My companion explained to me that ‘Dian Xiao Er’ is the kind of thing people yell to summon a server in a restaurant in those Chinese television dramas set during the Ming Dynasty. So it’s as if you were to open a French restaurant called: ‘Garçon!’ I kind of liked the idea.
In harmony with the imperial resonance of its name, the interior décor of Dian Xiao Er at NEX can only be described as Chinese-feudal-theme-park, with furnishings straight out of the restaurant fight scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (but all still in one piece by the end of the meal) and a cartoon mural of a regal procession laughing in celebration at the prospect of a meal at 店小二. You could call it naff, even cheesy, if you were unkind: personally, I thought it was rather fun.
I’ll admit we weren’t exactly daring in our menu selections. First up, of course, we had herbal roast duck. This is what Dian Xiao Er’s reputation rests on, so we plumped for the Duck Roasted with Ten Wonder Herbs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, but no: this has nothing to do with the unplayable 1988-vintage NES game Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs – although I must say that the game’s plotline, where Kid Kool needs to fetch some magic 'wonder herbs' to heal an ailing king, sounds uncannily similar to the apocryphal story about how herbal duck was invented, as described in Dian Xiao Er’s menu…
It’s a good story, by the way, and contains a rather novel idea: normally, I suppose, one has to rely on a spoonful of sugar to make the hydrocodone go down - but I’ve never thought of sneaking it down the sprogs’ throats by serving it with some roast duck… And they say there are no original ideas to be found in Singapore.
One other thing that was pretty striking: the food was delivered extremely quickly. Almost, dare I say it, and I mean no offence by this: fast-food quickly. I certainly detected no crafty microwave work at play here, and I know I sound inconsistent as I am the first to whinge when Singaporean restaurants are slow to bring food, but this was uncannily swift. Well, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt: service here is alarmingly efficient (and by the way, delivered with a friendly smile). No need to yell ‘Dian Xiao Er!’ at anyone here, I can tell you.
Final word: money. We left 72 bucks lighter, so this is no budget joint, given what we ate. But for all-round quality and service, I think the price was about right… I want to go back... now where’s that menu? Waiter!
If you agree or disagree with what I said, why not leave a comment? It would be great to hear from you!
http://www.dianxiaoer.com.sg/ - Dian Xiao Er website. The menu is worth a read for the history blurb and the health information.
I borrowed the picture of Crocodile Soup from the Dian Xiao Er website.