The highly contrasted colonial-style, bungalow facade of INDOCAFE – the white house, does not in any way, let you in on what’s going on in there; I concur. It’s neither a coffee house, a business building, nor a place of residence. In any case, if you like what you see in the post to come, and you drive, you would be glad to know that there is complimentary parking at the premises, and complimentary evening parking valet.
Upon stepping into the Peranakan restaurant, you’d be greeted with a design that is glamorous without being ostentatious, replete with luxurious interior and hardwood furnishings. You’d almost feel as if you’re eating at a friend’s house, ideal for a family get-together meal. 3, 8 and 22-seater private dining rooms are available too at a minimum spending of $88++ per head.
INDOCAFE has, for the first time, assembled a 10-course Nonya flair for this Chinese New Year, available from now to 18 February 2014. I was skeptical when I was first heard of this Peranakan Chinese New Year meal, largely owing to the less than impressive Peranakan cuisines I’ve tried so far throughout my food journey. But I must say, I found myself singing high praises of the food prepared here to my friends and family thereafter. It may be possibly because this Straits-Peranakan dining establishment uses Peranakan influences in its spices, herbs and ingredients more uniquely and sparingly, and does less of the Beef Rendang and the usual suspects you see in Peranakan restaurants.
Flourishing Brilliance Yu Sheng ($68++ / $88++) :: For the higher cost option, you will get an additional fish to hug (read: abalone). It’s laid with mekajiki, salmon and tuna, and interestingly drenched in curry sauce and peanut oil. The hint of spiciness from the curry helps break the monotony in your everyday yu sheng. My only complain was that the base was too dry and clumped despite the sauces.
Treasures of the Sea Platter :: Immediately succeeding the lohei was a feast of premium seafood. Intricately presented are the (a) king crab that is cooked with salted water, de-shelled, toasted, and then marinated with sambal mayo before being seated on the emping cracker and garnished with black caviar, (b) silken Bibik jellyfish salad with abalone served in an abalone shell (first time I see an abalone shell), and the freshest (c) scallop pai tee.
Glorious Fortune Consommé :: To extract its natural flavors, the chicken is simmered for 12 hours and later turned into this nutritious and unforgettably robust and rich consommé. Each portion comes with an oyster, scallop and Kurobuta pork ribs. It was bursting with flavors and the sweetness and saltiness were very well held.
Kurobuta Pork Belly Meat :: It was just about the most fork-tender pork belly meat I’ve had, prepared this way. Covered in a savory fermented bean paste marinade, the surrounding crisp skin of the meat lends a twist, and good alternate bite to the very delicate meat. It was pure indulgence.
Because the foremost dishes were so memorable and impressive, it was hard for the remaining to top. Nevertheless, they were at the least average. The Spiced Jumbo Prawns are first deep-fried, and later marinated with in an aromatic spice paste that is specially created by the Chef. Packed with delectably moist meat, the Masala-roasted Whole Chicken was a black horse, as it tasted better than it looked. For its Steamed Red Garoupa, diners are free to choose for it to be infused in either Nonya Spices (spicy), or Dao Cheong (non-spicy).
Ushering Wealth & Good Fortune :: I like to see this as a toned down, table-dish-appropriate kind of ‘pen cai’; a dish brimming with sea cucumber, abalone, mushrooms and braised wong bok (chinese cabbage) with wolfberries, one that is mildly-flavored but surely fulfilling. Makes for a satisfyingly simple ‘pen cai‘, in my opinion.
For the must-have Keluak Fried Rice, fried prawns, eggs and other ingredients are marinated in a buah keluak paste, which is later used to season the rice. If you haven’t by then, had your fill of seafood, snatch up more of the rice that is filled with prawns, scallop and crab meat. Notwithstanding that we were already on our 9th course, I saw myself refilling my plate with the rice repeatedly.
The 10-course meal that induces belly explosion ended with Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Ginger Syrup. While the ginger syrup was addictive and helps wash everything down with the aftertaste of ginger spice, the rice dumplings failed to round the meal up perfectly. Cutting down on half the thickness of the dumpling wall would have been excellent.
It’s the first time I left a Peranakan restaurant feeling pleasantly overwhelmed and that it is worth every penny. Chinese with a penchant for ‘pen cai‘ can also have a takeaway / dine-in of their Bountiful Harvest Deluxe Pen Cai ($238++ / $228++ respectively), loaded with sea cucumber, baby abalone, dry scallop, pork belly, fish maw, prawns, black moss amongst others.
Prices are as follows, and can be adjusted according to the number of pax you have.
$368++ (4 pax)
$478++ (6 pax)
$688++ (8 pax)
Special gratitude to Nicole, Roza and the INDOCAFE team for the hospitality and hosting the media tasting session.
Address: 35 Scotts Road
Telephone: 6733 2656 (Takes Reservations)
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10.30pm (Daily)