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Reliable but predictable Chinese food at new Imperial Treasure
Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine
#02-111/112 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Tel: 6732 2232
Open daily for lunch and dinner: 11.30am to 3pm; 6pm to 11pm (open at 11am on Sat and 10.30am on Sun)
NOW that Imperial Treasure and Crystal Jade have stopped trying to out-populate each other - during their pre-buyout days you would see an Imperial Treasure pop up within spitting distance of every new Crystal Jade in a kind of twisted tit-for-spat - you don't sense much creative tension between the two anymore. If anything, both seem to have settled into an equilibrium of corporate-led co-existence, each just doing its own thing.
With no real need for the kind of intense one-upmanship (and some fierce cooking) that used to divide diners into Team Crystal or Team Imperial, there's now little to sway customers one way or another. Imperial Treasure's founder Alfred Leung is still around and can be spotted especially during a new outlet's opening days - but unless you're one of his VIPs, don't expect anything more than a functional, generic meal that you eat more from force of habit than actual joy.
Such sums up our experience at the newly-spruced up Imperial Treasure Cantonese restaurant in Great World City - where it's very clear what kind of clientele it's gunning for.
If you want to know what your social status is, the lines are subtly, if aesthetically, drawn in expensive marble and dark wood. Important folks are herded into the rear, where discreet private rooms - there seem to be more than before - are ready to protect delicious secrets within their walls in exchange for minimum expenditure, away from busybodies within earshot.
Then there are the second-tier prime spots - cosy, semi-private booths that give you some personal space and have to be reserved in advance. And then there's the main, wide-open dining hall where everyone else who doesn't know anyone gets plonked in. Which is where we end up for both dinner and lunch.
The staff are friendly enough, in a non-committal, efficient way. There's no song and dance about the house specials, because there are none, and the menu is exactly the same as before the renovation.
"Just more pictures," offers our server, somewhat bemused by our question about new dishes to go with the restaurant's new look.
So, apart from the spiffy new digs which required a five month shutdown, and the disappearance of the "aquarium" with the live Alaskan crabs swimming out their last days for your entertainment, little else has changed.
We're told that a new counter-dining concept is about to be unveiled soon, but until then, the kitchen seems to be on auto-pilot, delivering predictable cooking that ranges from decent to average.
A platter of mixed roast meat (S$30) is the most credible, boasting crinkly-crisp roast pork belly with skin that rightfully shatters on first bite; char siew which may be a little too tender to be true but which we like anyway; and solid, meaty roast duck.
Our server helpfully suggests soon hock done claypot style (S$48) so we don't have to plough through a whole (and more expensive) fish - we get 400gm worth of fillets cooked in a bubbling claypot with stewed bitter gourd and mushrooms. With whole braised garlic cloves, this home-spun treat hits the spot with a bowl of rice.
For a Cantonese restaurant, its double-boiled soups live up to neither its heritage nor its fancy menu pictures. The eternal optimists in us imagine our double-boiled yellow melon soup with assorted seafood (S$20) to be brimming with the same whole, plump specimens glistening in its photographic self.
We do get the melon, but with a few sorry bits and bobs floating in the broth as if trying to avoid attention. Dig deep in and yes, there's a fair amount of seafood - you just need a forensic scientist to piece the scraps together to identify what they used to be. We won't quibble about the taste since it's passable, and we still prefer it to the diluted, too-salty black chicken broth (S$20) double-boiled with cordycep flowers.
Our litmus test of sweet-sour pork (S$22) is a bare pass, the chunks of tenderised but still bouncy, sticky sauce-glazed meat chunks overpowered by vinegar.
Dimsum at lunch is a typically crowded affair compared to a more sedate dinner ambience. The usual suspects are on show - reasonably good char siew pao, siew mai, braised beef noodles and the like; plus so-so congee with liver and kidney that just borders on funky. Mui Kee does porridge with innards (and in general) a lot better in our books.
As it is with most things, the price-quality ratio is strong in this one. Spend more, get better stuff. It isn't cheap to start with, mind you, but Imperial Treasure has familiarity and branding on its side. You won't get a bad meal here - it's reliable in that way. But if you want something more, that's a privilege you'll have to pay for.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.