The last time I gave birth, admittedly many years ago, my confinement nanny checked-out on me just as I was checking out of the maternity ward. What followed was a flurry of calls to hunt down a confinement nanny but they were to no avail. How I wished then that a confinement hotel or confinement food delivery service existed.
Well, almost 15 years later, my wish has been granted by way of KAI SUITES, the city’s first postpartum-care confinement hotel, a luxury one at that, offering 18 suites decked in Japanese design aesthetics as well as pre- and postpartum care catered to mothers and their new-borns.
While I no longer need postpartum confinement help, I am excited about KAI SUITES because of its confinement cuisine, so named KAI CUISINE.
Unlike home-spun confinement fare, which has a straightforward emphasis on the use of ginger, sesame oil and yellow rice wine during cooking, KAI CUISINE is a holistic confinement food programme that combines Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and postpartum dietary science with gastronomy. Created by food historian and writer as well as the founder of the now-defunct Circa1912, David Yip, KAI CUISINE is anchored on the ethos of purity, artisanal and wholesomeness. Hence, no MSG or artificial additives are used for seasoning whilst all stocks (e.g. three hour-boiled chicken soup), sauces (like oyster sauce), seasonings (think sugar cane instead of sugar) and condiments are made from scratch.
While there are menu mainstays, postpartum mothers who are checked into KAI SUITES are served a different menu each week so that their meals, which can be had in the comfort of their suite or at the ground floor KAI LOUNGE, incorporate different ingredients that aid in different stages of their postpartum recovery.
Yes, the KAI LOUNGE caters mainly to confinement mothers but non-confinement dishes like the Grilled Sakura Pork Loin served with Lyonnaise-style Chinese yam are available exclusively for fathers of newborns who are also checked-in with their postpartum wife as well as visiting guests. Additionally, a six-course Mother’s Confinement Trial Meal is also available to the public subject to 48-hour advanced booking. Note however that diners will not have a choice of dishes served in this trial meal.
The piece de resistance from the mainstays is the Pork Trotter braised in sweet vinegar. Usually served from week three (or upon special request), black vinegar-braised pig’s trotters are paired with 30-day fermented ginger and free-range eggs, and arrive in a brown sugar-sweetened ginger-vinegar broth fortified with chicken broth as well as chicken wings (for added collagen). The result is an intensely sweet, tangy and collagen-rich brew that is sure to win fans, even if you don’t eat pig’s trotters. Guests who are keen to have a sip or a bite of this ambrosia can make a special request to replace a side dish on the Mother’s Confinement Trial Meal with a sampler of the pork trotter dish when making their advanced reservation.
Another menu highlight is the other mainstay of 3-Cup Anxin Chicken with artisanal soy sauce, house-made yellow wine and basil. Featuring locally made artisanal soy sauce enriched with house-made 30-day fermented rice wine coddling chicken pieces sauteed in sesame oil, garlic and ginger, the dish is nourishing, deeply savoury and quite simply addictive.
As KAI SUITES has a repertoire of about 600 recipes, dishes here are rarely ever repeated. Yes, the mainstays tend to veer towards traditional recipes but the kitchen also has an arsenal of east-meets-west recipes that could well point us in the direction of future confinement food. Case in point is the yellow wine-marinated chicken that is first steamed then grilled and served with a refreshingly light Roma tomato glaze. It’s savoury and at the same time refreshing, yet nourishing.
Apart from a main course and a bowl of oil-scented fragrant Taiwanese pearl rice, the six-course Mother’s Confinement Trial Meal also includes two vegetables, a soup and a dessert.
Vegetables cooked at home during confinement are usually an afterthought, particularly so when they are merely tossed in a wok with oil and ginger or garlic. But KAI SUITES makes your meal all the more gastronomic by pumping up their dishes with flavours. For instance, the steamed butternut squash served is layered with chicken stock glaze and finished with a dried scallop brown butter stock for a hint of umami. While delicate, the layers of flavours make this one of the tastiest butternut squash I’ve had.
I don’t blame KAI LOUNGE for prioritising postpartum mums-in-residence. But I do wish that more people could have a taste of the nourishing, thoughtful and delicious confinement meals offered here. If the idea of checking-in seems too daunting due to the hefty rates, know that KAI CUISINE offers home-delivery packages for mothers who prefer to recuperate at home. Now, that’s exactly what I would have signed up for 15 years ago.
26 Dunearn Road, Singapore 309 423; kaisuites.com.sg; +6588556188
© Evelyn Chen 2021
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.