MOVED: Candlenut has moved to Block 17A Dempsey Road.
Candlenut Kitchen, which closed down in Jan 2012, is reincarnated to simply Candlenut in June this year, helmed by 29 year-old Malcolm Lee. When he was an undergrad at SMU, he took over the campus’ cafe and later, won a scholarship at At-Sun GlobalChef Academy. What differentiates him from other young chefs is how he uses modern cooking techniques (sous vide, for example) on classic Peranakan cuisine. Rempahs (spice pastes) are made from scratch. No MSG or preservatives.
When we were there for Restaurant Week, Chef Lee presented new dishes in the 3-course menu ($35+) to test water and see if the dishes were popular enough to be included in the regular menu. What Ms Atas and I did–we are so clever!–was to order a RW set and a few a la carte dishes on the regular menu. Luckily, we did that because food on the regular menu was superior and delicious.
As of Peranakan food, the dishes are eaten with rice. The Ngoh Hiang ($8, above) had a nice crispy deep-fried beancurd skin, and tasted lighter and healthier than elsewhere but I found the minced meat’s texture a bit powdery. Ms Atas didn’t quite enjoy the bakwan kepiting ($8) soup but I did. It was a light, clear, refreshing soup with bamboo shoots in chicken broth – but I thought I tasted something peppery and zesty. Kaffir leaves, lemongrass and ginger perhaps? The soup had only 2 crab meatballs. More balls are better because who can get enough of balls?
The babi pongteh ($14) is a must-order. The braised pork belly was one of the tenderest I have had in recent months. I am on a diet but I couldn’t resist finishing the entire plate! I have to run 2 hours to burn off the calories–so worth it! The preserved soy beans gravy, not too salty, went excellently with rice.
The buah keluak wagyu beef rib (RW menu) with a marbling of 7+ was another winner. It was similar to the one on the regular menu, which uses regular short ribs. Buah keluak is usually paired with chicken, so this combination was novel and promising. The buah keluak wasn’t as sharp as elsewhere, and complemented but did not overwhelm the taste of beef. A gentle dish even the toothless can eat.
The only bad dish was the gorgeous foie gras (RW menu), drizzled with pineapple red wine reduction sauce, topped with Thai mango and ginger flower. It was the second worst foie gras I had ever tasted, after Jakarta’s Skye restaurant, tasting like a wet dog. We ate only a morsel each and left more than half of it untouched.
Cendol Cream (similar to Cendol panna cotta)
While the restaurant has a weird shape, like the weird Tetris shape nobody wants to get when dying in the game (everyone wants a long one), the decorators did what they could with clean lines, spot-lighting, and bare wooden tables, giving the restaurant a modern look. The service was top-notch: attentive and efficient. The pricing was very reasonable with such expensive ingredients: we paid $77 for two, or about $38 for one. But best of all was the feeling I got from the food: it was sincere food with integrity, cooked from the heart. If you’ve tourist-friends from overseas, bring them here. Also good for families and friends. Highly recommended.
331 New Bridge Rd Dorsett Residences #01-03 Singapore 088764
T: 8121 4107
Rating: 4.032/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.