Monday, September 12, 2005

Xin Tao Yuan, Tanjong Pagar

Hsiao Long Bao before steaming

String BeansThis place at 63 Tanjong Pagar Road (6323-6367, open until 11 PM) is run by mainland Chinese with "hand-pulled noodles" being done in the window. They are also known for their dumplings. It's pretty good, but not the best. For instance, the string beans are potently greasy and salty with those Chinese black beans, making it a nice accompaniment to steamed rice. But I still prefer Hometown Restaurant on Smith Street, who makes it "drier" and hence tastier. The hand-pulled dan dan noodles are freshly made and cooked just right (it's a nice little show watching the guy in front throw his dough up in the air - kinda like a pizza crust but longitudinal). But the seasonings, while not bad, could be better (again, Hometown takes the cake).

Shredded Pork with Popiah and Special Sauce

The hot and sour soup effused of finely sliced ingredients, making it rather sophisticated, but it still lacked a bit of kick (you can add your own pepper and vinegar though - just be sure to stir ahead of time since a lot of the spices are sitting down at the bottom). One of the house specialties is the "shredded pork with popiah and special sauce" - so much that they even list it on their business card. It's pretty good too: borderline-excessively greasy and salty enough to be tasty, with a nice heaping of scallions (dragon breath alert) in a thin popiah wrapper. But the pan-fried dumplings (dumplings are another specialty here - you can even buy them frozen to cook at home yourself) were a bummer as they were too soggy (simply not crispy enough), even though the stuffing inside was composed of a nice combination of ingredients.

Hot and Sour Soup and S$3 teaFinally, the service is generally pretty good, but they are a bit pushy. Everytime I come here, they are pushing some dish aggressively (which reminds me of Anthony Bourdain's advice not to eat fish on Mondays). One of those is even the special Chinese tea at S$3 (US$1.80), which comes in a traditional Chinese tea cup with all these Chinese herbs. Typically I don't like those herbs, but this was largely chrysanthemum-based, which I don't mind so much. Anyway, come here for a far-above-average mainland meal. But if given the choice, I'd rather go to Hometown on Smith Street instead.

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