Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Secret Garden @ Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya

When we entered at 6pm on a recent Sunday, Secret Garden seemed to be exactly what its name promised: A private sanctuary of calm, easy on the eyes with its leafy embellishments & charming murals spread across a bright, stylish space. By the time we left two hours later, this Taiwanese-inflected Chinese restaurant was packed with patrons, a testament to its allure as an intriguing new venue. Through the entire experience, the food remained engaging & the service was sterling, from the genuinely gracious welcome at the entrance to the consistent work by the eatery's entire team to fulfil their customers' needs.

The MSG-free menu is encyclopedic - it's worth heading here in a huge posse, hungry for everything from Taiwanese three-cup chicken to Hakka mui choy kau yoke, coconut curry grouper head to sha cha lamb, triple-yolk steamed eggs to mapo tofu. Recently, Secret Garden introduced distinctive steamboat sets; select a refillable broth of Premium Wild Forest Truffle & Mushrooms (RM88; cooked overnight, unmistakably aromatic & well-balanced in its flavours) or Imperial Chicken (RM78), then pick from nearly 80 possibilities of freshly hand-made dumplings, premium meat, seafood & vegetables to cook in the pot.

Start with the tobiko squid balls, cutely shaped as little penguins, tender critters with carrot nibs for their 'beaks' & 'feet'; other tantalising options include black truffle balls, cheese prawn balls, mushroom pork balls & fried lobster salad balls (RM12-RM22). Jiaozi-style dumplings also prove appealing, kitchen-crafted with fillings like seafood or pork with chives (RM12-RM20); order those alongside Secret Garden's own prawn or fish paste (RM16-RM18). We loved the smooth, succulent sliced Iberico pork (RM38), but if you're prepared to splurge, you can take things to the next level with Japanese Matsusaka or Sendai beef. There's also a full ocean's bounty of seafood - scallops, sea cucumber, fish maw, jellyfish, sturgeon, crabs, clams & much more; for extra protein, the organic black bean tofu seems like a wholesome bet (RM10). For fibre, the range spans pumpkin (RM8) & corn to yam & greens galore, with imported Taiwanese bamboo charcoal ramen (RM5) for a tummy-filler if necessary. Bolstered by a lovely selection of sauces & garnishes (we're fans of the textured, tasty sand ginger), this is certainly a slurp-worthy steamboat that satisfied everyone at our table.


Secret Garden's a la carte repertoire hits the spot too - the classic dongpo rou is pork belly at its most sensually irresistible, carefully braised for six hours & coupled with steamed buns for perfect gravy-mopping (RM38 for a medium size). Steamed free-range chicken, fed with high-protein duckweed, is an off-menu dish that some customers might want to request, endowed with firm flesh & thick, slick skin. Wrap up with noodles & rice - the sang har freshwater prawn crispy noodles is a competent rendition of this crowd-pleaser (RM38), while the braised pork rice with tong sum eggs is soul-soothing comfort food (RM8). Reliable red wine is offered by the bottle if you need something stronger than tea; our thanks to Secret Garden for having us.

Secret Garden
7 & 9, Jalan SS 23/15, Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Open daily, 1130am-3pm, 6pm-11pm. Tel: 03-7887-6999

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10 comments:

  1. Love the lamp shades and the artwork on the walls. I love that dongpo rou with man tou - we've a very nice one here at one place but I have not been for a long time now - prices kept shooting up (and food quality kept dropping), so I'd much sooner go elsewhere. I have steamed chicken too in my blogpost today, not that I was all that impressed with the one I had. Sigh!!!

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    1. Suituapui: i do love dongpo rou - i could happily have eaten that entire serving on my own - the sheer, peerless succulence! :D i've been looking around for very good steamed chicken too - it can be quite elusive! :)

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  2. Replies
    1. The Yum List: yep, kudos to the founders and the artist for their vision ;)

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  3. I like the name already...from my favourite colouring book ;) This looks like a high end steamboat. The price of the soup base is not based on the no. of diners? Meaning it's still RM88 if you have 5 or 10 diners? But the cost, of course, will quickly add up since the broth doesn't come with any steamboat ingredients.

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    1. Contact.ewew: yeah, the name does conjure impressions of stories and songs - the early 20th-century novel, and the song by bruce springsteen ;) as far as i saw from the menu, it was a fixed price of RM88 for the mushroom broth per table :)

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  4. Love those cute little penguins :) The food looks top notch and I am so eyeing the free range chicken and fatty pork belly!

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    1. Phong Hong: heheh, yeah, our table went 'ooo' at the penguins too ;) I liked the braised pork belly - I'd love to try their mui choy kau yoke ;)

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  5. What a lovely place for some high class steamboat, oh... that cute penguins, love them~

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    1. Choi Yen: heheh, yeah, the penguins are quite adorable :D

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