IF YOU are wondering if the Zui Fairprice restaurant in Upper Thomson Road is owned by the well-known home-grown supermarket chain, it isn’t. Instead, it is part of a restaurant chain from Hong Kong, where there are two outlets.
One wonders, though, if the eatery is getting away with using the Fairprice name here because it at least lives up to it. Prices are indeed fair. If you do not order any live fish, you can easily have a full meal for $20 per person.
And even if you do, at $15 for a red snapper to $38 for a red grouper, you will probably just pay an extra $10 per head.
The restaurant does not have a service charge. And if you can produce a parking receipt from the Sin Ming Plaza public carpark across the road, you will get your $2 fee refunded.
If the restaurant’s prices are fair, does the food leave you intoxicated as the ‘zui’ – the hanyu pinyin word for drunk – in its name implies?
I did detect some inconsistencies in my two visits there, but nothing was bad enough to warrant a complaint.
One of the restaurant’s bestsellers is the ‘san ba’ salted chicken ($11 for half a bird). ‘San ba’ is the Mandarin term for free-range, and the chicken meat here was certainly tastier than the common supermarket variety.
I ordered the dish on both visits and enjoyed it both times, though it was slightly saltier the second time. Dipped in either a herb-infused sauce or a ginger-scallion sauce, the tender meat was delectable.
Another dish, crispy deep-fried pork intestine in Hong Kong style ($11.80), was better on the second visit. It was less crispy the first time, and a bit chewy as a result.
The restaurant offers a few claypot stews, which are perfect for rainy days like those we have been experiencing lately.
I enjoyed the braised mutton brisket with mushrooms and bamboo shoots ($20), which was cooked Cantonese style, with a tasty gravy that went wondrously well with steamed rice. The meat was tender enough to come off the bone, though I would have liked it to be just a bit more tender still.
For the second visit, I chose a stewed beef brisket in claypot ($10.80), which was more tender. Though rather lacking in the dimension of its flavours, it was still an above-average dish.
One dish, however, tasted equally good on both visits. The steamed live prawns with garlic sauce ($13.80) were meaty, and the sweetness of the shellfish was enhanced by the aromatic minced garlic and light soya sauce.
The restaurant serves some dim sum for lunch, with common items such as steamed pork dumpling with crab eggs and steamed crystal fresh prawn dumpling (both $2.90 a steamer). But these turned out to be pedestrian and paled beside the main dishes.
What surprised me, however, was the ‘Kejia’ style crispy deep-fried spring roll ($9.80). It was stuffed with ingredients such as sliced pig liver, pork, mushroom and glass noodles, among others, and deep-fried in a batter. The result was super crispy and much tastier than the common Cantonese spring roll, which is filled with vegetables.
Zui is not a fancy restaurant, but if you are looking for simple, good food at, yes, fair prices, look no further.
If you pay using your UOB credit card, you receive a S$10 voucher with a minimum spending of S$50.