Five spices and chili

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Friday, December 13, 2013

CHINESE cuisine has been very much a part of the Filipino’s life, if only for the pancit and siopao most of us are very familiar with. Some of us have even learned to use chopsticks when we venture into Chinese restaurants, so its always good news to hear that there’s another Chinese restaurant that has opened.

The latest one in the city is guaranteed to give one the best in Chinese cuisine because this is what the owners—Simon Wong and Justin Uy, being food enthusiasts both—want and demand of their venture.

Tao Yuan Seafood Restaurant is the fifth in what seems to be the beginning of a chain of restaurants started by Wong and some Singaporean partners in the greater Manila area, where there are four Tao Yuan restaurants: in Malate, Chinatown, Magnolia and Resorts World. For Cebu, he has partnered with Uy and for authenticity in Chinese cuisine, they have brought in three Chinese chefs from Hong Kong namely, chefs Yuan Kam Pui, Sai Chau Lo and Lee Tong. Because Tao Yuan also offers Singaporean dishes, they also brought in chef Choo Ti Wei from Singapore.

Tao Yuan’s operations manager Michael Guangco, who is a chef in his own right, says Tao Yuan chefs deal only with live seafood so it has an aquarium in the premises: whether it’s fish, lobster or crab one chooses to order, it will always be guaranteed at their freshest best.

A plate of cold cuts can be a meal of itself, with an assortment of cold cuts like pork asado, century eggs, brain beef, soy chicken and jellyfish with a special sauce. Here also one can have the best laksa, a Singaporean seafood dish with imported noodles and coconut cream (in cans), or Hainanese chicken (imported and more meaty), which, as its name suggests, originated in China but is considered Singapore’s national dish with one’s choice of sauces: XO, ginger or chili. Broccoli here is presented differently, with a sauce made with dried scallops: truly delicious!

And so is a somewhat Filipinized dish: mango lapu-lapu in sweet chili sauce. Guangco notes that Chinese cuisine uses “five spices” powder to flavor the dishes while Singaporean cuisine is spiced often with chili.

Like most Chinese restaurants, the restaurant offers its guests the use either of chopsticks or spoon and fork, no knives. Food authority Dr. Nestor Alonso says that’s because “In Chinese culture, this is considered barbaric,” not to mention impolite to make diners cut their food, so most food in this cuisine is precut, ready to be picked up by chopsticks. But, yes, if one asks for a fork, Tao Yuan waiters will give you one.

The restaurant, says Guangco, has nine function rooms with two large rooms that have their own comfort rooms. In partnership with J Centre Convention Center, it caters to large functions where the menu is not necessarily limited to Chinese or Singaporean cuisine but also includes a choice from international cuisine, Guangco’s specialty. This month it offers a 20 percent discount on a la carte dishes, but not on set menus and dimsum.

Tao Yuan is located at the third floor of J Centre Bldg. along A.S. Fortuna St.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 14, 2013.


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