Friday, 19 May 2017

Peranakan Food at its Finest at National Kitchen by Violet Oon


The entrance

National Kitchen by Violet Oon located at the historic National Gallery is a restaurant I have always wanted to try. My first encounter with Violet’s cuisine was when I tried her Shepherd’s pie at the Takashimaya food outlet about two decades ago. That was probably the first time I tried Shepherd’s pie and I must say I was very impressed with the rich flavours. The creamy texture of the mashed potatoes, coupled with the flavourful minced beef filling blew my mind away. 

A household name, Violet Oon has cemented a reputation for being the grand dame of Peranakan cuisine. Born a Singapore Nyonya in 1949, Violet Oon started her career as a music and arts reporter. Her love for food led her to host cooking programmes, be a food researcher for the National Heritage Board, launch her culinary magazine called The Food Paper in 1987, as well as introduce a food outlet in Takashimaya in the 1990s

Violet Oon’s first restaurant Violet Oon Singapore (formerly Violet Oon’s Kitchen) opened its doors in 2012 specialising in Peranakan favourites such as buah keluak ayam, dried mee siam, dried laksa and meatless meatball rendang. Being a fan of her cookbooks and cooking shows, I decided to try the food at Violet Oon Singapore. The food there was good, but not particularly mind blowing. What made it popular was the casual setting and the family-friendly vibe.

The beautiful decor

Her second outlet, National Kitchen somehow sounded more promising. Housed at the former Supreme Court of Singapore, the restaurant is a celebration of Singapore’s national heritage. Opulent chandeliers, gold accents and floral-patterned tiles give the restaurant a classic yet elegant touch. The dark toned walls are embellished with black and white photos depicting her illustrious career and Peranakan roots.

Scenic view from the alfresco area

There is also an alfresco area which boasts a picturesque view of the Padang and the Marina Bay Sands. The décor is so stylishly chic that it debunks the myth that Peranakan restaurants are usually traditional, homey and frequented by families. 

The cuisine at National Kitchen is predominantly Peranakan with a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian influences, reflecting Singapore’s colourful food culture. Each dish is meticulously executed using time-honoured recipes, original ingredients and traditional cooking methods.

Ngoh hiang

We started our meal with the ngoh hiang ($15)  comprising crisp, bean curd skin with succulent chicken meat seasoned with five spice powder wrapped inside. I like the addition of water chestnut which gives it a crunchy texture. What paired with the sweet sauce and chilli, it is undeniably mouth-watering.

Kiam chye ark thng

The kiam chye ark thng ($10) which consists of salted mustard greens and duck in a clear broth is a hearty mix of savoury and tangy flavours with a hint of spiciness. Every mouthful is filled with homemade goodness.


Chap chye

Chap Chye is a quintessential Nyonya dish and I must say that Violet Oon’s version is well balanced in flavours, tasty in a very homely way.

Beef rendang

The main highlight is the beef rendang ($23) which is remarkably flavourful and succulent and every bite is unforgettable.

Garam assam fish

Another dish which is executed superbly is the garam assam fish ($23) which consists of Spanish mackerel fillets in a tangy and piquant gravy with fresh pineapple slices and ladies fingers topped with julienne pink ginger flower. The gravy is appetising and tasty, blowing our minds away.

Pulut hitam

Our delicious Peranakan meal concluded with a grand finale with the delicious pulut hitam ($12) – black glutinous rice stewed with decadent gula Melaka and rich coconut milk topped with a scoop of creamy, vanilla ice cream. Exquisitely prepared and beautifully plated, satiating all our senses.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon is located at 1 St. Andrew’s Road #02-01, National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing), Singapore, Singapore 178957. The restaurant is open from 12pm to 3pm (last order 2.30pm) during lunch and from 6pm to 11pm (last order 9.30pm) during dinner. The veranda is open from 5.30pm to 11pm (last order 10pm). 

For reservations, please call (+65) 9781 3144 or email eat@violetoon.com. Alternatively, please click here.

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