Located in my absolute favourite staycation destination in Singapore, the Pan Pacific Singapore, is an award-winning Cantonese restaurants that harnesses both the essence of traditional flavours as well as the importance of innovating through contemporary twists - Hai Tien Lo. It has been voted as one of Singapore's Best Restaurant (2013) by the Singapore Tatler as well as one of Singapore's Top Restaurants (2013) by Wine & Dine.
Starting off dare I say, the best dim sum buffet I have been to thus far, is one of the Chef's Signature dishes, the Mini "Buddha Jumps over the Wall". The double-boiled soup was rich in flavour and contained many premium ingredients within. Do note that it is only a single serving per person for this dish!
Next, we were presented with the Braised Whole Abalone with Bean Curd in Superior Oyster Sauce. Albeit looking rather simple, the star of this dish is the handmade bean curd which was silky and soft on the inside. The sauce also provided a good binding between the different textures and sweetness of the abalone and the bean curd.
Following this dish, we were presented with a choice of two dishes from a list of five. Similar to the previous two dishes, only one serving is provided per table. I decided to go with the Steamed Freshwater Cat Fish with Minced Ginger and the Quick Fried Hokkaido Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables.
The Chinese generally believe that a good fish should never be fried and should only be steamed to ensure that it isn't wasted. Whilst the freshwater cat fish isn't a commonly associated "good fish", the flesh of the meat was tender yet firm enough to provide a good texture. The sauce did not overpower the natural sweetness of the fish and the minced ginger provided another element to the overall taste.
Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the following dish - the Quick Fried Hokkaido Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables. While it was not bad per se, I thought that nothing really stood out in this dish and it was on the whole, pretty average. Besides, being a special dish where you are only able to order it once, I was hoping for it to stand out a lot more.
If you're wondering why was I only able to order one serving of each item in this dim sum buffet, fret not! The fun part start here! There are over 50 items in the ala carte buffet menu which includes appetisers, soups, main courses as well as desserts. You can choose between freshly poached prawns, beef cheeks, venison and a rather extensive dim sum menu. There are no restrictions on how much you can order so long you think you're able to finish what you order.
I wasn't able to sample every dish on the menu (due to stomach space constraints) but of those that I have tried, I particularly liked the following dishes (in the order of my preference). My personal favourite of the ala carte buffet menu is the Braised Homemade Bean Curd with Minced Pork and Pine Mushrooms in Chef’s Special Homemade XO Chilli Sauce. The sauce itself was excellent and the mushrooms were succulent in locking in the juicy flavours.
The next dish is one that is served regularly in Chinese restaurants, the Poached Chinese Spinach with Assorted Eggs in Superior Stock. With that being said, I'm rarely impressed by this dish in other restaurants but Hai Tien Lo really nailed it. The unison of flavours were masterfully showcased through this exemplary dish and the viscosity of stock truly holds it well. I'm generally not a fan of the century egg and I usually pick it out of the dish but that did not happen here. If you're here for dinner or the dim sum buffet, you have to try this dish!
Third on my list is the Stewed Beef Cheeks and Deer Tendon with Chinese Herbs. I chose this dish initially because it was slightly out of the ordinary - at least it was not something I was expecting to see in a dim sum buffet. The beef cheeks were tender and contained a good mixture of meat and (sticky) fat. The deer tendon was cooked through thoroughly (not crunchy like the ones you get outside which some much actually prefer) and locked in the sweetness from the Chinese herbs.
I then ordered the Deep-fried Prawns tossed in Wasabi Mayonnaise. When it was served to me, I was slightly baffled to see a block of watermelon stacked under it. The deep fried lotus root did nothing spectacular for me but the water melon and the prawns provided variation in both textures and tartness. It was a curious combination but I personally thought that it worked really well together. For those of you who usually avoid wasabi (like me), you'll be glad to know that the taste of wasabi isn't overwhelming as the light batter coating the prawn helps to blend in most of the flavours.
The Steamed Pork Dumplings with Fish Roe (more commonly known as "Siew Mai") is always a dish you should try in every dim sum restaurant. Not only is it a staple dish in traditional dim sum restaurants, it is also a good measure of the dim sum chef's skill and the importance the restaurant places on quality ingredients. This "Siew Mai" received two big ticks in the skill and quality department from me.
The Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (more commonly known as "Har Gow") was also a display of the chef's intricate skills. The filling was flavourful and the translucent skin was strong enough to hold the ingredients but yet thin enough not to weigh down on the overall texture.
This is not your usual "Chai Tow Kuay" you get from the local hawker centre, the Stir-fried Carrot Cake with Chef’s Special Homemade XO Chilli Sauce is made from real white radish. While the carrot cake itself did not stand out particularly but the XO Chilli Sauce itself was really rich and flavourful (which I enjoyed thoroughly).
The final two dishes that I am going to feature are average at best. While the Deep-fried Buns with Minced Pork, Dried Shrimps, aubergine and Chilli were not particularly oily, the fillings were rather ordinary in my opinion.
Finally, the Pan-fried Dumplings with Chives, Minced Pork, Prawns and Mushrooms reminded me a little of a Japanese 'Mochi' texture on the outside which was interesting but once again the filling did not perform exceptionally well.
There's a really fancy room for groups (up to 20) called the Ruby Room which has its own attached bathroom and a small lounge area. For larger or smaller groups, there are also rooms that are partitioned (which can be removed) away.
All in all, Hai Tien Lo generally serves high quality dim sums and main courses. Priced at S$68++ per person (approximately S$80 nett), the dim sum buffet does not come cheap. With that being said, I strongly believe that high quality ingredients and good food come at a price. Instead of paying S$40 for poached eggs and coffee this weekend, why not check out the food at this amazing restaurant? I'm personally a huge fan of it and I am already planning on returning soon. In fact you can even make reservations online via the website listed.
Adult: S$68++ | Child: S$38++
(minimum of two diners)
Time: 11:30am to 2:30pm
This was an invited food-tasting session.
Hai Tien Lo