Free-flow Deep Fried Prawns Dabbed With Wasabi: yes, please.
Hai Tien Lo, literally meaning ‘staircase to heaven’, aims to lead you on a gastronomic journey with Dim Sum Chef Lee Siaw Cheen as she presents a wide range of scrumptious, handcrafted Dim Sum items, newly refreshed in 2015.
You can read our previous review on Hai Tien Lo here.
Available from Monday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays) between 1130 am to 230 pm, Hai Tien Lo’s Weekday Dim Sum Buffet is sure to excite many Dim Sum lovers.
As is typical of many up-scale Chinese restaurants, the interior of Hai Tien Lo is lavishly decorated – luxurious cream-colored table cloths adorn the tops of round tables and gold fabric are fitted onto high-backed wooden framed chairs.
The lanterns which hang from the ceiling also exude a homely ambiance, which is further enhanced by the hospitality of the staff working in the restaurant. If you are afraid of getting overwhelmed by the menu choices, not to worry: the waiters and waitresses are more than happy to guide you in making your decisions.
Customers who opt for the lunch buffet are entitled to a bowl of Hai Tien Lo’s specialty soup of their choice; I chose the Braised Shredded Abalone with Crab Meat in Thick Broth (1 Serving per pax). The soup was deliciously rich and it was apparent that the chef was extremely generous with the portioning of ingredients – there were morsels of delicate crab meat and abalone slices in every mouthful of soup I spooned to my mouth.
Subtly sweetened by the natural freshness of crab meat, this soup was an appropriate opening to the entire meal. It was appetizing and pleasing.
If you possess a bottomless pit for a stomach, you’ll be glad to know that the lunch buffet at Hai Tien Lo contains a a la carte menu section in which you are free to order as many portions of dim sum as you can possibly finish.
This is the restaurant’s Deep Fried Bean Curd (Unlimited Serving per pax) with Prawn Paste. Delightfully crispy, the initial crunch gives way to tender and savoury fresh minced prawns. This was strongly recommended to us by the waitress and we could definitely tell why it has been such a hit with diners at the restaurant.
Since we were at an authentic Chinese restaurant, we decided to order a dish rather, well, Chinese: the Steamed Chicken Feet in Spicy Black Pepper Sauce (Unlimited Serving per pax). If you are rather squeamish about eating food that closely resembles the animal which it came from, rest assured – the chef had very considerately prepared the chicken feet in such a way that you couldn’t really tell what it was till you stared at it really closely.
With its soggy skin and collagen jelly-like bits, I didn’t enjoy the dish very much. Also, it didn’t taste particularly of Black Pepper: not enough seasoning perhaps? Then again, I’ve never really been a fan of chicken feet. I would imagine that someone who loves chicken feet will like this.
Don’t be fooled by the cutesy appearance of this dish: those puffs actually contain scallops within them. The exterior of the Deep-Fried Scallop with Fragrant Minced Garlic (Unlimited Serving per pax) resembles that of the curry puff pastry. While highly savory (I’m a huge fan of curry puffs), I found it to be a tad too thick. By the time you get to the highlight of the dish – the scallops, you will already feel quite stuffed by the surrounding pastry.
Nevertheless, if you have a huge stomach, you should be sure to check this dish out. The combination of a curry puff pastry with scallops will definitely intrigue your taste buds.
Nope, this is not extraterrestrial lives you are looking at. The rather odd-looking dish is actually Hai Tien Lo’s Golden Deep-Fried Prawn Paste with Wasabi Mayonnaise (Unlimited Serving per pax). I wasn’t a big fan of the fried skin: it left an unpleasant, bitter after taste in my mouth. But I highly enjoyed the main body of the dish: the ingenious combination of wasabi with mayonnaise really pulled the whole dish together.
Xiao Long Bao lovers, rejoice! It’s not often you find free-flow Xiao Long Baos other than Crystal Jade in Holland Village. The Steamed Xiao Long Bao with Minced Pork (Unlimited Serving per pax) was delightfully filled with juices which were threatening to rush into my mouth once I bit into it.
Drenched completely with its juices, the minced meat dissolved without a fight when I started chewing. If only I wasn’t so full at the point in time – I would probably have ordered 10 more of them.
We moved on to ordering Hai Tien Lo’s Signature Dishes, out of which we could only pick 3. This is their Stir-fried Diced Grouper Fish with Pine Mushrooms (1 Serving per pax). The springiness of the pine mushrooms provided a nice contrast against the tenderness of the fish slices. Slightly sweet and spicy, this dish was one of our favorites.
The presentation for Hai Tien Lo’s Deep Fried Prawns tossed in Wasabi Mayonaise (1 Serving per pax) was on point – the picture doesn’t do it any justice. An entire prawn was deep fried and then generously coated with a combination of wasabi and mayonnaise: heavenly.
The prawns were incredibly chewy and springy, as though the meat was trying to revolt against the force of my teeth. But trust me, this is a dish you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
Opting for something a little lighter, we went for Hai Tien Lo’s Deep-fried Spare Ribs with Lemon Butter Sauce (1 Serving per pax). My knife easily cut through the meat: it was not tough or sinewy like what I had feared it to be. The curry leaves also enhanced the lemon butter sauce. This was overall a highly scrumptious and hearty dish.
How could we ever skip desserts? Diners of the Weekday Dim Sum Buffet are each entitled to a complimentary serving of Chilled Homemade Bean Curd with Bird’s Nest (1 Serving per pax). Silky smooth and with a texture just a tad more firm than that of Lao Ban Tauhuay, this goes down easily. Lightly sweetened by the topping of Bird’s Nest, this whetted our appetites for more desserts.
Lucky for us, every diner is also entitled to two more bowls of sweet goodness. The Almond Cream with Lotus Seed (1 Serving per pax) was delightfully rich and creamy. I finished this bowl in a matter of minutes. If you are someone who enjoys anything almond-flavored, this dessert is definitely for you.
I finished my meal off with the Double-boiled White Fungus with Osmanthus and Maltose (1 Serving per pax). It is sweet when it first comes into contact with the tongue but it leaves a weird after taste in the mouth. I don’t think I would order this the next time I head over to Hai Tien Lo.
Overall, the selection of Dim Sum available is rather huge and unlike many buffets, you don’t even have to leave your table to retrieve food yourself – you just have to wave a friendly staff over to get your steady, free-flow food. Furthermore, I feel that the price of $56 per pax is rather reasonable for the amount of food you get to stomach.
Expected Damage: $56++ per pax