Monday, November 29, 2004


Crystal Jade Ginseng Chicken BBQ

Note: Lots of photos in this post (12 to be exact). My apologies to those using dialup; you may have to wait a while for the images to load. :)

Crystal Jade (CJ) is a well-known chain of Chinese restaurants in Singapore, so it may come as a surprise to some that CJ has opened a restaurant serving Korean cuisine. In fact, it is located on the same floor in the same building as CJ's flagship restaurant, Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant. At first, I was skeptical of the authenticity of the food. But two months ago, my Korean expatriate friends took me there for a meal and convinced me otherwise. This time, I took my fellow S'porean friends (Celine, Richard, and R) there for a taste of Korea.

A glance of the six ban chan (side dishes). Many S'poreans don't know that side dishes are complimentary and refillable in Korean restaurants. I just hope that kiasu S'poreans won't start the ugly habit of ordering just one main course and fill up on side dishes.

A close-up of the ban chan:

Spicy fried anchovies. Celine loved this so much she refilled this dish 3 times!

Pickled cucumber.

Chinese cabbage kimchi.

Celery with squid.

Spinach salad.

Soy bean sprout salad.

Pa Jeon (spring onion and seafood pancake). S$15.00. This was beautifully fried till golden and crispy. In the pancake were spring onion, squid, prawn, and red chilli. The pancake was pretty good. I especially liked the crispy edges. The small dish in the far right was the dipping sauce for the pancake.

Jap Chae (Korean-style noodles). S$14.00. Ahh, this is one of my favorite Korean dishes. These noodles are called dang myun, made from sweet potato. They resemble Chinese mung bean threads, or glass noodles, except that these are thicker and chewier. The jap chae here is really awesome! The flavors of the ingredients, noodles, and seasoning are perfectly balanced. It's as good as those made by my Korean friends. If you go to CJ Ginseng Chicken BBQ, you must order this!

One thing I didn't quite like here was the break-neck speed at which the dishes were served. The main courses came in less than 10 minutes after we placed our order, and they all came at once. That's a bad thing because the main courses don't taste good when cold, and it'd be nice if we could have some time to savor each dish and chat during the meal instead of rushing through our food.

Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap (rice topped with assorted vegetables, beef, and egg in a hot stone pot). S$16.00. Before I could take a photo, the waitress had already started to mix the rice and ingredients in the sizzling hot bowl. A hot chilli paste called go chu jang was also mixed with the rice.

Bi bim = mix, and bap = rice. There were some bits of crispy rice crusts. The stone pot was so hot that it browned the rice at the bottom of the pot. The bi bim bap was sweet, spicy, savory, moist, and sticky, all at once. Yummy!

Sam Gye Tang (ginseng chicken soup). S$25.00. This is the restaurant's signature dish; hey of course, it's named after the dish! Once again, I had no chance for a photo of the whole chicken because the waiter, after showing us the soup pot, immediately whisked it away to divide into four portions. Another must-have when you come here. The soup was so light, yet it was delicately sweet and flavorful. It was also surprisingly not oily. The chicken meat was extremely soft and fell apart easily; the glutinous rice that was stuffed in the chicken was also very soft. Besides ginseng, this soup is cooked with red dates, chestnuts, and garlic. Very nice indeed! It's so refreshing that I could easily have another bowl of it.

And it seems I'm not the only one who fell in love with sam gye tang. We were seated near the kitchen window, and I saw pots of sam gye tang being served up by the minute! It was full house that night, and the wait staff were on their feet all the time. In fact, we even had to wait 15 minutes for our table. Well, the food was indeed good, and very filling. The service was pretty decent, and the prices are about the same as the other authentic Korean restaurants in town. The bill for the four of us came up to about S$90, inclusive of taxes. It seems like Crystal Jade has got another winner in its books.

Crystal Jade Ginseng Chicken BBQ
391 Orchard Road
#04-20 Ngee Ann City


P.S. Many thanks to Celine and Richard, for letting me take photos of the food first in spite of your growling tummies. :)


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