In less than 24 hours, I attended two wedding ceremonies: dinner at Mandarin Oriental (“MO”) and an afternoon ROM at Summer Pavilion (“SP”) in Ritz Carlton, the next day. Coincidentally both banquets featured 8 courses. I was only too excited to compare the two spreads for research purpose (still single with no prospects but one can never predict these things 😉 ). So join me as on this battle of the banquets as I nitpick every dish, ingredient, taste and texture. Let’s go!
For Starters: Both eateries served up a cold-dish platter with four different protein but executed strikingly different.
MO’s platter featured sliced lobsters drizzled with a weak yellow mango dressing, juicy prawns drizzled with mayonnaise, sushi maki containing cubes of white cheese and cucumber (I actually have no idea as I abstained from it), and deep-fried prawn or seafood roll that was cold. SP served up a more luxurious plate of Sliced Abalone with Fresh Tomatoes threaded with a long slice of cucumber, Marinated Sliced Chicken in Spicy Sauce, Roast Duck and Canadian Clam with Japanese Sauce.
For the second course, bird nest soup was served at both banquets. Bird’s Nest seems to be the new Shark’s Fin, replacing the latter as a luxurious but more eco-friendly alternative.
MO served up a Bird’s Nest Chicken Ginseng Soup; a rich chicken broth with two large chunks of chicken thigh, a red date, and a large square piece of spongy bird’s nest. On the other end of a spectrum, SP served their Braised Bird’s Nest Soup with Crabmeat and Bamboo Piths. It was a thick starchy soup that was severely deficient in seasoning and the small pieces of bird’s nest resembled the little dehydrated tofu pieces in instant miso soup packs. The taste did not make for the looks as I could not decipher the star ingredient. Even more sadly the crab meat pieces were merely floating around and served no purpose in general.
MO’s appetizing interpretation was a clear winner here. This was my second time eating the soup at MO but I still haven’t gotten sick of it yet.
For the third course, both diners offered a seafood with a combination of stir-fried and deep-fried vegetables. MO served up a Stir-fried Spicy Scallops with Fried Yam-apple Rings. SP’s take was Sautéed Canadian Clam with Asparagus and Assorted Mushrooms (with crunchy mushroom bits on the side).
SP won this round as the asparagus and the deep fried mushroom bits were so good! Although it was hard to taste the mushroom, the texture made up for it; the little bits were crispy and every bite was immensely delightful. Even though I love deep fried yam, I still could not bring myself to favour MO’s dish. The apple was clearly lacking and the overcooked scallops were a let down.
For the middle course, both served fish. MO served up Cod fillets with Teriyaki Sauce, and SP offered a more elaborate Steamed Sea Perch with Minced Pork in Black Bean Sauce (below).
Despite the creativity, I much preferred MO’s cod fish. The fillet was so delicious with its succulent smooth flesh that danced in my mouth. So tasty it was that I completely forgot to take a photo but then again it was not entirely visually stunning. SP’s fish pearch may have been so but the flesh was drier and tougher. The minced pork sauce with cubes of mushroom atop was definitely more inventive and well-seasoned. But it did not allow the fish to shine through and even managed to overshadow the star ingredient. I will take a simple cod fish any day.
For the meat course, boy oh boy did SP win this round hands down again! In MO, a large Braised Knuckle in a Burgundy Mushroom Sauce landed on our table with the waiter dividing up in front of us so we got to see how uneven our portions were. I got two large chunks which were strangely different. One chunk was drier and more “stringy” while the another chunk was fatter and juicier. SP went high class with their Marinated Chicken Smoked with Chinese Tea Leafs accompanied with minced ginger and the same smoked tea sauce from the chicken. So exciting! The chicken was juicy and perfumed with a subtle tea fragrance. It was extremely delicious and memorable; it is going to take me a while to forget this chicken.
For the vegetable course, MO offered a Baby Abalone with Bai Chai while gratefully, SP decided there was only so much seafood one could stomach, so it offered two types of stir-fried vegetables with minced garlic: broccoli and bai chai.
SP won this round with their beautiful well-cooked vibrant green broccoli that still retained it’s crunchiness. I thoroughly enjoyed this simple prepared vegetable.
For carbohydrates, there was MO‘s extremely creative take on the Singapore favourite, Chilli Crabs with mini deep-fried Mantou. Thick spicy egg broth with large pieces of crab meat. It was my second time eating this dish and I swear it was better this time around. At first, SP may have offered a boring uncreative Braised Ee-fu Noodles with Diced Seafood; adorned with large cubes of prawns and squid, and orange clams. This will usually be a let down in hotel wedding banquets with it’s stringy over-cooked soft noodles but SP knocked it out of the woods with it’s perfectly cooked noodles which still retained a bite. The plate of noodles was fragrant with a slight smoky aftertaste. I even ate up the bean sprouts which I normally hate and I saw my sister finish two bowls of the noodles!
And finally we come to desserts. I noticed people tend not to finish this course but I usually eat very little in the preceding courses just so I can guiltlessly finish this. The dessert girl in me always shines through here.
Both eateries pulled out all stops here and I delightfully lapped it up. This was a tight competition. MO did something completely unexpected by serving each guest mini Chocolate Fondants with a Raspberry coulis and Vanilla bean-speckled Cream on the side for guests to help themselves. This was a real stunner with the chocolate flowing out! It did not letdown in the flavour department too. its sweetness contrasting with the tangy coulis contrasting, and the cream tasted nothing but vanilla; I cleaned plate!
SP came very close to stunning me with its Chilled Cream of Sago with Mango and Pomelo. When I saw this on the menu, I thought it a common and boring dish but I was left impressed. I had two bowls of this with its cubes of crunchy mango and the thick and strong mango soup. The mango soup definitely shone through and brought out the generous pomelo and sago in it. But nothing could beat a rarely-seen-at-hotel-banquets Chocolate fondant cake. Or so I thought…
I was all ready to declare MO the clear winner for this course when SP decided it was not going to end the battle without pulling out all stops. It did so by..
Surprising all (even the hosts) with a large plate of house-made freshly baked Pineapple Tarts and Konnyaku Jelly with assorted fruits.
The warm tarts were a stunner and tasted amazing with its considerably higher pineapple filling to pastry ratio. The buttery and crumbly pastry caused me to clean out the little plate. The Konnyaku Jelly was surprisingly good with its tougher-than-usual texture. We were all surprised by their generousity and when I asked, they proudly replied the tarts were not for sale.
Overall SP was the winner of this battle of the banquets. I am now so eager to try out more banquets in Chinese restaurants instead of hotels. Hope you all enjoyed this battle as much as I did. And now I shall find ways to digest the sixteen course.