Zi Char - Lai Wah Restaurant

Zi Char - Lai Wah Restaurant
44 Bendemeer Road #01-1436


Traditional And Authentic Cantonese Chinese Zi Char

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 8
Ambience & Setting: 6
Food & Beverage: 8
Service: 9
Value for Money: 8
Spent about SGD $22 per person.


Traditional and authentic Cantonese Chinese cuisine is known for its roast meats, soups, and liberal use of sauces. Lai Wah Restaurant has been serving up both old and new Zi Char Cantonese favourites since 1963, and is considered a heritage restaurant in Singapore. The claim to fame for Lai Wah Restaurant stems from its founders, Grandmaster chefs Mr. Tham Yui Kai (Tham Yew Kai) and Mr. Lau Yoke Pui, widely consided as 2 of the 4 'Heavenly Kings' of Cantonese Chinese cuisine in Singapore.

Ambience at Lai Wah Restaurant has stood still since the 70s. The restaurant is still in the same location, with more or less the same furniture, and the whole place looks dated. In fact, Lai Wah Restaurant looks so unassuming and plain, that a typical passerby might not even know that this is one of Singapore's most famous restaurants.

Service at Lai Wah Restaurant is excellent. Staff are well trained for service, and it shows in the small details. When we requested to change a spoon, the waitress who brought the new spoon handed it to us, then waited a short while when we glanced at it to inspect for stains. Only when we placed it down, then she excused herself. Drink cups are regularly kept filled, and food is served quite fast. Cleanup and turning over of tables is done within 5 minutes or less. Thumbs up as well for the complimentary desserts!

Food at Lai Wah Restaurant is the traditional, authentic, Cantonese Chinese style Zi Char. Lai Wah Restaurant is credited with inventing 2 popular Zi Char dishes, namely the Yam Basket With Prawns And Cashew Nuts in 1960, and Yu Sheng / Raw Fish Salad in 1964. In general, most of the dishes at Lai Wah Restaurant are very tasty, and most people order their signature dishes. Expect liberal use of sauces in most dishes, as well as cooking methods that involve boiling / stewing / steaming / roasting.

Prcies are surprisingly affordable and rather cheap at Lai Wah Restaurant. Also, do note that many of the signature dishes require advance orders of at least 2 days, including the Fried Crispy Prawns, Garoupa Fish In 2 Styles, Lobster Cold Dish, Chili Crab, Pi Pa Duck, Superior Shark's Fin Soup, Roast Suckling Pig and Buddha Jump Over The Wall. Making reservations before dining at Lai Wah Restaurant are recommended, as it's typically fully booked.


The Crispy Squid With Salted Egg Yolk has a rather bland presentation, but it's only when you put it in your mouth... Ummm! The combination of crispy, savoury saltiness and the freshness of the squid made this a winner!

Crispy Squid With Salted Egg Yolk

The Special Bean Curd With Crab Meat is actually a bean curd mixed with fish paste, doused in a gravy of vegetables and crab meat. The crab meat is fresh, though the gravy is a little light on taste. But the bean curd was quite solid and well balanced.

Special Bean Curd With Crab Meat

A traditional Cantonese dish invented by this very restaurant in Singapore, the Yam Basket With Prawns And Cashew Nuts has spawned numerous imitators. The crisp and well fried yam basket is warm and savoury, and the mixture within of deshelled prawns, cashew nuts, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions is fresh and simple, yet so flavourful.

Yam Basket With Prawns And Cashew Nuts

A traditional Cantonese dish of vegtables in oyster sauce, which is now almost ubiquitous in Chinese cuisine. This Vegetable Combo is actually a trio of vegetables, namely kai-lan / chinese broccoli, baby bok choy / chinese cabbage / xiao bai cai, and nai bai.

Vegetable Combo

Another traditional Cantonese dish, typically served during celebrations such as weddings, the Yu Lan Chicken With Ham And Chinese Broccoli Kai Lan consists of a boiled / steamed / blanched white chicken, doused in a thick and savoury meat gravy, with kai-lan / chinese broccoli and garnished with slices of ham. The key is the freshness and firmness of the chicken, this version held up quite well despite the sauce, and was juicy and tasty.

Yu Lan Chicken With Ham And Chinese Broccoli Kai Lan

A traditional Cantonese dessert, the Chilled Almond Longan Beancurd Jelly consists of an almond flavoured bean curd / jelly / pudding, in a simple sugar syrup, topped with longans.

Chilled Almond Longan Beancurd Jelly