I have noticed a trend. Successful restaurants get copied, with the “Greenhills version” turning out to be cheaper though still with the same quality, or quite close to it.
A few weeks ago, I was in Taipei where I experienced the simple yet delicious cuisine of Din Tai Fung. I noticed, however, that the menu was somewhat familiar to me and had seen it somewhere. Singapore’s Crystal Jade in Greenhills, that’s where I saw the similar menu.
The dishes I love at Crystal Jade were what I ordered in this Taipei chain. Loved them. I also recalled the days when Crystal Jade at Virra Mall looked like a blockbuster movie—with the long lines outside.
Then another restaurant at The Podium opened. Shi Lin has most of the bestsellers of Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung, but a shade less in cost.
A notch higher
The distinction begins when one of them decides to go a notch higher. Crystal Jade has just opened a Cantonese restaurant at the Fort. With five imported chefs from Hong Kong and an executive chef overseeing the kitchen, this new restaurant will again elevate the standards of Chinese cuisine in our shores.
Crystal Jade, incidentally, has been ranked as one of Singapore’s best restaurants from 2008 to the present.
We started with a crispy duck sandwich. At the bottom of this layered canapé were a steamed bun and chicharon. There was crispy boneless duck on top, with a drizzle of hoisin. Sarap!
I also raved about the bestseller in the resto’s Singaporean bakery chain, which is the Baked Bo LO BBQ pork bun—baked pork bun or baked siopao with two types of bread. The pork filling rested on a chewy bread bun while the top was covered with a crusty baked dough. Loved it.
(Why are we Pinoys this way? We still want to eat more, but we leave one or two pieces on the plate, then regret when someone else gets it.)
Another appetizer was the steamed radish cake with egg white and wine. We are all familiar with the fried radish cake. This version was steamed. Also quite good.
We were then served a delicious double-boiled crab claw with mushroom in a fresh coconut. I loved the richness of the broth. Then we had sauteed prawns with chicken and an assortment of mushrooms. That was good, too.
The assorted grain rice in hot stone pot looked delicious, but I found it a bit bland. Maybe a little seasoning would have woken up this dish.
The one that hit home was a very unhealthy looking Braised Pork with special sauce, served with a bun that was either steamed or fried. Get the fried version; that was a lot better.
Going back to the pork, it was a wobbly pork belly with a brownish anis-laced sauce, so tender you could cut it with a spoon. You cut the pork and stuff it in the fried delicious bun, then you close your eyes as you bite into the bun. It is that good.
For dessert, we had chilled avocado pudding and a glutinous rice dumpling with taro. Both were also good.
Every time I go to a new Chinese restaurant, there are two things I always order to gauge how good the place is: chicken feet or sweet-and-sour pork.
John Sy is a friend who also orders these dishes in every new Chinese restaurant. He said the pork dish didn’t pass, but my chicken feet certainly got a cum laude. Also loved it. Authentic!
I would like to wait for other restaurants to elevate their cuisine, just like Crystal Jade. In the end, we foodies will all benefit.
Crystal Jade is at Bonifacio High Street, 30th corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; call 519 8191.