I love the good life and particular great food. Good food is meant to be shared. Follow me on my adventures through food, travelling and all that I am passionate about.
Published June 7th 2013
Sea god in Chinatown
I first heard of Neptune Palace on Gouger Street from my parents who visited during its first week of opening for Yum Cha. They had been impressed by the well priced dim sims and had remarked on the well balanced flavours. Though the waiting staff was friendly and well informed, the service was rather slow which might be attributed to a new restaurant finding its feet. Then again they were probably in need of more staff as vacancies were being advertised on their glass panel window.
Despite this my parents were keen to try out their a la carte menu for dinner. I suspected that part of the enticement was them sneaking a peek of very fresh live lobsters being delivered into the restaurant's seafood tanks during their last visit. After all, this should not come as a surprise from a restaurant named after the Roman god of freshwater and sea. Thus on this particular cold and wet autumn night, they suggested heading to Neptune Palace for a family dinner.
Setting my eyes on Neptune Palace for the first time I could not help but recall how the interior bear resemblance to a fine Chinese restaurant I had visited nearby. The red walls, together with Chinese wall hangings and decorations, imparted a feel of the Orient. It was pleasing to the eyes that red did not overflow onto the tablecloths, rather white ruled here.
After being greeted courteously by the waiting staff, I sat down with the rest of my family in the modest sized restaurant. Filled to a third of its capacity, patrons ranged from couples to large groups. Securing a table without reservation on this Saturday night had not posed a problem.
A pot of Chinese tea was ordered for the table. It was pleasantly strong and fragrant, just the way I always like my tea. Moreover the tea pot was kept full throughout the night by the observant waiters conveying orders and such through their walkie talkies and headsets.
First dish to arrive was a mixed roast platter consisting of roast duck, roast pork and barbecue pork. The barbecue meats displayed behind a clear glass window as we entered Neptune Palace were appetising enough for us to go for this choice. The roast pork had lovely crackling though the health conscious might be inclined to avoid consuming too much as the cut was from the belly. A slightly sweetish crackle was rather out of the ordinary although it did not detract from our enjoyment. The flavours from the roast duck and barbecue pork were decent. I would have preferred the duck pieces to be chopped smaller.
On recommendation by the waiting staff, garlic pork ribs were ordered to replace the unobtainable salt and pepper soft shell crab. These deep fried golden ribs with its crunchy coating were rather tasty albeit a tiny bit chewy.
When it comes to comfort food, a traditional hot pot of Chinese beef brisket stew is hard to beat. At Neptune Palace, this aromatic stew was prepared with the addition of Chinese cabbage. Full of flavour and with more than enough gravy, the meltingly tender brisket made a nice accompaniment to plain white rice.
Our last dish of steamed egg with Chinese doughnut in XO sauce was certainly not something I had come across before. I believed it was a novel dish. It was later confirmed by waiting staff to be one of their chef's new creations. Steamed egg lay on top of sliced Chinese doughnut or what is also known as crullers. This deceivingly tame dish was unexpectedly fiery with slices of chilli, which I believe to be from the XO sauce, found within the egg mixture. The savoury bold flavours were quite unusual and the normally crispy doughnut had been rendered soft and doughy. The combination of texture and flavours were too unusual for me.
We were to round off the meal with lobster on a bed of noodles but everyone was already full so it will have to be another time.
Complimentary coconut jelly and fruit were offered as dessert. Our two young children enjoyed them immensely leaving little for the adults on the table. They were also delighted to receive a finger puppet to go home with.
Neptune Palace is a family restaurant which has emerged amongst similar establishments around Chinatown. Its success will depend on how well it can compete and keep up with those in the same game. I have always enjoyed trying out new places and although Neptune Palace has not made it onto my favourites list of Chinese restaurants, I will not hesitate to return to see (or rather, taste) how it has fared further down the track.