What do Chow Yun-Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yim, Jay Chou and I have in common? We have all been the lucky recipients of the cooking of award-winning Hong Kong born chef Fung Chi Keung.
One of Singapore’s most inventive chefs, Chef Fung introduced the innovative colourful xiao long baos to our sunny shores during his time with Paradise Group. So needless to say, I was brimming with anticipation at the prospect of tasting whatever new concoctions that his newly opened Kai Garden has to offer.
Conveniently located on the third floor of Marina Square, Kai Garden is a welcome addition to the fine dining options in the area when it opened its doors in December 2015. Bearing all the hallmarks of a classy Chinese restaurant, Kai Garden boasts a refined ambience perfect for gatherings with family or friends.
Spacious and elegant, its interior is capable of seating up to 200 guests. But on a sprightly Tuesday afternoon when I visited, the large dining hall was mostly empty save for a smattering of well-dressed office ladies. But while the restaurant was relatively barren on a weekday afternoon, the weekends draw in quite the crowd and reservations would be advisable then.
Since its launch in December 2015, the Family Favourites menu has become quite the crowd favourite. Available all-year round, the Family Favourites menu promises a creative take on six traditional cantonese dishes whilst retaining the homely essence that made these dishes classics in the first place.
With unconventional options like Braised Chicken with Flower Crab on the menu, I was all ready to sink my teeth into the feast ahead.
And The Feast Begins
Braised Home-made Dace with Black Bean Sauce
The 6-course meal kicked off with a familiar sight, a staple dish Chinese households would be accustomed to seeing. Perched on top of a bed of pickled sour mangoes, the sight of the Braised Home-made Dace with Black Bean Sauce ($11.80) took me back to simpler times, evoking childhood memories long forgotten.
The pairing with the pickled mangoes however, was something that I wasn’t used to seeing and I was pleasantly surprised by the unusual combination. The contrast in taste afforded by the ingenious match-up of the salty dace and the sour mangoes made for a unique flavour that fired up my tastebuds and whetted my appetite well for the feast ahead.
With such a divine start, my tastebuds quivered excitedly at the prospect of the other tasty treats that Chef Fung has in store for us.
Rating : 7/10
Braised Chicken with Flower Crab
Inspired by Singapore’s love of crabs and chicken, Chef Fung probably exhausted his creative juices to come up with this novelty dish comprising of two of Singapore’s biggest crowd pleasers. Unsurprisingly, the Braised Chicken with Flower Crab ($48 half | $88 whole) was highly anticipated and elicited exclamations of ‘ooh’ around the table when it made its entrance.
Unfortunately, the unorthodox pairing of chicken and crab made for a rather awkward combination. While Chef Fung’s creativity was commendable, both chicken and crab failed to harmonise well together and tasted a tad too bland for my liking.
On the bright side however, the crab tasted fresh and the restaurant was generous with the serving.
Rating : 6/10
Sautéed Prawn with Dried Fish Maw
A sample serving of the Sautéed Prawn with Dried Fish Maw
Seated on top of a springy fish maw bathed in abalone sauce, the sautéed tiger prawns was greeted with confused expressions around the table due to its rather miniature size.
But as a wise man once said, size doesn’t matter and this adage holds true when applied to the Sautéed Prawn with Dried Fish Maw ($35). The crisp and crunchy texture coupled with the delectable seafood flavour of the skillfully fried prawns culminated in a real treat for my palette. Any ill-feelings towards the size of the prawns were soon forgotten as everyone at the table tucked in greedily into the prawns..
In contrast, the fish maw paled in comparison and seemed rather unnecessary. The abalone sauce was barely detectable and failed to elevate the appeal of the fish maw.
Rating : 7/10
Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce
The arrival of the Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce ($18) was preceded by a heavenly fragrance that induced my salivary glands to go into overdrive. Peppered with a smidgen of spring onions, the thick texture of the eggplants gave it a bouncy dimension that made it look incredibly inviting.
Having never been much of a fan of eggplants, this dish was a real game changer for me. I was blown away by the ingenious way in which this dish was prepared. Topped off with fluffy pork floss, Chef Fung’s ‘special sauce’ certainly lived up to its name by providing the eggplants with an extra layer of flavour that made me appreciate eggplants in a way I never thought possible.
Unexpectedly, this dish became my personal highlight of the menu and I’ll be sure to return in the near future to savour the delectable delight of this dexterous dish.
Rating : 9/10
Wok-fried Garoupa Fillet with Spring Onions served in Stone Pot
The second last dish of the afternoon was none other than the Wok-fried Garoupa Fillet with Spring Onions served in Stone Pot ($38), comprising of filleted garoupa, tofu and bamboo shoots.
Collectively, the assortment of ingredients contained in the stone pot blended well together to deliver an earthy flavour that was reminiscent of comforting home-cooked meals. The garoupa fillets tasted fresh and complemented the aromatic flavours of the tofu and bamboo shoots well.
Rating : 7.5/10
Grilled Pork Rib in Special Honey Pepper Sauce
A perennial favourite of the Cantonese, the finale of the Family Favourites menu was none other than the aesthetically pleasing Grilled Pork Rib in Special Honey Pepper Sauce ($22). Accessorised by an immaculate floral decoration on the side, my jaw dropped when I learnt that the design was not part of the plate but was actually the handiwork of Chef Fung himself.
Covered in a caramelised glaze of honey pepper sauce, the sauce accentuated the flavour of the ribs to deliver a welcome climax to my tastebuds. In short, the Grilled Pork Rib in Special Honey Pepper Sauce was a tasty finisher to what was overall, a satisfying meal.
Rating : 8/10
In summary, the Family Favourites menu can be depended on to deAll headerliver diners with an array of top-notch Cantonese dishes.
The homeliness and comfort afforded by the dishes makes them perfect for large gatherings but for the budget conscious diner, Kai Garden should probably be reserved for special occasions like the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration. The creative spins on the classic Cantonese dishes provided for a refreshing experience and while they worked well for some items like the Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce, they didn’t do much favours to others like the Braised Chicken with Flower Crab.
Nevertheless, the food overall was commendable and the service, exceptional. I left the restaurant happy and well-fed and imbued (for better or for worse) with a massive craving for a second serving of Baked Whole Eggplant with Special Sauce!
Address : 6 Raffles Boulevard, #03-128A/128B, Marina Square, 039594
Nearest train station : Esplanade MRT (3mins walk), City Hall MRT (8mins walk)
Overall Rating: 7/10
Contact: 6250 4826
This post was brought to you by Kai Garden