Folklore is situated at the lobby of Hotel Destination on Beach Road and although it is hard to get to by public transport, it is worth the effort. 62 year-old chef Damian D’Silva draws inspiration from his Eurasian-Peranakan parentage to present dishes that are hard to find in other restaurants. We were invited for a tasting but we rejected it; we prefer to write honest, anonymous reviews that we pay ourselves.
Everyone around the table loves the beef cheek rendang ($36)… except me (I only like it, I don’t love it). It is braised in a gravy made from 15 different herbs and spices. It falls at the contact of fork, and in your mouth, it disintegrates that even your granny could eat with her dentures. But for me, I prefer something with structure and this was overly soft for me. As for the seasoning, it is not spicy but it is sweet. Not too bad, but I want something more complex and forceful as like Peranakan dishes should be. Still, this dish will and should please most people; it did please my family.
The babi assam ($22) is a nice change from the common and more popular babi buah keluak. This is really a nice surprise for me, not having eaten it cooked in this style before. It is braised with cinnamon and star anise in a tamarind gravy and then fried before serving. As a result, it’s tender with a caramelised surface. It’s sweet and piquant, almost sourish and appetising. Goes amazing with rice.
Singgang ($22) is another treat for me because I have not eaten it before this. It is an Eurasian dish made from deboned wolf herring fish in a non-spicy paste. There is a good reason that the dish is relatively unknown now; it doesn’t taste great. The fish done this way has lost the texture which is similar to the texture of leftover bits of a whole fish. As for the flavour, it is indecisive, and slightly sourish but not in a good way. If you want to try it for the sake of novelty, I won’t discourage you; we should always try everything once. But now that I’ve tried it, I wouldn’t order it the next time I come.
Chap chye ($18) is a cornerstone of Peranakan cuisine although I don’t why since it is not very special or tasty. Here, they braised the ingredients in pork-and-prawn stock until they have absorbed the stock. It’s ok, but to be fair, chap chye elsewhere is normally just ok.
This sambal buah keluak fried rice ($28), which was first created in 2001, is the star of the restaurant. Usually the poisonous buah keluak, or some quarters call it “Asia’s black diamond,” is cooked with chicken or pork belly, but this version with rice is unique and delicious. Whether there is real wok hei or whether the buah keluah boosts the smokey flavour is inconsequential; the fact remains that there is a nice char that adds to the depth of the dish. It’s slightly pungent from the buah keluak, adding another dimension to the dish.
For desserts, we hesitated over the kueh kosui ($8, a dark palm sugar kueh rolled in grated coconut) or kueh bengkah ($10), a tapioca cake. Our decision boiled to which comes with ice cream. The kueh bengkah is served with coconut ice cream and a salty gula melaka dip. The “cake” itself is nice and light, although I have eaten better renditions, renditions that are fluffy, almost Japanese-like with an intense tapioca taste. But the combination of sweet and salty here elevates the kueh, making it rather irresistible when dipped in the sauce and ice cream.
On the whole, Folklore is an interesting restaurant. “Interesting” is mostly used as a euphemism for bad and weird food but in this case, I sincerely mean that the food is interesting and delicious in the positive sense. You cannot eat this food elsewhere even in other Peranakan restaurants. This restaurant is rather personality-driven in that you are eating the memories and history of the chef, Damian D’Silva. Folklore has extended the repertoire of our local cuisine and my family enjoyed it thoroughly. There are 5 of us and we paid about $40 per pax. (I lost the receipt.)
700 Beach Rd, Level 2 Destination Singapore, Singapore 199598
tel: +65 6679 2900
12pm – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.30pm
Food: 7.25 / 10
Decor / ambience: 6 / 10
Price / value: 6.5 / 10
Service: 6.5 / 10
You may be interested in…
–Whole Earth, Tanjong Pagar: VERY SMELLY, Expensive But Excellent Food at the Only Vegetarian Restaurant to Be Awarded by the Michelin Guide
–National Kitchen, National Gallery: Michelin Stars for Singapore’s National Treasure, Peranakan Chef Violet Oon?
–Indocafe The White House, Newton
–Candlenut, Dempsey Road
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.