It used to be that Orchard Rd was the place to shop, but not really for food other than predictable big chain offerings from the likes of Crystal Jade and Kuriya. Which kind of makes sense, the rent alone would put off many restaurant operators.
Now, the situation is better and it is possible to plan an indulgent afternoon of good eating plus the purchase of something frivolous. One such example is Suju at Mandarin Gallery. A friend had suggested Ippudo, but I was ambivalent after reading some reviews, plus the thought of waiting in the long queue was not an option with two restless little girls tagging along, so we settled for Suju which is a short walk away from Ippudon.
The restaurant had not fully settled in, during our meal the lights went out again and again and the service was all over the place. I didn't take any pictures but whatever we ate of their dinner set menus were delicious and cooked with care. I remember the quartet of appetisers, 4 little plates of light pretty food to tease the palate, and the beautifully grilled Gindara and a gorgeous tofu dessert. Well worth a return visit, providing they fix the power issues.
Duo Le at Orchard Central was not bad either. The building itself is a mystery to me, it seemed to be all long escalators and lifts that go nowhere. Serving Shaanxi cuisine which is unfamiliar to me, our group of makankakis made short work of the dishes that came in quick succession to our table. Cold chicken appetiser of chicken in a light piquant sauce was mouthwatering, as well as a chilled celery salad and refreshing liang pi (transparent noodles) salad.
One of my favourite dishes that evening was a DIY dish of mantou pockets stuffed a stirfry of chicken with fresh and preserved vegetables, I loved the abundance of crisp and crunchy vegetables and their contrasting textures with the slightly chewy bun.
The rest of the meal was not too memorable. Shaanxi cuisine as presented by Duo Le seemed to tread a safe but largely unexciting middle ground between the comparatively subtleness of Cantonese cuisine and the assertiveness Szechuan cuisine. It is not an unwelcome change, and I look forward to how the restaurant will evolve.
By contrast, the Japanese restaurant next door, Ootoya, managed to impress in spite of its chain restaurant setting. The staff worked in a drilled, robotic way, the lighting was rather harsh and the noise level quite intolerable but the food more than compensated considering the variety and portion size. In fact we had so much difficulty deciding what to eat we had a bit of everything, including some very fresh fried oysters, baked scallops on rice and the child enjoyed very much her soup noodles.
Stuffed as we were, the dessert menu still managed to tempt with lots of our favourite sweets: chewy mochi with soy powder and red bean parfait, Japanised caramel pudding, matcha ice cream jazzed up with brown sugar syrup and even matcha panna cotta. Best of all, after all that indulgence, it was just a short walk away to the nearest retail fix!
Suju: #04-05/07 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Rd T: +65 6737 7764
Duo Le: #08-09/10 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Rd T: +65 6509 8616
Ootoya: #08-12 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Rd T: +65 6884 6901