Situated in a gorgeous colonial building, Indocafe the White House is an upscale Penang-influenced Peranakan restaurant that has its own Arts and Cultural Centre! At the centre, you can have Peranakan high tea (3-5.30pm, $34+) while enjoying a traditional gamelan dance by a Singapore Cultural Medallion winner (at 3.30-4pm daily).
If you think the outside is gorgeous, wait till you step in. It’s like walking into another world, the world of Little Nyonya. A haven within the city.
For starters, try either the kueh pie tee ($10), pastry cups filled with sweet turnip, crab, carrot, prawn, and mixed pork, or classic Penang otah ($18, pictured above), steamed Barramundi (instead of wrapped in banana leaves), seasoned with coconut milk and spices. I prefer otah to have a banana-leaf fragrance, but this otah has its merits, with chunks of fresh fish. My advice is if you’re not a big eater, just whack the mains.
The must-order is ikan masak merah ($32). The cod fish is flash-fried to sear in the juices and flavors, then pan-roasted in a sweet chilli sauce. The sweet chilli comes immediately, mellowed into the milky subtleness of the fish. Tender, and moist within. Each piece is about half a fist-sized–I swallowed it in a mouthful. Too delicious. Needed to be in my stomach pronto!
The rendang sapi ($32) is slow-cooked wagyu beef cheeks in their special blend of spices, especially heavy in cloves. Needless to say, “slow cook” + “wagyu cheeks” = food so tender a granny without teeth can eat. The superior ingredients bring a new high for this traditional dish.
Huccalily liked ayam goreng lengkuas ($24), a fried chicken marinated in traditional blue ginger spices and lemongrass mix, but it was so-so to me. the marinate didn’t permeate into the chicken. I’d have preferred to try the other chicken specialty of Indocafe, ayam buah keluak ($24), or an interesting Kurobuta pork belly in curry ($26), or the Peranakan classic, babi pongteh.
For fibre, the sambal kangkong ($14) is done very well, stalks still crunchy with huge prawns. But Huccalily commented that, in general, the food wasn’t spicy enough for her.
Both desserts, banana cake ($12, pictured above) and bubur cha cha ($8), are fantastic. The banana cake, slathered with peanut butter, is paired with a very refreshing homemade soursop ice cream; while the bubur cha cha comes thick and viscous. “All bubur cha chas in the world should aspire to be like this bowl,” Huccalily said. The Platonic bubur cha cha.
We all judge food differently. This is a place I’d bring my parents, and large groups of friends or colleagues. But my tastebuds are modern, so the traditional food, while delicious, isn’t interesting for me. But Huccalily sang high praises of Indocafe, preferring it to another modern Peranakan restaurant I highly recommended. She said the ambience and service are top-notched, the price affordable ($40-60 a pax), the food as good as the other Peranakan restaurant I recommended, and there is FREE PARKING. There is some truth in what she said, you can’t beat free parking. Private rooms available with minimum spending of $88/pax.
Thanks, Nicole and Roza, for their hospitality.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.