Violet Oon is arguably one of Singapore’s pioneer celebrity chefs, way before the likes of Andre Chiang or even Justin Quek. Her latest culinary venture is a family affair – front of house is run by her two children, while she oversees the kitchen. The bistro, right next to Bar Bar Black Sheep along Bukit Timah Road, is decorated simply yet very chicly in black and white, with hints of mosaic and Peranakan tiles giving a clue as to the nature of the eatery.
Violet’s reputation clearly precedes her, because even without much opening fanfare and despite only being open for a few weeks, they were full on a Sunday night. Reservations are definitely highly recommended, as they sometimes close for private events as well. I assume her son was manning the front of house, and doing a very good job. We noticed him being attentive yet not obtrusive, making sure customers were happy and answering questions about the menu and the food, without imposing on the customers’ time/space.
The menu comprises of the usual Peranakan suspects, like ayam buah keluak, beef rendang and pong tauhu soup, as well as some Western/fusion items like her famous shepherd’s pie, braised beef rigatoni and hae bee hiam Panini.
We (I) were immediately drawn to the Ayam Goreng, since it features fried chicken wings. I think the chicken was slow cooked first before being flash fried, because the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. It was dusted with fried grated coconut, which surprisingly wasn’t as sweet as I feared, and just added a nice texture to the wings.
We’ll be hard pressed not to order the 2 Dip Pita again when we’re next here. Wedges of soft, fluffy pita bread were served with 2 dips – chilli crab and Indonesian black nut (buah keluak) tapenade. I’m used to the usual ayam buah keluak dish but it was a stroke of genius to turn it into a tapenade dip. It tasted like buah keluak yet not exceedingly so. Apparently they blend plenty of fresh prawns with the buah keluak nut, which explained the moreish, complex flavour.
The shepherd’s pie deserves special mention. Besides being really yummy, it’s one of the few places that prepare shepherd’s pie with minced lamb. Most places use minced beef, probably because lamb may not cater to all palates, but the use of lamb is what, I think, really made the dish. Random bit of trivia – apparently shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb, due to the connection between shepherds and sheep. The minced beef version is apparently cottage pie, though most people use the terms interchangeably.
The chicken curry wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it would be like a Singapore curry – coconutty and with a fairly thin gravy that you can almost drink like a soup. Instead, it was almost like a rendang. The consistency made it suitable for the accompanying roti jala, but personally I prefer the other type of curry. The chicken was really moist and tender though. Even the breast meat pieces, which usually end up being stringy and dry, were surprisingly tender.
The bubor cha cha panna cotta here has been lauded at length so we decided to try it. It did indeed pair all elements of a bubor cha cha with a traditional panna cotta, and with elements of chendol thrown in for good measure. This was good, though it's hard to go wrong with this combination. We’ll try the pulot hitam with ice cream next.
We’ll definitely be back; there are enough enticing items on the menu that warrant at least one more visit, like the dry mee siam and the ayam buah keluak. Not to mention more of the buah keluak tapenade.
Very good food, but not exactly cheap. Still, if you don’t have a Peranakan Grandma/Mum to cook for you, this is the place to go. Parking’s a bitch though.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tues to Thurs: 11.30 am – 10 pm
Fri to Sun: 11.30 am – 11 pm
(Last food order 9.45 pm)