OMGWHEREHAVEIBEEN?? I cannot believe I've been missing out all these years!
Thanks to someone in the family who hates
Then along came the opportunity to meet the founder Samuel Yik and his wife Eliza. The two are very passionate about their food and Samuel is fun to talk to about the little secrets behind each dish. This dinner was for me a humbling moment of discovery - man, there is a lot of good stuff here at Dian Xiao Er beyond the very good duck (as my friends all affirmed later on when I posted photos on Facebook and Instagram)!
Some people say the standards have declined in the past couple of years, but now that the founders are back in control again (as of mid-2012), there's hope once more of them getting the chain back to what it used to be.
Anyway, you guys probably know all these dishes better than I do, but I'm going to go through each one and give my two cents anyway. And yes, I have five S$50 vouchers to give away, so please do continue reading.
Dong Po Pork
This slab of pork belly has been thoroughly marinated before being steamed until tender. It's also given a special treatment (similar to what folks do to roast pork) so the skin releases excess fat. The result is a beautifully soft mouthfeel without any gamey greasiness. You can also tell that the skin has been finished with some hot oil for better texture. For me, that little step makes a world of difference.
Stir-fried Lotus Roots with Macadamia Nuts
All vegetables should taste this good. Flash-fried with a light but tasty sauce, the carrots, water chestnuts, ginkgo nuts and sugar snap peas all retain their crunch and sweetness. The cheery colours also make it very appealing. The addition of macadamia nuts make it a real treat. Notice how pristine and delicate the lotus roots are? They are a particular variety that's extra crisp and delicious. Samuel won't tell me where he gets them from!
Mongolian Spare Ribs
This is yet another house signature. Deep-fried ribs still crispy and generously coated with a spicy and garlicky plum and black pepper sauce. The ribs are done just right - still tender and juicy inside while retaining that slightly crisp exterior (but eat fast or the sauce will soften that crispy part quickly).
Silver Cod Fish in Superior Soy Sauce
My heart was completely won over by the cod. It's clear it went through a quick but very hot oil bath, but it must take skill to make it so delicately crisp on the outside but not overcooked on the inside. And then the premium soy sauce seasoning just matches it perfectly.
Claypot Frog & Jumbo Prawn Bee Hoon with Wine
I have never seen this combination done anywhere else before. Frog legs and jumbo prawns in a comforting stock spiked with Shaoxing wine. And beehoon to soak up all the goodness.
Here, you can see the beehoon better in this much bigger pot!
And oh, have I described the duck (the very first photo above) yet? They've developed their own techniques. A mixture of Chinese wine and herbs are sealed within the duck during marinating, and the duck is roasted with all those goodies inside their stomach. I think the herbs, wine and duck start infusing each other with flavour, and the delicious sauce that ensues is so good, it's served alongside the duck.
You can choose from Dang Gui (Angelica Herb), Shi Quan (Ten Wonder Herbs) and Pao Shen (Wild Ginseng). We tried the sauces from all three. I like the Dang Gui best, although the Ginseng is really strong, and the Shi Quan rather sweet.
Their full menu is online, so you can take a look at in-depth descriptions, photos and prices.
But food is not the only appeal at Dian Xiao Er. It's almost like dining at a theme restaurant. The concept is that of those traditional Chinese inns that are pit-stops for travelers on long journeys, so often depicted in wuxia literature and movies.
Some areas are more grand, some are more rustic. Each outlet differs slightly for variety's sake. This one above is at NEX Serangoon. It's got a mixture of dramatic and cosy areas, as it's quite a large outlet.
There's also a private section right at the back of the NEX outlet, which features a festive but slightly quirky wedding mural. An interesting option for wedding solemnisations, for sure.
OK contest time! Three easy steps to win a S$50 voucher:
1. Like the Dian Xiao Er Facebook page. Here's an easy button you can click.
2. Share this page on your Facebook. Just click.
3. Tell me what you like best about Dian Xiao Er on this entry on my Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=442519392470875&set=a.178955052160645.45602.157377377651746&type=1.
I will pick five winners by 11:59pm, 25 Nov 2012, and announce them on my Facebook fan page. I will also contact the winners via Facebook.
Go check out the Dian Xiao Er Facebook page too, as they are also giving out five $50 vouchers each week until the end of Nov 2012.
Dian Xiao Er now has eight outlets in Singapore. There's bound to be one near you.
DIAN XIAO ER
1. Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard #02-203/4
Tel: 6337 1928
2. Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Walk #02/137/8
Tel: 6376 9786
3. Ang Mo Kio, 53 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 #B2-02
Tel: 6484 2268
4. Jurong Point, 1 Jurong West Central 2 #03-26/27
5. Lot One, 21 Choa Chu Kang Ave 4 #B1-32/33
Tel: 6766 1776
6. Terminal 3, Changi Airport #03-42/43
Tel: 6542 3789
7. Tampines One, 10 Tampines Central 1 #04-07/08
Tel: 6783 6068
8. Nex Serangoon Central #02-09/10
Tel: 6634 4828
Many thanks to DXE for the vouchers and dinner. Now I shall have to plan how to bring the family back here to eat!