I secretly don’t normally like Peranakan food. It’s a secret because in my constant quest to be as local as I possibly can, this is rather a shortfall. Steeped in history, (as well as usually oil) Nyonya cuisine and culture forms an important part of Singapore’s heritage.
Our good friends SDJ and BJ are sadly leaving Singapore to move back to the US early next week. The result was a very civilised mid-week goodbye dinner last night at Violet Oon’s (she’s something of a national treasure here in Singapore) new joint serving food they will probably never be able to enjoy Stateside: Nyonya nosh.
A new restaurant, it has only been open 2 weeks, it’s sleek and stylish (think PS. Café) specialising in contemporary Nyona cooking and totally redefining my idea of it being all about heavy, over spiced food in thick tomato based sauces that make everything taste the same (well, to me anyway). But that’s not all. It also serves DELICIOUS western food. I‘ve written delish in shouty capitals because it really is. No other restaurant that I have ever been to in this country manages to serve both types exceptionally well. Except Violet’s.
The décor is also fresh and fabulous. Wipe from your mind any lingering memories of dark and dingy peranakan restaurants, with doilies on every table and a clutter of dusty, scene-setting artifacts greeting you as you come in. Violet Oon’s Kitchen is approachable, food (whether local or international) is excellent and there is great wine on the menu…all in surroundings you actually want to linger in. And not a doily in sight.
It’s beautifully done up with black and white tiles, huge bold displays of flowers (very PS.) and, joy of joys, good lighting. Her daughter Su-Lyn, who’s front of house, did the interior. A clothing designer by day who owns and designs for the cult LA label t-bags; it’s fair to say she’s got great taste.
I suppose now would be as good a time as any to mention that Violet (below in her sleek chef’s ‘blacks’) is a family friend, she went to school with my mother-in-law, but I promise that that really has nothing to do with it. She’s an awesome all-round cook, already a household name here in Singapore – she’s the country’s official food ambassador – and a packed, buzzing restaurant is a very logical next step.
Ordering family-style worked really well for us last night, so everyone got to try a little of everything. Dishes we loved were the Chilli Crab Dip and Black Nut Tapenade served with homemade pitta bread, the Ngo Hiang (deep fried fresh prawn, crab meat, pork and water chestnut bean curd skin rolls), Beef Rendang, ViO’s special Meatless Meatballs (we were all meat eaters, but these did it even for the boys) and her angmoh dish of Pulled Beef Ragu Rigatoni – slow cooked, shredded beef stewed in homemade wine ragu and tossed with rigatoni. Although I’m a Nyona convert, this last one was my most favourite and when I come again, I’m not sharing it.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen, 881 Bukit Timah (one before Bar Bar Blacksheep).
T: (+65) 6468 5430.
Update: Read my post on the new VOK breakfast/brunch here
Exterior image of the restaurant, courtesy of Violet Oon’s Kitchen