$20-$40

Restaurant Aisyah 西北香, Telok Ayer: Muslim-owned Halal Restaurant Scores Big with Sibei Xiang Xinjiang La Mian (Hand-pulled Noodles)

Restaurant Aisyah occupies a 2-storey shophouse at 176 Telok Ayer Street with the Chinese signage 西北香. Perhaps a pun on Hokkien phrase sibei, which means “very.”

There were teething issues when, over the weekend, we visited Restaurant Aisyah at Telok Ayer which bravely opened during CB phase 1.

Some issues first before we talk about the Xinjiang food: there is no proper queue system. Although we made a reservation, we still had to wait for some time. Being there for the first time, with many people just standing around the entrance, scattered, not in any queue, we were confused and didn’t know what to do, and so we were frustrated. Should we approach the staff? Would other people get angry that we “cut” them even though we had a reservation? How would the staff remember even it is our turn? Etc. They need to sort out a proper system.

Second, the branding is problematic. Sometimes they call themselves Restaurant Aisyah but on their website, they are Xin Zhong He 新中合. On the third hand, the signboard writes 西北香 which means “fragrance from Northwest” because they specialise in cuisine of Xinjiang, northwest of China. It’s also a pun (I think) in Hokkien, sibei xiang, meaning very fragrant. They can’t decide what to call themselves!

This is the second storey which is better ventilated. First storey is hot.

Third, many items were not available on the menu. Inventory issues.

Fourth, there is no physical menu. They give you a device to show you jpg of the menu. So if you want to go to the next page, you have to minimize the current jpg, and then click on the next file to open the jpg. Why don’t they just set up a QR code for customers to go to their site to read the menu and even order online? That’s what most restaurants do during this Covid time.

They need to hire an experienced F&B manager to sort out the issues.

Saliva chicken is better translated to “mouthwatering chicken” because when you eat it, your mouth will…

But after we were shown to our table, things went more or less smoothly. Our appetiser saliva chicken 口水鸡 ($12) , a Szechuan specialty, consists of poached chicken in mala spicy numbing sauce, usually served chilled. It is ok. The flavours aren’t deep enough and the chicken isn’t smooth enough so it feels like the dish is almost there but never quite arrived.

Perhaps we should have ordered the chicken crackers ($7) , which the next table ordered. It is golden deep fried chicken skin as if enshrined in halo but they did not finish it. When they left their table, I would have taken a piece of their leftover to try but my partner reminded me, “Covid! Don’t take other people’s food.” FINE.

Xinjiang satay: Chicken heart skewer (left), beef skewers

Xinjiang is famous for their skewers. Desert and Bbq food over an open flame, right? Here, Restaurant Aisyah uses charcoal to grill the meats. Unfortunately, many items aren’t available and we only tried beef skewers ($2.50 a stick) and chicken heart skewers ($1.20 a stick).

My partner who has eaten skewers cooked by a Xinjiang native commented that this is the exact taste. Nice as they are, I wish they were bolder. A bigger flame so that it has more char and is medium-rare. Right now, they are well-done. Also more flavouring powder is better. Xinjiang food is heavy because their conditions are tough, but here the flavours are a tad light.

Mixed Beef la mian. Can you name the different tripes?

Finally, the La mian (hand-pulled noodles). According to Restaurant Aisyah’s instagram, the noodles are pulled upon ordering: Actually, this is a common practice.

You can customise your noodles in three ways:
-choose the meat (chicken, beef, or mutton)
-choose the broth (spicy or non-spicy)
-choose the thickness of the noodles from 5 styles, from thinest to thickest: capillary, fine, 2 fine, leek leaves, and wide.

This is the thickness of “2 fine” la mian.

They no longer had stewed beef tendons noodles ($13.80 big / $10.80 regular) that day, so we ordered the stewed mixed beef noodles ($9.80 reg) and stewed mutton noodles  ($10.80 regular).

For the meats, both beef and mutton are excellent. The stewed mixed beef includes various beef tripes, cartilage, and two slices of beef. If you like beef tripe, they cook it to a nice chewy texture.

But if you have to choose between beef and mutton, go for the mutton, which is cooked to perfection. Meat falls off the bone, not gamy. It’s easy to find beef la mian but rarer to find mutton. We highly recommend the mutton.

Stewed mutton with “fine” la mian. “fine” and “2 fine” don’t look that different, right?

For the broth, go for spicy. The non-spicy broth is overpowered by a sesame oil fragrance, and you can’t really taste the beef broth. But the spicy version is exciting and nicely balanced. Addictive and not too spicy.

For the noodles, we had the “fine” and “2fine” thickness, and I find them too nua (soft) for me. It doesn’t reach that al dente texture.

On the whole, the noodles are good. Although the service within the restaurant is good, the pre-service (as I mentioned in the beginning paragraphs) needs much improvement. Furthermore, we waited a fair amount of time between each dish that I joked, “Hey, we are in a fine dining restaurant. We have to wait between courses.” We ordered at about 7.10pm and the noodles only arrived about an hour later.

If you want to visit Restaurant Aisyah, go armed with patience. We paid $54 for 2 persons.


Menu


Restaurant Aisyah 西北香
176 Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068624
t: +65 9372 4321 (whatsapp for reservation)
M, W & Th 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 9pm
F & Weekends 11.30am – 9pm
facebook

Price: 6.5/10
Service: 4.5/10
Decor: 6/10
Food: 6.75/10


You may be interested in…
Mister Wu, Pickering Street: Modern Chinese Teahouse Serving Cocktails, La Mian, and Hotpot
Shi Xiang Ge 食香阁, Bishan Bus Interchange: Shan Xi La Mian and Dao Xiao Mian 刀削面 with Long Queue
Lan Zhou La Mian, Chinatown
Jing Hua Restaurant, Palais Renaissance: Once Named Qun Zhong in 1989, Specialises in Zha Jiang Mian and XLB


Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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