Xi Yan was a recommendation by a foodie friend who lives in the neighbourhood. The casual offshoot of the Singapore outpost of the lauded Hongkong restaurant is one of his go-tos for family dinners.
Tucked away in a neglected corner of the depressingly forlorn Shaw Centre, the small-ish cosy bistro was quiet. Clearly, this part of the mall doesn't get much foot traffic from the throngs of Lido cinema-goers. Other than peak dining hours, the eatery barely packs in a three-quarters' capacity.
The fare at Xi Yan is simple, and not particularly fancy or refined. Save for the incredible dan dan noodles, dinner wasn't particularly memorable. Or outstanding. But it had a comfortingly homecooked appeal to it.
Likewise with the service, which was a-ok, if a little dull and unmotivated. You can well tell the staff was more enthused about clearing the restaurant than serving the customers. We didn't get any water (tap or bottled). And that ridiculously oily floor between the kitchen and the service galley was just an occupier's liability suit waiting to happen.
The Fried XO Chai Poh Radish Cake ($8.80), mildly spiced, was fragrant with umami overtones. The radish cake was chunky, dotted with strips of julienned radish, but soft and flavourful.
The Deep Fried Pork Belly in Fermented Sauce ($10.80 for small) was a porky rendition of our local prawn paste chicken, tasty and moist.
The Black Truffle Prawn Omelette ($17.80) was wonderfully homestyled, even if the alkali-treated prawns were a little stripped of natural sweetness.
The Fried Sotong in Butter Salted Yolk ($16), crusty and heated subtly with fried curry leaves, was perfectly cooked.
The dry, spicy version of the Dan Dan Noodles ($10.80) was a must-try. It was delightfully piquant, with copious lashings of black vinegar, balanced with scrumptious nubbins of seasoned pork mince. If there was one thing that'll draw me back to Xi Yan, this'll be it.
Xi Yan Shaw
1 Scotts Road
#03-12 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6733 3476
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner