From their shop name it’s clear that Lai Lai Taiwan Casual Dining at City Square serves Taiwanese comfort food.
The restaurant specialises in 4 dishes: red braised beef noodles 红烧牛肉面, braised pork rice 卤肉饭, mee sua with pork big intestines, and 3-cup chicken 三杯鸡.
They also serve onion pancake 葱油饼, fried chicken cutlet 炸鸡排, and bubble tea. If you go during lunch, there are set menus which are affordable, hovering just slightly above $10.
Before the food arrives, you’re free to help yourself to the FREE FLOW SALAD BAR. It’s really what we know as 凉拌菜 cold appetisers. That day, they served the common spicy cucumber with black fungus and peanuts and vinegar radish. No complaints since they are free.
The salad bar also includes a dessert, White fungus – which I generally like. This one is just sugar water and white fungus but free food is always good.
One of their four signatures, 3-cup chicken 三杯鸡 ($9.80), comes in a claypot and the contents are dangerously hot, which is great coz mama always says eat your food hot.
3 cups refer to the 3 shots of alcohol poured over the covered claypot so that the alcohol evaporates, leaving only the fragrance.
But here, there is no alcoholic fragrance although the tender chicken pieces with sweet whole cloves of garlic are soaked in a sweet sticky sauce. Not bad but not exactly great.
I just had mee sua from Shihlin a few days before Lai Lai’s signature, mee sua with pork big intestines ($8.80). Lai Lai’s version pales in comparison. The “broth” isn’t as robust and the mee sua is too soft and doesn’t have texture.
But when you add the magical shallot chilli oil to the broth, it turns infinitely better. The chilli oil by itself has not much of a taste–no salt–just chilli oil and fried shallot. But you can add it to anything, and it makes that dish better.
Scared of the taste of pork intestine? Dip it in the shallot chilli oil. 3-cup chicken? Dip it. Red-braised beef? Dip dip it. It makes everything more delicious.
The red braised beef noodles ($13.90) is homey and delicious, warming to both the stomach and heart. The broth is slightly spicy, which is great on a rainy day. The beef chucks are ample and tender. Excellent.
The food is good and the free food is even better, putting us in a good mood. We paid about $40 for two persons.
Lai Lai Taiwan Casual Dining
City Square Mall #03-39/40, 180 Kitchener Road, Singapore 208539
T: +65 6509 5626
11am – 10pm daily
Price / value: 7.25/10
Decor / ambience: 6/10
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.