Believe me, it looks way more stunning seeing the real thing. The whole stone pot has a deep fried tofu sitting above a bubbling, steaming and smokey pool of “active volcano lava” meat sauce. And it stays that way for a quite a while and was still hot at meal’s end. I had tried their food numerous times in their outlets in Johor Baru over the years and now, I no longer have to brave the long Causeway queues to relive this tofu joy. They now have an outlet in Joo Chiat. The first thing I asked was why Singapore, with its high cost and manpower woes. Boss Lim Chan You, who hails from Johor says its family wishes as they had been living in Singapore for over a decade. I have to applaud their intent. It is not easy to set up such manpower heavy and skill reliant (at least 4 in the kitchen and 4 outside this ground floor corner pre-war unit in Joo Chiat) restaurants in Singapore of late. But they stuck to their guns and set up this retro Malaysian-Chinese restaurant, with an open concept, air-curtained and in air conditioned comfort.
Back to that tofu volcano ($8.80) - it comes topped with minced pork, and a pile of deep fried chopped kalian greens set above with scallions. Almost every table has an order of this and watching the servers cart this gingerly across the hall, all smokey and aromatic, is a sight to behold, like they were holding amber charcoals in a stone pot. The tofu had a firm skin and it was mushy soft inside- so easy to rip apart with just the usual pressure from the spoon. The bubbling sauce and the minced pork with the shredded fried greens immediately flood in, and you just have to devour on sight. Over a bed of rice- it’s reason enough for me to return. They have been around for over a decade and their main specialty is their roast meats and the “dragon urn” steam soup. Their menu is simple and the main starter trio platter of roast duck, crispy pork belly and their sticky soft and roasty cha siew (from $23.80) beckons on the first page. Don’t miss this one for your group meal starter. I didn’t guess (and they won’t tell) which part of the pig they use for the cha siew, but, the fat and meat balance was sinfully good. The roast duck was well, roasty and it was doused in a duck sauce. The sio bak had a thin crispy crackling and the meat was very moist. Their soups, and it comes in limited portions each day (about 50 pots at $12 each) is baked in that wood fired dragon urn for about 17 hours. The soup menu changes and I enjoyed the simple lean chicken with tian tong (dried Chinese asparagus). The meat was so soft it was falling apart as I scooped it. The sweetness the tian tong lent was subtle and comforting.
The other items I felt warrant some attention was firstly the stone pot belly pork and salted fish with chilli ($8.80), sizzled with thick sos pekat or thick caramel soy sauce. This is absolutely for rice loving gluts. Their Nonya fishhead ($18.80) had a correct balance of sour and spicy, punctuated with traces of blue ginger flower bits.
Welcome to Singapore, chefs and keep this food flag flying high.
You Kee XO Restaurant
43, Joo Chiat Place
Tel: 97338613 (Ah Hon)