It was my father’s birthday, and I suggested going to Xi Yan at Shaw because we wanted a nice place to celebrate. But it turned out to be an extremely casual and small restaurant, which opens to the corridor of the mall, and passersby may look in to see what we are eating. When we arrived, my sister saw the casual decor and asked, “Shall we go to another place?”
I mistook it for a fine restaurant in the first place because it is opened by Hong Kong’s TV celebrity chef, Jacky Yu, who is also known as Jamie Oliver of Hong Kong; and because they have a chichi private dining restaurant along Craig Road.
Xi Yan doesn’t serve a particular region of Chinese cuisine; they have dishes of origins from the Cantonese and the Hakka and Yunnan and a myriad other places.
The deep-fried pork belly in fermented bean curd sauce ($17.70 medium) is good, crispy, not oily and tasty, although this is a common cze char dish and is cheaper at kopitiams that can do it just as well.
The fried sotong in butter and salted yolk ($25.50 medium) is a disappointment. It doesn’t have the crispiness and there isn’t a taste of salted yolk and the sotong is hard and there is lots of flour; it’s a whole lot of calories and cholesterol without any taste.
Fried XO radish cake ($14.70 medium) is good. I love that the pieces are chunky to give a better bite and mouthfeel.
One the best dishes here is the handmade tofu ($16.20 medium) which is topped with crispy cai po. The tofu is deep-friend and drizzles in a savour soya sauce, giving a nice contrast of textures, and tastes.
One of the reasons why I suggested Xi Yan for my father’s birthday is that we are Hakka and I saw two Hakka dishes on the menu. My father loves abacus seeds ($13.80), which can be a dish that requires time to make. The seeds here are nice and firm, although there isn’t much taste of yam. It’s a good one, but our cousin can make a better rendition.
The second Hakka dish we ordered, the Hakka duck ($14.80 small), is something that our family hasn’t eaten before. It is alright, it comes in a sweet sauce, but it’s not familiar to our Hakka tradition and we probably won’t order it again.
They use Okinawa material for the Zhejiang ribs ($19.20 medium). It is nice and tender but nothing really memorable.
The worst dish, poached spinach with three eggs ($14.80), has no taste.
We ordered two carbs because my nephew, who is a regular here, wanted the pregnant woman fried rice ($11.80), which doesn’t have a “chef recommendation” sign. But it is really good. Wok hei and super savory. My nephew has good taste.
The other carb, seafood beehoon ($37 large), is topped with lard, glorious lard, and it’s a good dish. The broth is sweet with seafood and the clams are fresh. Although Xi Yan’s version isn’t as good as the Sembawang White Beehoon (come on, this dish is Sembawang’s specialty, of course Xi Yan isn’t as good), this dish is still satisfactory and hits the spot.
One thing that I don’t like about the restaurant is that we had to pay 60 cents for water. But on the whole, it’s hard to find a restaurant to presents a whole range of dishes, and most dishes are excellent. It’s an excellent place for a casual family meal. We paid $232 for 5 adults and a kid, but we ate sooooo much we wanted to puke. Expect to pay about $30/pax.
Shaw Centre #03-12/13, 1 Scotts Road, Singapore 228208
11.30am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm – 10.00pm daily
tel: +65 6733 3476
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.