|National Kitchen @ National Gallery|
Two-and-a-half years after planting a flagship in the Bukit Timah suburb, Singapore cooking doyenne Violet Oon is spreading her wings to the Central Business District.
|Gorgeously decorated space at National Gallery|
Her sophomore venture is a gorgeously decorated space at the recently opened National Gallery. Dressed in a rich confection of colourful Peranakan tiles that line the walls and ceiling, National Kitchen by Violet Oon (“National Kitchen”) sports mirrors, dark wood paneling, monochromatic mosaic floor tiles as well as a mix of kopitiam chairs, black leather booth seats and banquettes. A colonnaded verandah overlooking the Padang, which opens in a few weeks, will provide an alternative spot for diners who prefer an alfresco experience.
While the flagship Violet Oon Singapore serves Peranakan fare exclusively, its National Gallery offshoot proffers a pork-free menu that leans heavily (about 70%) towards Peranakan, with the balance anchored by local favourites like chilli crabs, Hainanese chicken rice and fish head curry.
|Ayam buah keluak|
You can’t go wrong with Peranakan signatures like Oon’s ayam buah keluak (S$23), a mostly tangy, part-savoury dish of stewed chicken with earthy buah keluak (Indonesian black nut). Unlike those served in many local Peranakan restaurants, the black nuts at National Kitchen were unadulterated by meat and gently perfumed with turmeric and galangal. (3.75/5)
|Udang goreng chilli|
Or the udang goreng chilli (S$32), thin-shelled angka prawns that were first deep-fried then slathered in a punchy house made rempah (spice paste) of chilli padi and garlic. The dish would have been even better if the prawns were not overcooked. (4/5)
|Cod in creamy laksa sauce|
But the biggest standout at dinner was reserved for cod in creamy laksa sauce (S$34). Playing to the nation’s love for this popular Peranakan spicy noodle dish, the hunk of cod was first baked until the flesh began to flake, then doused in a laksa broth refreshed with coriander pesto. While we half expected the dish to be cloying, it took us by surprise – the fish was unusually pristine and it paired perfectly with the intoxicating flavours of the spicy coconut milk broth. (4.25/5)
|Ju Hee Char|
Also try the “ju hee char” (S$13), a Penang-Peranakan dish not dissimilar to chap chye (mixed vegetables) but in addition to cabbage, Oon’s rendition featured jicama (a tuber root also known as Mexican turnip), a smattering of carrots and mushrooms simmered in a light cuttlefish broth. It arrived with slivers of deep-fried cuttlefish to provide texture and a useful jaw workout. (3.5/5)
|Kiam Chye Ark Thing|
Whilst waiting for mains, whet your appetite with “kiam chye ark thing” (S$10). The bowl for two arrived with duck slices, chillies and salted mustard green basking in a delicate broth that delivered a balance of salty, savoury and spicy flavours. (3.75/5)
Or munched on tidbits like “nogh hiang” (S$15), deep-fried beancurd roll stuffed with prawn, crab meat, chicken and chestnut with five-spice powder; and “kueh pai tee” (S$17), julienned prawn bisque-poached bamboo shoots and turnip served in deep-fried “cup”. Both ticked the right boxes flavours and execution-wise. (3.75/5)
|Kueh Beng Hah|
It would be criminal to leave National Kitchen without trying the desserts. Even if you do not have a sweet tooth, you will find comfort in the delicious “kueh beng kah” (S$9; 4.25/5), a traditional grated tapioca cake topped with gula Melaka syrup served with a side of creamy coconut milk; or the roti jala (S$10; 3.75/5), a “netted” light pancake drizzled with gula Melaka and banana sauce.
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.