Restaurant Aisyah has got me thinking a lot about my experiences with Halal food. It, unfortunately, hasn’t been great thus far; I’m quite critical of its standard and quality, and I wish it showed the Muslim community more innovation. But what do I know? As someone who doesn’t gravitate towards halal food when she’s not eating for work, I might just need better education in it.
Located at Telok Ayer, it sits adjacent to Thian Hock Keng Temple (to its left when you’re facing it). It’s a recent discovery that’s had me shifting my perspective slightly on the halal food scene, and somewhere I might be glad to return to.
Aisyah’s signboard isn’t the easiest to spot, especially since it’s engraved in gold print of Chinese and Arabic characters. Also, be sure to make reservations because it isn’t the largest dining venue and it can prove to get quite deafening with the incessant, excited chatter of diners.
What I tried
Speaking of idle chatter, while your tummy’s impatiently growling for mains, order an appetiser of Meat Dumplings in Spicy Sauce (S$12.80). Sufficient for about three people to share, the dumplings at Restaurant Aisyah are made fresh daily, and they even have a lady dedicated to working her nimble fingers to create these mini hand grenades of savoury meat.
Once they’re sold out, they’re out, so if you’re adamant on ordering these, booking a table for lunch would increase your odds. Are they worth shifting your visit to lunchtime, though? Boy, they sure are; the minced meat is succulent, dense—as opposed to crumbly—, and the chilli is flavourful as it is fragrant.
The repugnantly-named Saliva Chicken (S$12) is another great addition for sharing, in spite of its less-than-sexy label. It’s certainly not a literal description, but rather a translation of ‘口水鸡’, which is a dish more famously known as ‘mouthwatering chicken’.
Native to the Sichuan region of China, the busy dish consists of two main elements—cold cuts of chicken, drenched in a spicy, numbing Sichuan chilli oil sauce. I was on the fence with this poultry dish; on one hand, I adored the chilli (but then, hey, who wouldn’t?), but also, couldn’t shake off my disinclination towards cold chicken.
TLDR; if you’re content with room temperature bird, go ahead.
Restaurant Aisyah’s pièce de résistance has to be their Braised Mutton Noodles (S$10.80/S$13.80). Like all reliable noodle spots, you can choose your noodles from five variants. You won’t have to worry about sparring with your mutton chops here as the meat peels off the bone with easy teasing using a pair of chopsticks.
The broth carries woody earthiness that might put off those averse to gamey meats but is heaven-sent to my spirited foodies who love a healthy dose of quiet pungency. My advice for the noodles is to quickly mix it around before the broth tempers down to room temperature, and also to avoid them turning clumpy.
Springy and offering wholesome resistance, the noodles are less slippery than what I’d anticipated. Not that there’s anything wrong with coarse noodles; in fact, it allowed the emollient broth to envelope every strand lovingly.
Those wishing to stick to safer waters can always default on Braised Beef Shank Noodle in Clear Soup (S$10.80/S$13.80). The beauty of this noodle place is that they don’t only produce blue-ribbon standard bowls, but they also ace at variety and let’s not forget, price.
There’s little to fault Restaurant Aisyah for when it comes to their meats. They know how to prepare fork-tender flesh and the beef shank suffers the same fate. It rips apart just as I pick it up—evidence of hours of laborious and more importantly, noble work.
As the saying goes, ‘Don’t knock it till you try it’, it rings especially true here. Here I was, a skeptic of yet another new-fangled halal restaurant and it did more than just prove me wrong. It showed me how a cuisine—not inherently halal by culture—can give a run for other similar establishments’ money, even as it opens amidst uncertain times.
If anyone were to ask me if Restaurant Aisyah’s reputation precedes it, I’d respond with a self-assured, ‘YES’.
Expected Damage: S$15 – S$20 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
176 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068624
176 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068624