It might not have been around for as long as many of its peers but Peach Garden @ 33, OCBC Centre has nonetheless managed to carve itself a niche in the Chinese fine dining scene.
For seven years, its prime position on the 33rd floor of the OCBC Centre has guaranteed breathtaking views of the city skyline — perhaps the very reason why it counts among its regulars corporate guests and foreign dignitaries all eager to show off the place they call “home”.
But throughout April this year, these important folk had to wine and dine elsewhere while Peach Garden underwent major renovation. “We've been opened since 2007 and it had some wear-and-tear. Our guests also advised us to do it so we can keep up with the competition,” explains TC Ho, who oversees the restaurant group's business development.
Apart from the usual cosmetic changes one would expect from such refurbishments, new dishes were added to the menu and, more interestingly, tweaks were made to the software as well. A week prior to the opening, service staff were sent for full-day grooming lessons with former Miss Singapore 1999 Audrey Quek, where they picked up tips such as the basics of makeup and how to keep their hair neat at all times.
On May 1, guests were greeted by a long laundry list of all-things-new: 10 percent increase in the floor area to 11,000sq ft (by taking over the space of the now defunct Executive Club), 11 private rooms (up from 10) of which some can be converted to create suites to fit 10 tables, redesigned uniforms for the staff, new carpets and wallpaper, and, in an effort to go green, LED lights embedded in the ceiling.
In keeping with the times, its beverage menu is now presented on iPads complete with pictures and tasting notes of the wine, while food orders are taken on iPad Minis. Clearly, founders Veronica Tan and Angela Ho have pulled out all the stops to rejuvenate the jewel in the group's crown and ensures it moves with the times.
In the kitchen, the chefs have been hard at work creating delectable new dishes to rejuvenate the menu. Pa ting fish might conventionally be served steamed and smothered in chopped garlic; Peach Garden's rendition though, has slices of chili and preserved bean sauce added into the mix for a spicier finish, taking a leaf out of Szechuan cuisine.
One of the highlights of the new menu is surely the braised pork belly with mantou. Sinful? Yes. Will you leave anything in the bowl? No (we promise). Because the meat is braised for five hours so it's melt-in-your-month tender and the layer of fat is so silky-smooth it just glides down your throat before you can hold back. Sitting in a pool of thick, black and rich vinegar sauce, this dish is unhealthy heaven personified.
You might be tempted to order ee fu noodles as a staple for your meal but we recommend the new boiled rice with lobster meat soup instead. The crustacean has been de-shelled so there is no struggle to dig out the best bits. Crunchy chunks of it dot the plate amid the grains that have the consistency of Teochew porridge.
Yet for all the new novelties on the menu, regulars will be relieved to know that the familiar favourites have not been removed — like the siew mai topped with the phoenix prawn dim sum created specially for the late Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan who requested for a food item that will make him “feel happy” when he looked at it.
The much-loved shark's bone cartilage soup with that generous hunk of fish maw, bamboo pith and conpoy is still on the menu in all its double-boiled-for-eight-hours glory. And so is the light and refreshing dessert of chilled jelly royale with julienne coconut and aloe vera served in a young coconut straight from Thailand.
It is without a doubt that a major renovation is much cause for celebration but at the end of the day, we're just glad that some things stay the same.
Peach Garden @ 33, OCBC Centre, Tel: 6535 7833; www.peachgarden.com.sg
A Delectable Decade
Peach Garden celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2012 with a cookbook
“The year was 2003 and a four-month-old Peach Garden was faced with the grimmest question ever: To hold or to fold?” Thus begins the narrative of this well-loved Chinese restaurant group's story, as printed in its cookbook published to mark its 10-year milestone.
We all know how its story continues or we wouldn't be here today enjoying the fruits of its labour. If you can't have enough of Peach Garden and its cuisine, this book should be a welcome sight.
Enclosed within the pages are 55 recipes running the gamut from appetisers, soups and seafood to poultry, meats, vegetables, rice, noodles and desserts crafted by its chefs. In the last section are very helpful guides to creating the base so vital to Chinese cooking such as chicken stock and XO sauce.
Beautifully photographed with clear, step-by-step instructions on how to create familiar favourites such as deep-fried brinjal with meat floss, Buddha Jumps Over the Wall and deep-fried prawns with wasabi salad cream, this is one recipe book you'll want to keep close to when you're throwing your next house party.