Le Garden – Where Steamed Seafood Brings A Different Experience

Honestly, I could think of so many taglines for my header – which is difficult, since usually I took quite awhile to link the post with just one tagline

Le Garden – Where Garlic and Chilli Sauce Makes the Most Important Condiment; Where Service Charge should be Waived Since It Is Faster to Do It Yourself; Where Happiness Is Nowhere Found At The End of The Meal; Where You Think of Where to Go For Desserts When Your Meal Barely Started; Where an Empty Restaurant Says Alot; The Restaurant Needs to Revamp Their Menu, or better still; They Should Just Change Their Cuisine Altogether

I felt like I have just summarised the whole blog post in one paragraph but in any case if you are still interested to read on, here you go! Dinner was suggested by a friend who raved that this place that her atas boss brings her has the freshest seafood she has eaten. And since another friend has yet to try this style of cooking, we decided to make a trip down to Le Garden 乐菀 at Marina Square. Word has it they have a few outlets, but word also has it that all their outlets will be /  have already closed down after we talked to the manager here. The restaurant was located at a deserted corner at the equally quiet Marina Square. Lights were off at 7pm (still) and there was no one in sight on a Friday evening.  For a moment, I thought I came to the wrong place or they only opened at 8 or 9pm. And then someone popped out. Oh hey, they are operational afterall! And I was brought to the table promptly by the only other staffer in the restaurant. Yup, they only had one manager, one service staff and one chef hiding in the kitchen

DSC00437

So while waiting for the friends to arrive, I was looking through the menu. They do a few set menu which you get to try a range of seafood, priced according to the different tiers of seafood being offered. And they do offer ala carte as well, for those who prefer the latter

IMG_9130

IMG_4280

IMG_7265

IMG_8786

The menu looks like they have taken a few items off and one of the reasons being the seafood is not available or not fresh which I was quite amused. How about you just create a new menu since the stickers clearly look like they have been there for sometime. Oh hey, you forgot to take a digit off the price too! #justsaying

DSC00474

And introducing the star of the night – chilli sauce! This chilli sauce tasted more sourish than spicy, which is fine cos it still tasted like chilli sauce. Remember to ask for more chilli sauce from the start cos you will end up having a second portion anyway. You will also appreciate its importance in the night to come, or the entry that I am going to write

DSC00440

Pearl Rice Grains, Lotus Seed and Wolfberry – well, that was what was written on the menu

But this clearly looks like corn than lotus seed. In any case, the grains were laid in the pot while the layer of seafood is steamed on the top. The idea is so that the vapour that was condensed flowed down to the bottom, carrying the beautiful flavours of the seafood along with it. Theoretically, this is how it supposed to be. Realistically, it was far from it

DSC00446

First up, Corn & Lotus Root

DSC00447

Which wasn’t sweet and wasn’t memorable. Even my favourite hotpot place has sweeter corn, or any neighbourhood wet market has a better selection. The friends wanted to ask for butter and salt cos it was so tasteless

DSC00449

American Special Beef

DSC00451

Well, the only special thing about this beef was it’s so thinly sliced the beef was cooked in seconds. To think the staff set the timer to 2 minutes. 2 minutes?! My beef would have tasted like rubber. Thankfully we decided to take things into our own hands and turned the timer off in 1 minute

DSC00454

We changed out the flower crabs for these normal crabs instead

DSC00458

Well, the crabs are small but the meat was pretty firm still. There’s not much meat, but still tasted pretty decent

DSC00460

France Oysters

I preferred my oysters raw than cooked, but we were not going to take any chances here and decided to eat it fully cooked. It was kind of strange we have to ask for lemon slices and even more strange they gave us 3 thin slices when there’s 4 of us. Maybe the restaurant is not used to serving oysters with lemon slices, and we found out they have Tabasco sauce after I walked around the restaurant. Nevertheless, the oysters tasted strange on its own, but it was edible with lots of chilli sauce. Highlight: lots of chilli sauce

DSC00462

Sea Bass

The fish was initially set to a timer of 9 minutes. 9 minutes?! I was pretty sure it will not be cooked thoroughly. Maybe they are trying to recreate Japanese style of cooking – half cooked, half raw. Well, our fears were confirmed when the table behind us complained the fish was still raw. So we decided to change the cooking time to 15 minutes. Thankfully one of us knows how to cook here

DSC00467

The fish turned out to be the best dish of the night. It was fresh, sweet, cooked properly (cos we lengthened the timing) and the soya sauce makes it flavourful. At the very least, one dish worked. Oh yay

DSC00473

Tiger Prawns / Clams

Cooked in 2 minutes, the prawns aren’t exactly tasty and the clams aren’t exactly fresh. But if you put more chilli sauce, the prawns were pretty decent but the clams were still equally bad. You know it says a lot when the chilli sauce can’t even help

DSC00477

Razor Clams

I do enjoy razor clams but I’m not sure if my excitement is still within me after a few dishes in. Thankfully, the abundance of garlic helped to cover any funny taste and there was still some sweetness from the garlic. Add some chilli here too, it would have tasted better

DSC00478

Abalone

Another dish where the chilli sauce provided some comfort

DSC00480

Hokkaido Scallops

Or that was what the menu says. I give them the benefit of doubt about the origin of the scallops cos the texture was coarse and slightly rubbery. The cooking time was set at 4 minutes but we turned it off 1 minute earlier cos anyone knows scallops tend to over cook easily. The abundance of garlic was a little overwhelming here since the scallops were tiny in comparison

DSC00482

And finally, the grains at the bottom of the pot which has been cooked with the goodness of the seafood, or that was how it was supposed to be

DSC00485

One would have expected the broth to be infused with the sweetness of the seafood and wonderful flavours to come through with each spoonful. But one only tasted a bland broth with silky grains that reminded me of barley. Clearly, the wolfberries (that was supposed to provide sweetness) didn’t help. Well, if they had used the same corn, I am sure there’s not much help there either. They gave us pickles to go with the porridge, but the pickles made it worse. Perhaps the only help here was some form of soya sauce

I know I made it sound like it was a terrible dinner but truth to be told, it really wasn’t fantastic. I felt like we were short-changed for the price we paid cos clearly, we could have had better seafood if we had just gone to eat zichar. I felt so bad for the Japanese tourists that came in at 10pm to have dinner here I wanted to tell them they are better off eating Macs. Given there was only one service staff that was orbiting between 4 tables and the manager had to help out in the kitchen, service was really slow. The food was supposed to be cooked and served by them. But in the end, we cooked, served, cleared the tables and took new plates on our own. We were short of going into the kitchen and slice the seafood ourselves. This place honestly needs to think of their business direction for the long-term given the emptiness of the restaurant says a lot. So for those who are thinking of having a meal here, think again. But if you are still adventurous to have a meal here, the chili sauce might just be your saving grace

Le Garden 乐菀海鲜蒸尚坊

Marina Square

6 Raffles Boulevard, #03-130

Singapore 039594