This is my first time visiting Paradise Inn, and I must confess I wasn’t given a very good impression prior to my visit. I had browse through their menu previously, and nothing much amazed me. However, it has proven to be a wrong perception upon my first visit. Blame it on their marketing, or their mediocre menu, as a matter of fact, dishes that I ordered turned out to be surprisingly nice!
Recently, Paradise Inn came out “The Chef’s Challenge” promotion, where 6 of their chefs produced a new dish each, apparently vying for the best dish award. Diners can vote for it and stand to win one of 3 x Samsung Series 5 notebook worth $599.99 each. And for OCBC credit card members, they would also be given double chances and particularly a 10% discount over any of these 6 cuisines. Other terms and conditions applies.
I have to reiterate I am not trying to promote for Paradise Inn here, but was actually attracted by these cuisines to give them a try. So, on a Saturday afternoon, mum & I stepped into the very secluded Paradise Inn at 313@Somerset, and ordered Four Treasures Soup, Crispy Pork Strips with Honey Sauce, and Thai Style Crisp-Fried Tofu (from their main menu).
To start with, I was very impressed with their cutlery set, in particular the plates, which has a printing of the famous 清明上河图 (only a portion, as the original is very long), a very famous Chinese painting dating back to Northern Sung dynasty. It oozes class, although I feel it looks better in white ceramic.
When this was served, mum was skeptical whether they served the correct order, because the bowl used was very different. They used a tonic pot in their brochure which gave an impression of a larger portion, though at $7.90, I was practical with the portion. I understand this cuisine comprised shark fin, fish maw, black fungus, and scallop. Frankly speaking, I never try this, not even a sip. I told mum to have a bigger share, as I refrain myself from shark fin in recent years. Mum ended up finished the whole bowl, I suppose that meant it’s delicious. In fact, mum only had one comment, “Great!”
I wasn’t sure whether the restaurant was really so poor with Chinese or are they playing with words here. The word ‘密’ usually relates to secret or proximity. Looking at the term ‘Honey’ in its English name, I suppose they meant ‘蜜’. As for ‘烟肉’… I shall say people here are probably more familiar with the term ‘腌肉’, or otherwise known as ‘培根’ or bacon. Anyway, discarding such words discrepancy, this dish was absolutely fabulous! Yes, it was bacon, fried in flour and soaked in honey with sweet & sour sauce, served on an edible rice platter. Gone was the tenderness of bacon, replacing with a crispy bite, but the sweetness of the bacon retained. It was a good thing we also ordered rice (@ $1.60++), the fried bacon really went well with rice, and left a spicy yet sweet aftertaste.
This is yet another order that looked very different from their menu, which looked more glamorous (but still not impressive in my opinion). The tofu was smooth, fried in flour skin, and tasted slightly salty. To be honest, the essence actually lied in the accompanied sauce, which was a fusion of chili and Vietnamese nước chấm sauce (fish sauce), and the combination was truly excellent! Nước chấm sauce offers adequate level of fragrance, sweetness, sourness, a little salty, and mildly spicy to the tongue, I really cannot find substantial words to describe it, but it is a wonderful condiment but surprisingly not popularly embraced by Chinese (no, I don’t refer to the mainlanders here, but Chinese population as a whole), whom I consider masters of cooking with the knowledge in spices and vibrant styles in cooking.
After the meal, I told mum this was that same franchise we shunned while at Marina Bay Link Mall, gosh, was she surprised! This just proves how mediocre their menu is, what a letdown to the otherwise excellent dishes!
Mum said it would be great if dad can try it too, so here we were, together with dad, for a return visit!
Seems like they took down the banner for The Chef’s Challenge for unknown reason, I thought it’s suppose to end in September? Anyway, for 3 diners, I ordered four entrees with rice.
Their Braised Tofu was a little unconventional. Coffee shop eateries would normally have it cut up and fried, Paradise Inn had it in one whole piece, probably to accommodate the pork floss, which would otherwise become too moist and lost its texture. The dish was not served as shown, I scoop up the shredded shrimp which would otherwise hidden under the Tofu and thick gravy, otherwise it would have looked just like the sibling of the Pork Floss Bun from Breadtalk. Pathetically, I consider this dish a failure. Firstly, pork floss should never be used with gravy, as it really failed to bring out the best in fried tofu despite a mediocre attempt in improving the overall sweetness, especially when digesting it with the gravy, which easily overcame its taste. Is it too troublesome to fried it with minced pork instead? Secondly, why use the term ‘seafood’ (should really had just put ‘shrimp’) when all they had was ONLY shrimp, right? I can understand crab meat may be a bit costly, but if they wanted to use the term ‘seafood’, the least I expected was to also include ANY of scallop, fish, clam or something! I wondered whether that was the reason the waitress was trying to dissuade me from ordering this in the first place by suggesting an alternative Tofu dish. Frankly speaking, as an (very) amateur cook myself, this dish is what I would come out if I wanna cook some quick meal with these bare minimum ingredients at hand, disregarding the overall appealing and taste. It would be fit for eating, but certainly not food of class (fit for a restaurant). To me, whichever chef who came out with this was just been lazy (just like I’d do in a hurry), not to mention for his uninspiring attempt, this dish certainly wasn’t worth half its price.
Mum ordered this. While the taste and look was acceptable. I know Paradise Inn actually started off from traditional coffee shop cooking stall, but really, the least they could do, was to re-invigorate their dishes to match their restaurant status. For a moment, I was feeling as if visiting a food court. And, I reiterate, it’s not that this dish was outstanding from other coffee shop eateries. It wasn’t bad, just pretty normal. Don’t bear any (I don’t even want to use the word ‘high’ here) expectation.
Finally, at least something that was worth mentioning, although still not very impressive given the satisfaction of my previous visit. Mum ordered this too! I found the grouper fresh, and it was a delightful mix with those ingredients, and he overall appearance was reasonably appealing too. I would say, this dish was above average.
More popularly known as Kong-bak Pau, this was reasonably nice, although I felt they may have someway to go before becoming among the elite in Singapore. But first and foremost, the name lotus bun was very misleading. It generally refers to buns which contain lotus paste inside, specifically, those pink colour buns shaped like a peach which normally associate with Chinese festive or offerings. Here, it was plain steam bun, period. Apparently, some ‘smart’-alec trying to come out bombastic name without adequate knowledge. That aside, nothing special about the steamed bun really. The pork belly was distinguishably half fat, half lean, so it was easy to strip away the fatty part if one find it sinful, but that was really the characteristic of Kong-bak Pau. While the cabbage was a welcome addition, and the inclusion of coriander leaves was smart, even though it was more of a decorative purpose given the stingy quantity.
Basically, I felt Paradise Inn need to improve a number of dishes on their menu (and their misleading names too). If they want to pass off as a genuine restaurant, they ought to ensure their quality is at least one level above conventional food court or coffee shop eateries, not just a few dishes. But if they simply want patrons to see them as an alternative to food court, then don’t bother, they are doing good enough.