Uncle Lai’s is a neighbourhood eatery that a friend with a hankering for Malaysian food suggested we try one day. Located amidst a row of shops on a retail strip on Logan Road, it blends in with the others, and it would be easy to not notice it was there at all unless it was a specifically intended destination.
It is not a huge space, fitting in about eight tables inside, joined together in different configurations depending on group sizes and needs, and another couple outside in the covered walkway. The service counter is at the far end of the eatery, with the kitchen beyond that, mostly out of view.
The decor was simple and casual, with use of auspicious red on some of the walls, offset by wood paneling, and bamboo wall cladding on one side that gave it a tropical feel. The old trick of using large mirrors to make the area appear bigger worked well, and though it was a compact space, it didn’t feel cramped. Some pictures of their food were displayed, along with a chalkboard recommending their must try dishes.
You order and pay at the counter, and food is then brought to your table. The menu contained the typical Malaysian favourites, like Nasi lemak, Beef rendang, and Char kuey teow. Apart from main noodle and rice dishes, they also offered sides like some dim sum items (sieu mai, BBQ pork buns), and roti canai. They also have typical Malaysian drinks like teh tarik, Ribena soda, and A&W float.
We picked the Wat tan hor, and Chicken laksa. At lunchtime, they have a special on some selected sides, and we opted to get spring rolls in addition to our mains.
The spring rolls were brought out first, as an entree. They had clearly been freshly fried, and were piping hot. Wisely, we gave them time to cool a little before biting into them. The skins had a good crunch to them, and not too oily. The vegetable filling was nicely seasoned. Sweet chilli sauce was provided in an accompanying container as a dipping option, but they were flavourful enough to eat without the extra sauce.
Wat tan hor is a saucy fried noodle dish that has its roots in GuangZhou, but has become a popular South East Asian hawker dish, with other monikers like char hor fun. In essence, it is fried flat rice noodles with a thick egg gravy, accompanied by sauteed green leafy vegetables and a meaty protein. At Uncle Lai’s, you can have it with chicken, beef, seafood, or a combination. We ordered the combination version. The noodles were served in a plate with raised edges, so as to keep the sauce in. The browned hor fun noodles rose out of the pool of eggy sauce, and were topped with vegetables and slices of meat. The thick sauce, with strands of egg through it, clung well to the slippery noodles, which held char flavour from the wok. As a combination dish, it had pieces of chicken, beef, slices of fishcake, and prawns. These meats were all well cooked, so that they were tender, rather than chewy. As a whole, it was a satisfying rendition of the dish.
The laksa was listed in the menu as a combination of egg noodles and rice vermicelli cooked in a rich, creamy coconut soup, with tofu puffs, green beans, egg, fishcakes, and beansprouts. You can either have it as a chicken laksa, a fishball laksa or for a little extra, a seafood laksa. We decided to keep it simple, and have a chicken laksa. It was brought out in a large bowl, the vividly orange curry broth, and fragrant savoury, coconutty aroma wafting up from it being quite promising. Rather than small pieces of meat, it was served with chicken drumsticks bathed in the soup. The chicken meat was tender, and they took on the curry flavour. They were a little fiddly to eat, unless you caved in and used your hands though. As is typically done, it was served with two types of noodles, which had slightly different textures (a laksa served with just one type of noodle can’t be a real laksa). The broth was rich and tasty, with a good depth, as well as coconut sweetness. The other components of beansprouts, tofu puffs, and fishcake slices were all cooked properly, and added more textural variety. It certainly had the right flavours, and is one of the better laksas around.
Overall, Uncle Lai’s is a great neighbourhood gem for those who like Malaysian food and don’t want to fight the crowds for parking in Sunnybank. They are consistently good, and staff are always welcoming and friendly.
Price point: Mains $12.90 to $15.90. Side dishes $2.50 to $7.90 (they also do a limited range of dim sum items in this).
Value: Good. Well-priced for good serving sizes. You won’t leave hungry.
Address: Shop 5, 1395 Logan Road, Mount Gravatt
Phone: 07 3420 5296
Website: Uncle Lai’s Malaysian Cuisine