Last Updated: January 23, 2018
Hidden along Tyrwhitt Road, not many people know about China Tastes which has been open since 2013. It’s a real pity because this restaurant serves up authentic Szechuan and Guangzhou dishes that are honestly pretty darn good.
Alex, the owner, explained that he initially targeted the menu towards Chinese nationals but decided to tweak the dishes and reduce the spice level to make it more suitable for the Singaporean palate.
We were greeted by a smoky grilled aroma when we entered which immediately whet my appetite. The restaurant’s decor is simple and I found the interior a little messy as some of the staff were prepping vegetables outside of the kitchen.
It felt more like a zi char store with the servers dressed casually in flip-flops and shorts, but the ambience was homely which got me relaxed and all ready to eat!
We started off with 生蚝 (Oysters) ($4.20 each) and 扇贝 (Scallops) ($3.50 each). Alex assured us that the shellfish that the restaurant serves are of a high grade and comparable to those in five-star restaurants. He does not purchase them in bulk, and instead, handpicks them and rejects the ones that do not meet his standards.
Topped with garlic paste and sprinkled with spring onions and chopped chilli, it took me two bites to finish each piece. The oysters were fresh and succulent and the scallops were sweet and cooked to perfection.
The garlic paste wasn’t as heavy as I thought it’d be, seeing that the scallops especially were practically buried in it. This was a great way to start the meal and I was really impressed by the quality of the seafood.
Next up, we were presented with a piping hot plate of the 剁椒鱼 (Hunan Steamed Fish) ($23.80). The steam that was rising from the fish had a piquant fragrance that made my eyes water a little while I was trying to take a photo.
Garnished with celery, chilli padi, ginger and dried chilli, the dish looked and smelt so inviting that I couldn’t wait to dig in.
The flesh came off the bone easily and I let it soak in the thick sauce for a bit for a fuller flavour. The meat was tender and moist, and paired wonderfully with the spiciness of the sauce. I’m not a big fan of spicy food, but even I found myself picking at the fish till only the bones were left.
We then ordered some meat skewers that go for $1 a stick, a price that doesn’t seem possible in most restaurants. We were told that only the standard ones, such as mutton, beef, chicken, and hotdog, for example, are priced at $1.
We also tried五花肉 (Streaky Pork) ($2), 培根香肠 (Sausage Wrapped In Bacon) ($2) and 鳯爪 (Chicken Feet) ($1).
I, unfortunately, thought that the meat was slightly dry and a little too tough, plus I had trouble stripping the flesh off the Chicken Feet.
I did, however, like how the meat had a distinct charcoal-grilled taste, and judging from portion size alone, it’s a real steal.
We ended our meal with a plate of the 金小河虾 (Golden River Prawns) ($12.80), which was the highlight of my night. The prawn shells were edible which was good to know for someone like me who finds peeling shells an absolute chore.
In fact, the shell gave the prawns a nice crunch, and since they were bite-sized, it was so easy for me to just snack away. The dish wasn’t very oily as I initially expected and while it was spicy, I couldn’t stop myself from picking up one prawn after another.
China Tastes is definitely one establishment that deserves more traffic. Besides serving up affordable fare, this is the place to head to for delicious Szechuan and Guangzhou delicacies.
It even opens until 5am – post clubbing grub, anyone?
Expected damage: $10 – $20 per pax