During a full-day offsite office retreat with the company I part-time with, lunch was at this quaint restaurant bar located at Duxton Hill. Xiao Ya Tou, Chinese for “little rebel or imp”, is a cool eatery offering new twists to popular Asian dishes.
It was evident that the owners made much effort to make the place look like a bar from the ’60s / ’70s by bedecking the walls with replicas of old-fashioned beer posters, calendar girls, album covers, iconic figures such as Lao Fu Tze and Hong Kong singer Sam Hui, and classic soda pop bottles like Green Spot.
Xiao Ya Tou’s lunch menu is a simple, colorful 1-pager highlighting rice and noodle items, small plates, sweets, a range of coffees, and weekend brunch offerings (Sat, Sun and PH only).
As there was a whole bunch of us, we decided to share dishes. First up were the small plates and we kicked off with this delightful Crispy Otak-Otak Rolls ($14) which was super crispy, spicy and yummy.
Next up was the equally crispy albeit a tad more meaty that is Gu Gu’s Ngoh Hiang ($15, literally translated “Auntie’s Five Spices”) which is minced meat, prawns and water chestnut wrapped in beancurd skin and deep fried. Absolutely lovely especially after dipping in sweet black sauce.
Unlike the two small plates above, the Mapo Tofu, tasty as it may be, is not something you can eat as a snack or appetizer. With the tofu stewed in a spice bean paste with greens and enoki, this item is– as recommended by the menu–best eaten with jasmine white rice ($2 a bowl).
If you are not a big eater, just zoom in straight to the rice and noodles items which Xiao Ya Tou is arguably most famous for and are rather substantial portions for one person. Their XYT Hokkien Mee ($20, aka stir-fry prawn noodles) is a pure delight. Yellow noodles are wok-charred with big prawns, clams, baby cuttlefish, egg, smoked pancetta, spicy prawn paste and pork broth. So good that it was the one item that most of us wished we weren’t sharing!
Other fascinating dishes in this section include XYT Lu Ru Fan (aka braised Waygu beef on rice, $20), Chilli Crab Mee Goreng ($18) and KL Hokkien Black Noodles ($17).
This rather large Soy Sauce Chicken ($19), served with egg, cucumber, shaoxing wine, Chinese spices, and soy ginger sauce, was surprisingly considered a small plate. The sauce was lovely but the meat could have been more tenderized.
One meat dish that was really good is the Hakka Deep-Fried Pork ($19) cooked with black rice vinegar ketchup and crispy garlic. So good that every piece was snatched up before I could take a decent photo of it! Oh well, as long as it’s happily in my tummy…
Of course, we just have to have the obligatory vegetable dish which is the Stir-Fried Seasonal Greens ($15) that the Chef apparently will surprise you with his own personal pick of the season. The chai sim and bean sprouts combo we had, sprinkled with fried onion, was crunchy and delicious (and much better when eaten with white rice).
As there were other events on the day’s agenda, we didn’t have time to check out their desserts like Coconut Tau Huay ($8) and Glutinous Rice Ball ($9), or their extensive range of cocktails, mocktails and special drinks like chendol or coconut.
Well, at least that gives us a reason to patronize Xiao Ya Tou again and try their other dishes. Nice place for both small or big groups–our 15-strong troupe split into two tables–and especially if you are into delicious well-cooked Chinese dishes.
Xiao Ya Tou is at 6 Duxton Hill #01-01, Singapore 089592.
Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 12pm to 11pm; Fri 12pm to 12am; Sat 10am to 12am; and Sun 10am to 5pm.