Xi Yan is the casual dining offshoot of the high-end Xi Yan Chinese private dining restaurant at Craig Road. One of our lunch kakis had a good experience at Craig Road and had raved about it. We, lesser mortals without expense accounts, were naturally curious and eager to try out the Xi Yan cuisine at more humane prices. As reasonable, ordinary patrons, we were mentally prepared not to expect the same high standards of food or physical comfort. Yet, nothing would have prepared us for the experience. It was not a diluted Craig Road experience. No, far from it. The closest experience we can think of is our experience many years ago at this Chinese restaurant at Bayswater, London where many go to despite the crowded conditions and abusive waiters because the food was good and the prices were low. The only difference here was that the food was not exactly good and the prices were not exactly low.
Our experience started when we made the reservation. Reservations are taken only for the 1130 to 1200 seating. “All members of your party has to be present within 10 minutes or your table will be given away”. With the water-coloured memories that our friend had of her Craig Road experience, we accepted these conditions. Dutifully, we presented ourselves at the appointed time. We were shown to our seats by a gruff lady, with the minimum of communications and with a facial expression often observed on the faces of proprietors of extremely successful eateries. We were given large glossy menu with pictures. We randomly ordered a few dishes, some based on the thumbs-up annotations next to the item, presumably to indicate excellence of taste. Before long, it was apparent that the place was being filled to the brim. The tables are squeezed so close to each other that we felt like we were all sharing one table, like in Bayswater. We are not alone in seeking the Xi Yan (Craig Road) experience at an affordable price. Many people flock to this place and a short queue at the entrance is not an unusual sight.
We ordered the fried XO chai poh radish cake ($14.80), five spice braised beef ($12.80), sake dongpo pork ($18), fried kai lan ($10.80), pregnant woman fried rice ($9.80) and black truffle Hunan ham fried rice ($10.80). With the interesting names and high expectations, we were expecting dishes that would be distinctive and different from the run of the mill rice, vegetable and meat dishes. Unfortunately, when the food arrived, the items were not any different from similar food you can find else where. The only difference was the strong truffle aroma of the fried rice. The more generous members of our group described the food as being no better than any neighbourhood tze char (cooked food) outlet. The more stringent members among us felt that we can find better food at the food court downstairs at B1 and in a more spacious setting.
All in all, this was not one of our successful dining experiences.
Food : 3
Atmosphere : 2
Overall Rating: 2 TOPs
Xi Yan Shaw (Casual Dining)
1 Scotts Road
Shaw Centre #03-12/13
Tel: +65 6733 3476