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Restaurants & Bars China & Southeast Asia

Hai Tien Lo, Singapore

cimui | | Jan 2, 2008 12:18 AM

Hai Tien Lo, on the 37th floor of the opulent Pan Asian Hotel, is noteworthy for the service and the view (both *wonderful*), but less so for the food -- at least based on the narrow selection of the menu I was able to try. The huge caveat is that I may have missed out on the restaurant's specialties, since I was dining with a friend who dislikes seafood in almost all its forms, and extraordinarily fresh seafood is such a signature part of Cantonese cuisine.

We had an eclectic (ok, mismatched) meal of:

corn and lobster soup
chilled crab salad over ice
the combination platter of roasted / barbecued meats
new zealand rack of lamb in cocoa sauce
mango cream with grapefruit
a bottle of the shiraz house pour

The soup came with some generous chunks of lobster, but was a bit bland. It would have been better with a richer broth, less corn starch, and perhaps some scallions and a dab of sesame oil... but I digress. The chilled crab salad was tasty. Crab purists (like my parents) would probably complain about the pure taste of the crab being obscured by the stronger tastes of ginger, scallion, and dressing. But my parents failed to raise me better, so I liked it.

The combination platter came with roasted pork, roasted duck, and crispy pork skin. All were competent; the duck was luscious. It had a subtle smokey flavor and was wonderfully juicy.

The lamb was perfectly tender and obviously a high quality cut, but it really would have benefited from brining or marinating. It wasn't really tied in to the flavor of the mole-esque cocoa sauce it was served with. The sauce was obviously ladled on (in a bit overly generous portions) after the lamb had been cooked, like an afterthought.

The house pour shiraz was surprisingly nice, though we settled on it only after finding out that our first two choices were down in storage somewhere, and would take some digging to retrieve. I wish I'd written down the vineyard name. I just remember it was Australian... a McLaren Vale, I think...

The mango cream was delightful: light, fragrant and refreshing. I could drink gallons (or litres) of it.

The service was probably the most stellar part of the dinner, though. The wait staff was attentive without being intrusive, wonderfully friendly and accomodating. Food was brought very quickly and we lingered over dinner without feeling like they were hurrying us out in any way.

I can't wait to come back to try some of the seafood offerings.