Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice 阿仔海南鸡饭 is a chicken rice stall set up by Mr Wong Liang Tai, more commonly known as Ah Tai. Ah Tai was actually the former chef of the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and has been working there for the past 20 years. He had differences with the owners' daughter who took over the management of the business in 2010. After several incidents and heated arguments, Ah Tai was sacked in October 2011 (Both Ah Tai and the owners are relatives). Subsequently, he and a partner (who was a key helper in Tian Tian) set up a chicken rice stall just 3 stalls away from his former employer (Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice) at Maxwell Food Centre.
Chicken Rice is a de facto national dish of Singapore. If you still have doubts, visit Maxwell Food Centre, and you will notice that there are already so many chicken rice stalls. One will be spoilt for choice when it comes to chicken rice as there are more than 6 such stalls in this food centre. With Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice being the new kid in the block, the chicken rice war at Maxwell has escalated. Several other chicken rice stall owners have expressed their unhappiness as they were concerned about their business. The least they need now is for another strong competitor next to them.
As mentioned earlier, Ah-Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice 阿仔海南鸡饭 located at Stall No. 7 is located 3 units away from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice which is located at Stall No. 10.
I visited at around 630pm on a weekday for dinner. There was no queue then. (By the way Tian Tian was closed that day). Anyone knows if there's a queue during lunch hours?
What makes a good Chicken Rice? Well, there are three factors; namely the rice, the meat (chicken) and the chilli. I can't help but compare using these three factors to compare Ah Tai's chicken rice to Tian Tian's chicken rice which I had previously.
In terms of rice, Ah Tai's rice was indeed fragrant and flavourful. However, it was hard and very dry. I prefer Tian Tian's rice as it was softer and more moist.
In terms of meat (chicken), Ah Tai's version was decent. The timing was grasped nicely as the chicken was tender and tasty, not tough. However, all the good work was undone by.. well the way the chicken was chopped. Yes, the chopping style does makes a difference (ask the older generation or professional chefs on the way to cut meat, be it chicken, duck or pork and you will know what I mean). I have not gotten to the point where by I am such a professional foodie that I can point out this is a wrong cooking style. What makes it so obvious in this case was that it was so terribly cut that there were small pieces of bones protruding out or small pieces of bones that came off and was mixed with the rice and chicken. When I mean small, a comparison will be the size smaller than a half of the rice grain (in the photo above). Seems trivial, but it matters. With that being said, Tian Tian's version was much better as their chopping style was better and their chicken was drizzled in their special sauce that made it more fragrant and tasty. (The gizzards given were hidden below the chicken.)
In terms of chilli, Ah Tai's version fared better. It was more tangy with a stronger oomph of spiciness.
(For the sake of comparison) In terms of presentation, I am very sure that Ah Tai's version loses out to Tian Tian's. Just take a look at the above picture and compare it to Tian Tian's version. Ah Tai's version was more sloppily done considering the fact that there was no queue... hmm..
Personally, I still prefer Tian Tian's chicken rice. The chicken and rice are better than Ah Tai's version. But despite all these, I still prefer my chicken rice at Golden Mile Food Centre.
For the record, if the taste is good and the presentation is lousy, I certainly do not mind! After all, never judge a book by its cover, appearances can be deceiving.
Detailed review: http://foodiefc.blogspot.sg/2012/12/ah-tai-hainanese-chicken-rice-maxwell.html