We went to Singapore Expo on Sunday afternoon to watch A’s friend’s martial arts demonstration at Fitness Asia 2006. We saw this place and decided to have dinner there thinking that A could have some nonya kuehs, for which he seems to have developed quite a fondness. When we went in, though, there were no kuehs to be found, just authentic Peranakan dishes.
A ordered the sambal fish spaghetti, which turned out pretty good, as far as fusion pastas go. He would have liked it better if not for the daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaf) that scented the sauce. I wanted to order a bunch of sides, because they looked promising and a lot like what my grandmother cooks, like pong tauhu soup (meatballs with bamboo shoots) and bakwan kepiting (pork and crabmeat balls), but unfortunately they were all out of these, having catered to thousands of people the past week for Comex.
I decided to try the Ayam Buah Keluak. I usually try not to order this dish in restaurants, because my grandmother makes it so well and with such a potent buah keluak flavour that most places don’t measure up at all. Ivin’s sucks, and most places skimp on the buah keluak so it just ends up tasting like assam chicken. However, I’m pleased to say that this one tasted almost like my grandmother’s. The gravy was really thick, and there was definitely some buah keluak added directly to the gravy. The chicken was juicy thigh meat and conveniently deboned, and there were 2 nuts stuffed with some minced meat. They even gave you a disposable glove and a crab picker for you to dig the meat out of the nuts.
The chef, Philip Khoo, came over to ask if everything was alright, and after realising I wasn’t clueless about Peranakan food, starting chatting to us and offered us loads of stuff to try. He brought out an amazing buah keluak sambal – the buah keluak paste blended with sambal which was just amazing with rice or added to the buah keluak gravy. He let us try his achar as well, which A polished off, and some of his beef Devil’s curry which was also really good. (They do a Devil’s curry spaghetti too, which after tasting the curry, I can imagine would be pretty good)
Alas, for the moment they only have the one branch at Singapore Expo (facing Hall 3, for those who may be interested). Apparently they’re going to open 2 more branches by the end of the year – Novena Ville and Telok Ayer Street – along with 6 fast food joints called Pasta Peranakano (or something). I’m less interested in the pasta and more in the proper food joints, so watch this space and I hope to be able to report on the new store openings soon.
I was surprised how good the food was considering where it was. Owners seem nice and friendly although the new influx of non-native-nonyas may affect quality. And unlike C, I’m not a big nonya cuisine fan so I’m looking forward to the fusion with pasta. It’s not worth going all the way to Singapore Expo to have, but once their other outlets open, I foresee it being a regular haunt for nonya fans.