Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant

Sunday, 21 February 2016

With this being the Lunar New Year period, many Singaporean Chinese would have had steamboat very recently. It's almost like the de facto gathering meal for friends and family during this period. Which is absolutely great for me, since I love a good steamboat.
In fact, my group of foodie friends and I come together for steamboat pretty often round the year. I believe we've tried most of the major steamboat restaurants that has been sprouting up in Singapore in recent times. So when one of us suggested a new-to-us place, I was pretty excited.

Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant opened only in October last year. While we were there, I observed several diners being confused between the Hua Ting Restaurant and this newer outlet at Claymore Connect. The original Hua Ting (Cantonese) Restaurant is located within the Orchard Hotel premises, level 2.
Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant is however, located at the mezzanine level of adjoining Claymore Connect. If you come in through the hotel, look for the entrance to Claymore Connect (next to a pair of escalators, near concierge). Once you walk down that short flight of stairs, turn left and you should be able to see Hua Ting Steamboat Restaurant.

We were given seats very near the entrance of the restaurant, but since the place was relatively quiet, the arrangement was fine with us. In fact, at first glance, we were a little taken aback as the place was deceptively small for a restaurant. Until we realised that there were at least 2 private rooms and additional hidden space.
Hua Ting is one of those outfits where customers make use of iPads to place their orders. For steamboat places like this, I actually appreciate this use of technology as it makes it so much more convenient for us. Especially when you would like a second order of ingredients while already in the midst of your meal, an iPad is so much more convenient than having to keep trying to catch the attention of a passing staff. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has had to put down my utensils so that I can fully focus on catching the attention of one of the staff. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who gets annoyed at failing to catch any of their attention. In fact, some occasions, I secretly wonder if I should just jump up and start wriggling my hands and butt just to grab some attention.

Another little item that I appreciated - you see that little napkin like thing on the plate in the photo above? That's actually a bib. It might seem frivolous to some, but to me, it indicated some thoughtfulness on the part of the management. If you're of those persons who puts each dainty morsel of food directly into your mouth, and looks at others spilling their food in disgust, please stay away from me. We're just going to ruin each other's appetite. And you probably can't appreciate the presence of this bib.
However for those of you who have groaned at the splash-back when peeling off a prawn head, or have had chilli soup/sauce accidently drip off your piece of meat, or had that prawn ball slip off your chopsticks? You'll be delighted that Hua Ting has thoughtfully provided that bib.

All right, since it's the Lunar New Year, we went for a yu sheng. For readers (if any) who are not local, the best way I can describe yu sheng (also known as lo hei) is that it's a Chinese version of a salad that's eaten during the Lunar New Year period. Ingredients are generally similar across places, restaurants as they are meant to signify good, prosperity, wealth, etc. OK, a lot of things during Lunar New Year is always to signify good, health, wealth, prosperity, abundance, blah blah blah, so you should know that this yu sheng is no different.
The fun is in the tossing of the salad. Everyone gets in the fun with their chopsticks and you're supposed to shout well-wishes while doing the toss. Needless to say, it can get quite messy and rowdy. If foreign friends ever visit Singapore during the Lunar New Year period, you really should get to a Chinese restaurant during this time to observe the spectacle.

For those of you who love yu sheng and want to know if Hua Ting's version is any good, I'm sorry to say that I personally find this just average. I've had better yu shengs (think Peach Garden and Prima Tower). There's really nothing much to shout (or in this case, write) about for the one at Hua Ting.

I have 3 personal markers when I judge a steamboat restaurant. Pretty obvious markers actually:
1) The condiments provided
2) The soup base
3) The ingredients for the steamboat
Most major steamboat restaurants now provide a variety of condiments to go with your food, so seeing that array is no longer unusual. What I do look out for, is whether the items are fresh and whether they run out. Well, Hua Ting didn't fail in any of this. Additional plus, they do seem to have some stuff that are not always seen at other restaurants, e.g. dried chilli shrimp, fried scallions. Definitely no complaints in this department.

Next, the soup base. Hua Ting's menu boasts of 8 interesting soup flavours, including Sea Treasure FlambĂ©, Superior Fish Soup with Winter Melon & Conpoy, Shark’s Bone Cartilage Soup with Fresh Bean Curd Sheets and Bak Kut Teh with Whole Pork Bone.
Again, like most steamboat restaurants, you can choose up to 2 different soup bases for your steamboat. We went with the Shark's Bone Cartilage (on the right in photo above) and a Sichuan Style soup (obviously then the left one in the photo).
Between the 2 soups, the Shark's Bone Cartilage one was a clear winner with us. My friends and I generally tend to order a spicy soup and a more traditional soup base when we go for our steamboats. However, we found the Sichuan style a tad too spicy for us, and we didn't even up the spice level. So for those of you who cannot take spice, our advice to you is to lower the spice level when presented with the option on the iPad.
The Shark's Bone Cartilage one however, is just awesome. A couple of tips if you're ordering this:
1) Order the drunken chicken as well and dump the wine into the soup. What was initially good is going to get fantastic. If you're Hua Ting and reading this, hey, how about adding that hua tiao jiu into the soup too?
2) Pls save on ordering the fresh bean curd skin. The soup comes with it and there's plenty swimming in there.

Having passed 2 out of my 3 markers, what about the last marker then? I didn't count but Hua Ting's website boasts of over 150 dishes to choose from. For sure we didn't feel like there was nothing much to order. On the contrary, we had to be careful not to over-order since it seemed like there was so many to choose from. They also had some items which were not always common in steamboat restaurants, e.g. the pig's intestines, fried bean curd skin stuffed with salted egg. Items were also pretty fresh and that often makes all the difference.
I'm always put on ordering restriction when I'm with my friends. I tend to over-order, especially when I'm hungry. However, here are some recommendations:
1) The homemade items such as the balls and the paste were pretty good.
2) The fried beancurd skin stuffed with salted egg yolk. Yeah, ok, I know. Its salted egg yolk everything these days, but these fried beancurd skin were pretty good.
3) Skip the fried beancurd rolls. Not the best I've had, and comparing it to the one stuffed with the salted egg yolk, the rolls paled in comparison.

Price wise, Hua Ting Steamboat would be on the pricier end. Given the price tag, portions appeared smaller than some other restaurants. Our group of 4 paid almost $100 per pax. We ordered items from almost every category except seafood, and the end tab also included second helpings of some orders, a couple of desserts and the yu sheng.
Bottom line: would I/we return again?
Yup, definitely. Though I still prefer Imperial Treasure to Hua Ting, I'm not striking it off my list. In fact, there are already plans made to bring another friend along in the near future.
Address: Claymore Connect, mezzanine level #01-08, 442 Orchard Road, Singapore 238879
Operating hours: Lunch 11:30am - 2:30pm, Dinner 5:30pm - 10:30pm 
For reservations: Call (+65) 6739 6628 or email

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