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.
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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