Arcadia Restaurant: Hidden authentic zi char with over 20 years of history

·5-min read

My parents and I have been going to Arcadia Restaurant for dinners for almost seven years already. Every time we wanted to eat zi char or bring my grandparents out for dinner, Arcadia was almost always the dining destination. 

To get to the restaurant is unfortunately not easy, especially without a car, as Arcadia is located down a road that has no bus stop. If you’re travelling by foot, you’ll have to walk for at least 12 minutes, give or take. The arduous journey, however, will be worth it. 

Arcadia Restaurant – A picture of the condominium it is located in
Arcadia Restaurant – A picture of the condominium it is located in

Located within Hillcrest Arcadia, a condominium near Bukit Timah Road, you’ll find Arcadia Restaurant just behind the guardhouse. It is a pretty nondescript restaurant, with no signage except for this neon sign located along the road.

Arcadia Restaurant - A neon sign signalling where the restaurant is
Arcadia Restaurant - A neon sign signalling where the restaurant is

Having come here so often, the owner recognises who we are and even before we sat down, we had already placed our orders for our five staple dishes. The owner also gave us a bowl of peanuts, which we hungrily chowed down while waiting for our food to arrive. 

Arcadia Restaurant only has one main chef, so if the restaurant is a bit crowded, do expect some waiting time for your dishes to arrive. 

What I tried at Arcadia Restaurant

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the brown sauce pork rib
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the brown sauce pork rib

The Pork Ribs with Brown Sauce (S$13 for small) were slices of substantial pork ribs that were coated in a secret brown sauce that was akin to a savoury sweet and sour sauce.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the brown sauce pork rib
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the brown sauce pork rib

The pork ribs were all coated evenly in sauce and had a nice glossy sheen. The aroma from the pork rib was fragrant and the meat was chewy but not tough, and went extremely well with rice. The sesame seeds added a slight nutty edge to the meat.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the Kailan with garlic
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the Kailan with garlic

Kailan with Garlic (S$9) is actually not a listed menu item at Arcadia Restaurant, but it was what we’ve been ordering since seven years ago. As the restaurant serves kailan and it also sells stir-fry dishes with garlic, they complied with our request.

The kailan was your typical zi char vegetable, and it was cooked well. Despite being lathered in sauce, the vegetable was still crunchy and had a fragrant garlic aroma. Due to it being fried in a wok, there was also a hint of wok hei flavour.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the Kailan with garlic
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of the Kailan with garlic

The leafy vegetable was fresh, as I could tell from the naturally vibrant green colour of the kailan. It was savoury and slightly salty, which once again paired well with the white rice.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of tofu with salted fish
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of tofu with salted fish

Beancurd with Salted Fish (S$12 for small) was served in a claypot. It contained pieces of tofu and chicken, and was topped with white onion, chilli and some salted fish pieces. 

The tofu was peppery, which caused it to be a little spicy. Cooked in a claypot, the dish was able to remain warm for a substantial amount of time, which was inconsequential compared to how fast we polished off the dish.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of tofu with salted fish
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of tofu with salted fish

The light brown sauce on the tofu was both sweet and savoury, and it went really well with the tofu. The tofu was cooked well, with the outside crust being slightly crispy, and the inside remaining soft and silky. This dish is a definite must try here at Arcadia Restaurant.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of deep fried fish with soya sauce
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of deep fried fish with soya sauce

Deep Fried Fish With Soy Sauce (S$48) is priced based on seasonal pricing, as the owner goes to the market every morning to buy fresh fish to be cooked for that day. 

The fish was fried until a crispy golden brown, and topped with fried ginger and spring onion. Despite lying in a bed of soy sauce, the fish was still crispy even after twenty minutes.

A picture of deep fried fish with soya sauce
A picture of deep fried fish with soya sauce

The sea bass was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. There was no hint of fishiness at all, reinforcing the freshness of the fish. After the meal, our fish is always picked clean with only the bones remaining. That is how good the fish is.

Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of crispy chicken
Arcadia Restaurant - A picture of crispy chicken

Roasted Crispy Chicken (S$17 for half) is their speciality here at Arcadia Restaurant. The chicken is fresh and not frozen, and was seasoned in the morning before being hung up to marinate until it was time to be cooked and served. It was paired with the usual suspects – chicken rice chilli sauce and peppered salt. 

For a restaurant that does not specialise in chicken rice, the homemade chilli sauce was delicious and tangy with a hint of lime. It also had just the right amount of spice to feel the heat on the tongue, but it was not searing hot.

A picture of crispy chicken
A picture of crispy chicken

There was a glossy sheen on the chicken skin, and it had a slight crunch when bitten into. The skin was thin and had little to no fat underneath it, which was delicious to me. The chicken meat was not dry, and was moist due to the oil inside it.

I can definitely see why this is a speciality of theirs (which is why we keep ordering it!).

A picture of Shanghai Pancake
A picture of Shanghai Pancake

For dessert, we ordered Shanghai Pancake (S$8) which was a homemade crispy pancake filled with red bean paste.

The pancake was fried till crispy and flaky, and each bite had a delicious crunch to it. The pancake batter itself was savoury which paired well with the sweet red bean paste within.

A picture of Shanghai Pancake
A picture of Shanghai Pancake

The red bean paste was generous, with red bean oozing out with every bite. The paste was warm and sweet, and went down the throat smoothly without it being sticky.

Final thoughts

The food at Arcadia Restaurant was good, relatively affordable, and felt like I was eating a home-cooked meal. The ambience in the restaurant was extremely homely, and the vibes of the restaurant felt like we were eating at our grandparent’s home. This is a restaurant that I have been and will continue to be patronising frequently. 

Additionally, they currently do not charge GST nor service tax, which is definitely a welcomed bonus to me.  

Expected damage: S$25 – S$40 per pax

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