At the Hyde Park end of King William Road, ten minutes from the city.PROFILED BY DE GROOTS MEDIA
Fire-engine-red fire crackers will alert you to the fact that you have arrived at Chao Shan. Strings of them signal the doorway of this slender restaurant. It is only fitting that this tall (two-storey) thin eatery stands among the designer label shops of “posh and paved” King William Road. Inside, the decor gives few hints that this is an Asian eatery. Muted tones, mushroom carpet and subdued lighting make for earthy, relaxed surrounds and large wall mirrors are used to open the space up. There are no dragons in sight; there is, however, a cabbage – an illuminated Chinese one which greets you at the door. It symbolises wealth so give it a rub for good measure. The decidedly un-cabbage-like Tina Wang may also welcome you in. Chao Shan’s owner is full of knowledge about anything you may wish to clarify from the menu.
Cabbage rolls (funnily enough) are chef Jun Hao Su’s signature entree. Oval-shaped patties rather than rolls, their star ingredient is prawn. But although cabbage plays a cameo role, they taste great. Fried peal (Cantonese spinach) provides a rich, moreish bed for green peppercorn chicken. It is hard to leave the well-sauced, savoury pieces of poultry alone. Do so to make room for the show stopper – the lamb hot pot. Presented in a very cutesy, tea light candle-warmed ensemble it brings “ooh-ahhs” from around the room. When the lid is lifted for you, ready your nostrils for an intoxicating whoof of heady aromatics and subtle spicing. Leisurely braising plumps the moist lamb with flavour and its liquid continues to gently bubble away over the burner as you journey through the dish.