lovely, delicious peranakan food at this modern restaurant along the perimeter of the dorsett residences. modern isn’t necessarily what you think of with peranakan – and neither is it something you think you’d want to hear, but the food is properly executed with finesse, and it comes dished out in a style you’d associate with european dining.
I’m very impressed with this place – it feels very much like a polished version of what was someone’s grandma’s kitchen, with dishes that taste both nostalgic and refined. service is both friendly and ready, and we finished our meal with a lady who was sharp and just prickly enough to feel like you’re dealing with a true peranakan aunt.
it’s also convenient, and reasonably priced – really, you couldn’t ask for more.
peranakan is a pricey cuisine to indulge in – there’s a lot of work to be done to push out the dishes, and it’s too quickly dying out for all that effort. there are still a couple stalwarts in singapore, and I think this could become one of them (if it isn’t already), though its modern, yuppie atmosphere might detract from some people’s expectation of a traditional meal.
but pooh on that, as it’s fantastic eating.
it’s a concise menu full of things you’d expect, like your buah keluak chicken, and things you wouldn’t, like that buah keluak chocolate in that opening shot up there. it’s all good, though some were more delicious than others, with enough variety for you to order widely and greedily.
we started with a salad of wing beans diced up with dried prawns, crispy fried fish and a tangy lime dressing – lots of textures from the cashews and crunchy beans and crispy fish, and lots of flavor from everything. very more-ish, and a great starter.
so were our sticks of candlenut satay – marinated chicken grilled till charred and served up as should with satay sauce and mashed pineapple.
we moved onto our main dishes (everything should really be mopped up with rice), starting with buah keluak chicken – this modern interpretation had OH-SO-TENDER chicken dice simmered in a sauce gravelly with ground candlenuts and beautifully seasoned.
a good portion, and very very delicious.
our prawns cooked in sambal with petai beans were also pretty good, with a sweet-sour sauce coating the shell-on prawns; as were our assam promfret with al dente bits of fresh tomatoes and ladies fingers.
I thought the sayur lodeh in its rich coconut gravy decent too, though the flavor was a little muted for my taste – the chap chye is up for ordering on my next visit.
but can we talk dessert – we all know this blog is just an excuse for my indulgence in sweets – because I didn’t know what to expect, given that most nonya sweets are some variation of a sticky kueh and other gelatinous/ carby offerings I don’t much appreciate.
they have five desserts on offer, and we ordered three: the banana caramel pudding, a durian soup, and that beautiful buah keluak. the banana cake was tender, and went very well with the gula melaka ice cream and well-caramelized bananas (with a fantastic sugar shell atop); the durian soup was pungent (but mild enough for newbies), and the tube of feuilletine broke up the creamy soup;
but – can we talk about that buah keluak? because it went so why-didn’t-I-think-of-it well with chocolate, manifesting in a hint of smoky nuttiness after the dark chocolate. all the other accouterments on the plate were great – but that ice cream really held the fort.
so, good, good, great. I’m not sure I have anything more in me to explain how much I enjoyed this meal – but they know what they’re doing here.
#01-03 Dorsett Residences
331 New Bridge Road
tel +65 8121 4107
$$.5: 40-60 per person
for all my non-singaporean friends, here’s a glossary of terms (please use with caution!):
peranakan refers to a cuisine that sort of indigenous to the straits about here, and is a happy combination of chinese, malay, and european cooking
buah keluak refers to a dish made usually with chicken – the keluak is a seed that is actually poisonous, but prepared by boiling and fermenting, before being ground up into a paste – tastes like a smoky, oily nut
wing beans have a cross-section that looks like an X – crispy like french beans, and tastes like those too!
sambal is a sort of chilli paste – the exact ingredients vary by family but it’s usually pretty spicy, and can contain dried shrimp
petai beans are look innocent like edamame, but are pretty pungent, with a sharp flavor that not many people enjoy (but can be hidden with strong sauces)
assam refers to a sauce made with the pulp of the tamarind fruit – it’s usually very tangy and quite sour, but tempered with sugar and salt
sayur lodeh is a mild, watery curry of coconut milk and vegetables, sometimes served with pressed rice cakes (or ketupat)
chap chye refers to a variety of vegetables braised till soft in a savoury sauce, and which sometimes includes vermicelli for texture
durian is a fruit indigenous to southeast asia – very pungent in flavor and smell (you can smell it quite a distance away) – and very rich (sort of the way an avocado is); it needs to be experienced!