It’s always exciting to find somewhere new to eat in Chinatown, packed away among the narrow streets and vibrant lanterned nightlife that makes the area so iconic for Asian food lovers. Hidden away on the top floor of Market City in Haymarket, when we approach The Eight modern Chinese Restaurant for dinner, it feels like a childhood dream; breaking into the mall after hours to discover something magical. Photos of grinning celebrities and politicians crowd the opulent entranceway as we arrive; we are clearly not the first to taste this culinary discovery.
As a sister restaurant to the renowned Zilver on Hay Street, The Eight spans a huge square-footage, catering for busy yum-cha lunch dining and big banquet meals in the evening. We are greeted by busy attentive staff and an impressively extensive wine list – the whole experience feeling a mix of up-market tradition and festive foody relaxation. A pair of businessmen nearby laugh and joke over a sumptuous crab dish, and a packed family table next to ours jealously eyes the procession of dishes that arrive for our live mud crab & peking duck banquet.
Our feast of dishes are worthy of coveting. We begin with crispy duck and hoisin pancakes, sliced and prepared at our table, followed by diced duck sang choy bow with a sauce that drips deliciously down my hand as I bite through the fresh lettuce. The following main course staggers us with its variety, generous portions and enticing aromas – I can hardly stand waiting as our photographer snaps away at the Lazy Suzan-covering spread. The Szechuan-style sautéed prawns are sweet-and-sour heaven with a kick of spice, and the stir-fried scallops soft and succulent. A delicious whole silver perch is an instant table favourite, with its smooth hot broth and fresh tender meat. However, the knock-out piece is the fried mud crab with Singapore style fried buns – its tangy sweet sauce is scooped out with our brioche-like bread, as we all try a hand at cracking some crab shell to reach the tasty flesh inside.
Accompanied by the traditional hot Singapore noodles and delicately braised Chinese vegetables, the meal has been filling and comforting as we relax over a light Pinot noir to finish. My fortune cookie dessert tells me that I’m “very expressive and positive in word, action and feelings”. I’m certainly remembering that deliciously positive experience as I write now.