Noodle dreams and Cantonese haute cuisine at Crystal Jade Dining In

There is no shortage of Chinese restaurants in Manila.

The Chinese have a long history with the Philippines, first as traders, then as residents, their language, customs, and food seeping into Filipino culture. And though the city is chock-full of Chinese restaurants, they tend to be of the same variety, serving either dim sum, noodles, or lauriat, all of these wonderful and comforting, but sometimes given to a repetition of menu items.

Given the number of Chinese restaurants in Manila, it can be a challenge for newcomers to leave a lasting impression on Filipino taste buds. But even though we’ve been eating Chinese food since noodle vendors from the mainland peddled their wares on the cobblestone streets of Intramuros, when it comes to Chinese food, we still have a lot to discover about the cuisine, such as the concept of Chinese fine dining, for example.

In Manila, "Chinese formal dining" usually means a 10-course lauriat meal meant to be shared by everyone at the table.

Braised Whole Abalone in Oyster Sauce. Photos courtesy of Crystal Jade Dining In This is not so at Crystal Jade Dining In, one of Singapore’s most popular restaurant chains. Most people associate Crystal Jade with casual Cantonese dining, as with its first branch, Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, in Greenhills.

Aspects of Chinese cuisine

What not a lot of people know is that Crystal Jade actually has different dining concepts, from budget stalls to formal dining establishments, all of them serving different aspects of Chinese cuisine, all of them committed to the same level of quality, and all of them carrying the Crystal Jade name.

Crystal Jade Dining In is the third highest concept in the Crystal Jade chain, and has won many awards in Singapore. It's been included in the Miele Guide every year since 2009, and has been one of “Singapore Tatler's” Best Restaurants every year since 2008, among others.

It is a restaurant that serves high end authentic Cantonese cuisine, many of which cannot be found in other Chinese restaurants in the city.

“Our foreign chefs, from dim sum to roasting, to kitchen, were trained in Singapore,” says Cherry Chu-Lo, Crystal Jade Dining In’s Operations Vice President in the Philippines. “We also import some ingredients from Singapore because they can’t be found in Manila.”

Baked Lobster with Superior Broth Aside from an extensive menu filled with unique dishes such as the light yet savory Double Boiled Crab Claw Soup served in a coconut shell and the Crispy Duck Sandwich served with Duck Salad, an appetizer which highlights duck meat’s versatility, serving it as “bread” with crisp vegetables in between, and with mayonnaise as a warm salad, it also has creative vegetarian selections, such as Braised Beancurd with Bamboo Pith and a vegetarian version of Hot and Sour Soup.

“We are very flexible,” Cherry says. “If the customer requests something, we will give it to them.”

Expect the upscale

Even their dim sum, which is served in between lunch and dinnertime, have unique dishes like the Shrimp and Spinach Dumpling, and hard core Chinese cuisine enthusiasts will enjoy the restaurant’s lobster and abalone dishes, as well as its selection of bird’s nest dishes, bird’s nest being a Chinese delicacy. They also have an impressive wine list, and are more than willing to help diners choose their vintage.

Double-boiled Bird's Nest with Almond Cream and Egg White A word of caution before you run over to sample the restaurant’s lovely delights: Crystal Jade Dining In isn’t cheap. It’s meant to be Chinese fine dining, so expect fine dining servings and prices comparable to that of hotels and high end Western restaurants.

At the same time, also expect the fresh ingredients, creative plating, and unique taste profiles associated with haute cuisine.

At Crystal Jade Dining In, the Western concept of fine dining meets Chinese gourmet. In other parts of the world, this cosmopolitanization of Chinese cuisine is not new, and it’s about time Manila caught up. – KDM, GMA News

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