I know I've asked a lot of people this question before: "Where is your favourite place to eat Chinese dishes in the city?" And most people seem to have their own favourite restaurant, which is different from the rest.
Though Crystal Jade or New Kum Den Restaurant always seem to be the more popular choices among people that I know, mine has actually always been Ling Nam Restaurant in Chinatown (among few others, of course). Again, I'm talking about: shared dishes - Chinese cuisine - CBD.
My main reason for that is because of the signature dishes that they have, one of which is quite hard to come across anywhere else. Also, their other dishes on the menu are generally quite good too. Better than most places, at least.
Though ambience and service-wise, there really isn't nothing nice to say about it, but who cares? I wouldn't expect that much from restaurants in Chinatown anyway. As long as the food is good, I'm set.
Signature Dish #1: Clams in XO Sauce with Fried Chinese Donut
A dish I've ordered enough times in other restaurants such as Pacific House in Richmond as well as Master Restaurant in Footscray to tell you that Ling Nam still does it better. The sweetness and spiciness of the sauce was nicely balanced, YUM.
However, whether you get clams that have a stronger smell than usual is beyond your control. It really depends on your luck and timing, that the clams are fresh each time you order this at anywhere. This applies to any restaurant that you order this from.
As for the Chinese Donuts, they were DELICIOUS. So light and crisp, they were gone from the table pretty darn quick. You absolutely have to order this to compliment the XO Clams.
Signature Dish #2: Stuffed Pig Intestines or "Yong Dai Chong"
This is hands down the dish that makes me come back to Ling Nam time and time again. It's definitely a signature, but not many people know about it! I only heard about this dish from word of mouth and I couldn't even find this on the menu! It's like it was a "secret" of the restaurant. Even my sister, of all people, who doesn't like pig innards at all really enjoys this.
The intestine was fried till super crispy and didn't have a smell, so sometimes you can't even tell it's innards. Prawn mince was soft and chunky and went really well. Do me a favour and please order this dish next time you're there.
Hot and Sour Soup
As much as I enjoyed the first two dishes, I did not like this at all. I'm sorry to say that I was appalled when I realised they used chilli sauce instead of chilli oil for the soup. You can definitely tell from the colour and it tasted a lot like ketchup and water. Also, the ingredients were quite sad to be honest and I couldn't finish it even though it was a small bowl.
I suggest people stop ordering this soup in restaurants and make it at home instead. You'll be surprised by how easy it is and can prepare it with all the fresh, wholesome ingredients you want. Shall post a recipe for this one day.
"Jing Du" Pork Ribs
Another ripper of a dish. The batter was crispy and nicely coated. (Don't you hate it when you go to restaurants and the batter comes out overly thick? Ugh..) Besides that, the taste of vinegar was just nice without being overpowering.
But what I enjoyed most about this is that the meat was still moist and tender and had bits of fats that literally melts because it's been deep fried in hot oil. YUM! Also, you can tell from the colour of the meat that it had been marinaded really well, that's why it had a very even and fantastic flavour.
After we finished eating, I left the restaurant feeling very contented once again by another enjoyable meal at Ling Nam. At the end of the day, it's a really good Chinese restaurant so I definitely recommend it, but you need to know what to order. Can't wait to go back there again.
Also, this place opens till late on Fridays, which is good for all you "happening" people out there. Only thing annoying about this place is the "minimum-spend-per-person-rule" that they enforce on Fridays or Saturdays (or both, I forgot). So, be a cheapo like me and just go on weeknights or Sundays =)
Happy eating, everybody!