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Published December 1st 2012
Chip off the old block
Most of you would know of the legendary T-Chow Chinese restaurant. It was about 3 years ago that original owner Chef So sold up. However, Chef So's hiatus is now over as he oversees Park Lok Chinese Restaurant together with his brother Chef Su, brother-in-law Kam Leung and Eddie of Mamak Corner. It is close to being a family business especially when you know that Eddie used to work at T-Chow during his student days.
Park Lok is close to the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. It is situated at the busy junction where Grote and Morphett Streets intersects. Away from the main restaurant thoroughfare of Gouger Street, Park Lok could easily be missed if gleaning for a place to eat in Chinatown.
About five months ago, Park Lok took over the former site of J Restaurant. As the Chinese grapevine has it, word got around that Park Lok serves decent authentic Cantonese and Teochew cuisine. On hearing this, I could not wait to try out these Cantonese flavours which I am so familiar with and also tease my tastebuds with my other favourite regional food, that being Chiuchow, or better know as Teochew cuisine.
Without much ado, I visited Park Lok for an informal weeknight dinner with the family. A spacious restaurant with a seating capacity of 200, it was half full on that night. Unlike many restaurants these days, the tables were widely set apart from each other allowing plenty of room in between.
Rich crimson wallpapers commanded attention. Chandeliers added to the impact. Various decorations such as oriental wall hangings and room dividers were quintessential of a Chinese restaurant.
On my first visit a review was not possible due to my impatience to get to the food, as it looked so inviting on the table! As I recalled, our sumptuous feast of Oyster Omelette, Park Lok Tender Duck, Chinese Broccolli with Dried Fish, Quails with Pine Nut and Special Steamed Barramundi not only tantalised our tastebuds but burgeoned our bellies. Everyone had an extended waistline that night.
Service was also commendable. It was prompt and serving staff was attentive to our needs. This was helped by having waiters and waitresses who could understand and speak English. Nothing was lost in translation here unlike some other Chinese establishments where they assumed that Mandarin is the only language understood by both parties.
When I was asked to review Park Lok, it was simply a chance I could not miss. Thus I returned again within a fortnight of my first visit and this time it was for lunch. Car parking is available in front of the restaurant and the streets nearby.
In contrast to dinner two weeks ago, Park Lok was considerably quiet at lunchtime. Co-owner Eddie was on the floor and made recommendations for our lunchtime treat. A line up of Park Lok's signature dishes were to be expected. The only exception would be the the Pig Stomach Pepper Soup, an invigorating broth which warms the soul. This soup is best not consumed on a hot day if you do not want to perspire too much.
Our first entree were Cabbage Rolls. These little savoury morsels of minced prawn with shredded cabbage reminded me of sushi. Fried and wrapped in what I gathered to be nori seaweed, there were also bits of shitake mushroom hidden within. Pleasing to the palate, these made a great start to the meal.
Triangular Prawn Samosas were filled with bean thread vermicelli and prawn pieces. These inventive Asian parcels with its crunchy exterior would appeal to many. These prawn samosas were like little brothers to the ever popular spring roll.
Peppercorn Chicken arrived on a layer of crispy greens. As peppercorn goes, this dish of tender chicken pieces was very mild. Try to get hold of the greens whilst they are still crunchy. They will eventually be softened by the slight gravy.
The delicious Park Lok Duck can be ordered with or without bones. I have tried both and personally prefer the style favoured by the Chinese - with bones! The latter commands a more superior taste and somehow the meat seems more tender. The deboned version is somehow slightly saltier. The dipping sauce of garlic and vinegar brings a different dimension to the taste of the soy based duck and complements it so well.
Fried Rice with Salted Fish is a great alternative to the more ordinary fried rice. It was tasty enough to eat on its own. At the same time, it made a good accompaniment to the Peppercorn Chicken and Park Lok Duck.
Green Bean with Jelly ended the meal with a sweet finish. This traditional Teow Chew dessert literally was a taste sensation. It consists of tiny shelled mung beans floating on some crunchy house-made jelly suspended in syrup.
Park Lok has now been added to my list of favourite restaurants. I will slowly be exploring their other dishes on their extensive menu to get a bigger picture of their offerings. I am sure I will be just as happy and satisfied as I have been on these two previous occasions.
It seems vastly superior to your average suburban Chinese restaurant, with an interesting selection of dishes. The prices seem quite modest too. I'm surprised I haven't heard about it from the Chinese side of my family since they almost lived in T-chow :)