Saturday October 13, 2012
Stop by Paradise Inn for a comforting chow
By MAJORIE CHIEW
For excellent double-boiled soups and flavoured teas, stop by Paradise Inn.
IN Chinese movies, the inn is a place for weary travellers to stop for food or lodging. But Paradise Inn at Sunway Pyramid is a Chinese restaurant with the primary goal of providing diners with heavenly treats in the hopes they will come back again and again.
The restaurant has a pleasant ambience, with Chinese lanterns, rustic terracotta bricks and spacious seating. Its two dining rooms have unplastered brick walls – perhaps to evoke the image of a rural setting?
I walked past this restaurant one night and glanced at the menu displayed outside. Enticing, but I had already had dinner.
At the prompting of a colleague, however, I decided that I would eat there one day.
Paradise Inn is a Chinese restaurant that serves casual meals. It offers Chinese classic and fusion dishes apart from its double-boiled soups, desserts and flavoured teas.
It is one of three restaurants (besides Paradise Dynasty and Kungfu Paradise) under Paradise Group, a subsidiary of Paradise Group Holdings (Singapore) which has won many accolades and awards in the island state. Paradise Group also owns a food stall (Kungfu Bake Rice).
Opened last December, it is a joint-venture between Singaporean Eldwin Chua (Paradise Group CEO) and his brother Edlan, together with Malaysian entrepreneur Elyna Tan, who is CEO of Paradise (F&B) Malaysia Sdn Bhd – and also one of my dining companions on the day I went to the restaurant.
After enjoying only a green tea latte for breakfast, I was ready to indulge in the restaurant’s offerings on a practically empty stomach. Tan generously ordered a sampling of the restaurant’s bestsellers and signature dishes for four.
The restaurant serves some very good teas, which are infused with fruits, herbs and flowers and while we waited for the dishes to arrive, I had the Lemongrass and Passion Fruit Iced Tea (RM8.80). Although the scent of passion fruit overpowered the lemongrass, this iced tea was nevertheless an aromatic pick-me-up!
The house favourites, Tan revealed, are Greenie Apple Cucumber Iced Tea which is “very refreshing” and Rosy Vanilla Iced Tea (which wows women with its “rosy scent”, she said).
We started lunch with the restaurant’s famed soups.
First up was sea whelk, which some people may find unappetising as it is a kind of sea snail. But I was curious – I have had my share of escargot, sea urchin and sea worm (Korean sushi), so why not add another queer seafood to my chow-down list. I was not disappointed and my adventurous taste buds relished every spoonful of Double-boiled Sea Whelk with Spare Ribs and Chinese Yam (RM39.90 per pot; serves two or three persons), and went for a second helping.
Tan says sea whelk (lor tau in Cantonese), a prized delicacy, is usually featured in Chinese fine dining. Imported from Hong Kong, most Chinese restaurants rarely use it as it is costly.
Paradise (F&B) Malaysia area head chef Leo Kam Seng Wa said: “Each sea whelk is butterfly-shaped. It is cut in half and double-boiled for three hours.” This makes the meat slightly chewy and soft, with a texture similar – though less superior – to abalone. The soup is flavourful and intensely “sweet” and does not leave you with the thirsty-after syndrome.
Double-boiled Water Goby with Spare Ribs and Fresh Apple is a much lighter soup than sea whelk soup. Surprisingly, it is not fishy at all – you may not even guess it is a fish soup – and you get a fresh sweet taste.
The sweetness comes from Red Fuji apple, said Bahau-born Kam, who also oversees other restaurants under Paradise Group.
“Green apple would impart a sourish taste,” he added.
This soup is ideal for hot and dry days. But after hours of boiling, I found that the apple chunks do turn mushy. The good news is that all the double-boiled soups are MSG-free.
Pork bones are boiled with water for two days and two nights in a 60-litre stockpot. This basic stock is ladled into a small ceramic soup pot and desired ingredients are added for any one of the the restaurant’s eight types of double-boiled soups.
If you are not cholesterol-conscious, do try the Crisp-Fried Crystal Prawn in Salted Egg Yolk (RM29.90). Each prawn is peeled, deep-fried and richly coated with salted egg yolk. The taste? Fresh, succulent and creamy.
Crisp-Fried Crystal Prawn in Wasabi Mayo Sauce (RM29.90) are shelled and deep-fried prawns with a green saucy coating of mayo and Japanese horseradish. Frankly, I would have enjoyed a more potent sauce that gave my nasal passages a kick. Despite its mildness, however, the taste was not bad and much better than a disappointingly milder version I had eaten at another restaurant. Tan said that the dish is cooked with child diners in mind, so they don’t make it too spicy.
Paradise’s Coffee Spare Ribs (RM19.90) are not actually ribs, but lean cuts (seong yuk in Cantonese). As you savour the meat, your tongue detects a slight bitterness from the coffee sauce, which is made with coffee powder from Ipoh. But this is tempered with the sweet honey coating. The meat appears to have been given a mallet treatment to tenderise it. I was thrilled that it is imbued with a garlicky flavour too.
Stewed Pork Belly (kow yuk in Cantonese) served with Lotus Bun (RM4.80 per piece) is another must-have!
Although I am not fond of the fatty parts in meat, I made an exception on this occasion and chowed down on a slice of stewed pork belly – fat and all. It was exceptional in flavour and texture (not overly soft) and the sauce was superb.
Tan said: “One customer once put in 100 orders of this dish for guests attending a baby’s full moon celebration!”
If you’ve tried making dishes with shrimp paste at home, you’ll appreciate how it can stink up the whole house. But you can enjoy the great taste of Crisp-fried Shrimp Paste Chicken Wings (RM18) at Paradise without the smell and hassle of cooking them yourself. The wings were quite tasty though not as pungent as I had thought they would be.
Poached Chinese Spinach with Egg Trio in Superior Stock (RM16) was a homey dish and done perfectly. Most housewives who prepare this dish often omit the salted eggs and century eggs and use ikan bilis instead of superior stock. At Paradise, you get a more luxurious dish.
I was surprised with the evenly coated yellowish grains of rice in the Supreme Seafood Fried Rice (RM19.90) and wondered how the chef achieved it.
Well, chef Kam was happy to tell me. “The colour of the rice is achieved by frying the rice with egg yolks until every grain is well coated,” he revealed, adding that no artificial colouring is used.
It may not be a colourful platter but you will appreciate the many tiny orange salmon roe that burst and moisten your mouth. Incredible. It reminded of the wonderful taste I enjoyed when I first tried blue cheese.
If there is just one noodle dish you try for a light meal, it has to be Braised Vermicelli with Pork Trotters (RM19.90). I was forewarned that the vermicelli have a burnt taste (no, the noodles are not burnt) for a smoky flavour. The glistening noodles are moist, not too oily and well coated with the gravy of the stewed trotters.
For dessert, I had to try my favourite Black Sesame Paste (RM8) but a sampling was ordered to share and try. We also had Sweet Almond Paste (RM8), Chilled Mango Sago (RM8) and Chilled Lemongrass Jelly with Lemonade (RM6).
I was told that the dim sum chef roasts and grinds the black sesame seeds and almonds daily to make these desserts. The black sesame paste is good stuff, while the almond paste is pure, creamy and not overly sweet.
Mango Sago is a cold dessert of pure sweet puree of mango and small diced mango for bite. It is a welcome change from the common version served with shaved ice.
I adored the refreshing Lemongrass Jelly with chia seeds which is boldly infused with a lemony scent. Tangy lime juice is squeezed on it just before it is served.
Besides the à la carte menu at Paradise Inn, there are also specials of the month. If you dine in a group, you can opt for the value sets.
There is also a special tea time promotion (3pm to 6pm) for those who want something light. This promotion allows you the chance to tuck into Stewed Pork Belly with Lotus Bun and one dessert (from a choice of three) at a special price.
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