The Place Never a bad time for zichar, what local Singaporeans affectionally called our neighbourhood stalls cooking affordable home-cooked dishes. Lai Bao Fishhead Steamboat recently opened in Toa Payoh, a brainchild of Baoshi F&B group, whom are behind other F&B ventures including Founders Bak Kut Teh, Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice and Ah Chiang’s Traditional Porridge. With such an established array of local F&B brands, my expectation was high. Lai Bao is located within the Maxim Star Coffee Shop at Blk 168 Toa Payoh Lorong 1.
The Food There is quite a fair bit of emphasis at Lai Bao on bringing old-school favourites local zichar dishes back, with a unique twist to a couple of them. The diner’s namesake dish, the Sixties Fish Head Charcoal Steamboat (using Grouper, S$15, S$25, $35) with the soup base prepared over 10 hours. Credible take on this popular dish, though have shared with the stall that the soup ladle is too big for the steamboat, and we had difficulty scooping out the soup.
Amongst the main highlights at Lai Bao, the Ginger Spring Chicken (S$6 for Half) is the diner’s take on Hainanese Chicken, and they have done well here. Tender chicken meats with a generous serving of younger ginger and garlic, a good dish to enjoy with the rest of your zichar orders.
If you like your braised pork belly, this Grandma’s Recipe Pork Belly (S$12) is very well-balanced, and tender as the kitchen prepared it slowly over low heat.
Priced very competitively, the 13 Spices Black Pepper Crab (S$30 for 1 crab, S$50 for 2 crabs) is perhaps amongst the most affordable crabs I have seen in local zichar stalls in recent years. Weighing at 600g per crab, Lai Bao can prepare it either as Chilli Crab or Black Pepper Crab. The latter being a highlight of the kitchen here, as they use 13 different spices to achieve its ideal blend. I recommend diners to make sure an order of this is made with each visit to Lai Bao.
Other dishes I had at Lai Bao include the Crisp Fried Aubergine & Pork Floss (S$9), which is on par with other renditions of this dish I have come across at other Chinese restaurants.
While the Old School Sweet & Sour Pork (S$10) was done with charcoal powder and black vinegar, it did not taste any much different from the usuals.
For carbs, the Seafood Lala Ying Yang Hor Fun (S$5/7/10) is a signature here, with the mixed of deep-fried hor fun adding more crunch to the overall bite. Having said that, this is not a unique item here as I have come across similar combination at other restaurants before.
Rants I am always up for a twist to local favourites, though it has to be more than just being different for the sake of it.
Will I Return Again? Lai Bao is your neighbourhood zichar stall, and it will take a little more for diners to want to travel beyond their estate to head over.
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Taste bud: 3.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 3/5
Overall Experience: 3.5/5
Lai Bao Fishhead Steamboat
Blk 168 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh
Tel: +65 6261 5825
Daily: 12pm to 10pm
Ranted by The Rantee