top and slowly sipping the liquid gravy from within while it is hot. From the tasty gravy to the sweet juicy pork, this one from Imperial Treasure Nan Bei has all the goodies within. It still has room for improvement though, as we had sampled much juicier ones before. These just did not hold that much gravy to start with. Needs improvement if you asked me.

Steamed Prawn Dumpling 'Ha Kau' (水晶鲜虾饺) (SGD5.00) - just as you should not miss Xiao Long Bao, one should not miss this representation from the south of China as well. The juicy prawn within each dumpling tastes fresh and sweet, and the dumpling soft and chewy. What more do you need?

Steamed Pork Dumpling 'Siew Mai' (香菇烧卖) (SGD4.80) is also another favorite dim sum from the south. In contrast with the former, this has more substance to each bite. The pork on this is nicely cooked, the mushroom less obvious in the food. Still, it meets the approval of our demanding taste buds.

The other staple to Chinese after rice is buns. Not wanting to miss anything, we got ourselves Steamed HK Mini Chicken Bun (瑶柱鸡包仔) (SGD3.60). The steaming buns wrapped around fulfilling chunks of chicken, each bite past the outer dough bringing us a pleasant sensation of sweetness on the tip of the tongue.

Being a fan of custard buns, calories be damned, I must get my hands on this! And with my wish so granted, a basket of Steamed Custard Buns (奶黄流沙包) (SGD4.20) appeared not so miraculously in front of me. Thick golden lava flowed readily from the interior after the first bite, dripping with sweetness.

Dim sum is not all about ha kau and siew mai, nor is it all about buns. We got ourselves some other stuff apart from the usual, and were pleased to know that the rest of Imperial Treasure Nan Bei's offers were up to the expected standards. Especially recommended is the Golden Pastry (黄金葱油大饼) - those crispy and fragrant slices of baked goodness still resonate within my mind.

Deepfried Beancurd Shrimp Skin Roll (鲜虾腐皮卷) (SGD4.80) was quite tasty, each bite bringing with it a slight crisp before you get to the chewy insides. The contents were quite filling too.

Steamed Rice Roll with Shrimps (鲜虾蒸肠粉) (SGD5.50) - rice rolls are more of a Cantonese and Hongkie dish. This one here, dipped in soy sauce and wrapping around chewy char siew pork chunks, goes down well with a bowl of congee. The rice rolls are silky smooth, a point which we noted with approval.

Of all the items we ordered, this is yet the crispiest. Deep Fried Yam Puff (蜂巢炸芋角) (SGD4.20) is, at its name mentioned, made of yam-my stuff. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, this is a match made in heaven.

This is another one of the large food items that require more than 1 person to finish it. Golden Pastry (黄金葱油大饼) (SGD6.00) can be divided into 8 large slices, each a crunchy bite. The fragrance wafting from the dish when it was served was positively inviting.

The price for having dim sum in Imperial Treasure Nan Bei was not as expensive as we thought. For so many dishes ordered, it costed about SGD20 per person after dividing up among ourselves. Eating dim sum at that price is considered quite reasonable, what with all the items being so unbearable tasty. Especially so when we are talking about Orchard here.

Suitable for:            for family or friends breakfast, brunch or lunch
Cost:                             Costly , but still worthwhile considering the environment and the fact that dim sum is involved (dim sum is seldom cheap)

Website:                    Official homepage
E-mail:                       nb_taka@imperialtreasure.com

Contact:                     +65 - 6738 1238
Address:                     Ngee Ann City, #05-12/13/14, 391 Orchard Road, Singapore 238874.

Operating hours:   Daily
                                           Lunch (11 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.)/Sun lunch (10.30 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.)
                                           Hi-Tea (2.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.)
                                           Dinner (5.30 p.m. - 10 p.m.)
Directions:                Disembark at Orchard MRT station and walk towards Takashimaya Shopping Center by following the signs. Go right to the top level (level 5).

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