Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Candlenut Kitchen

I hate Mondays. They represent the worst sort of weekday where the (week)end is NOT in sight. Not surprisingly, they also bring out the worst side of me- crabby, grouchy and a pain in the ass.

On a lighter (and more palatable) note, thank goodness there are Monday lunches to distract thunder clouds like me from wallowing in weekday self pity. Such was the case last Monday where I had the good fortune of dining at Candlenut Kitchen with a fellow colleague- who also happens to be quite a foodie.

At the stroke of 12 (noon), like giggly schoolgirls, we hopped onto a cab and asked the driver to take us to Neil Road, where the restaurant was. Unfortunately, I had stupidly forgotten to take down the restaurant's exact unit number before leaving office. Coupled with the fact that Neil Road is a very long road, we ended up zipping out and then back in to the CBD before finally locating the restaurant. Determined not to let the SGD10 taxi fare get to me, I quickly focused my attention on the sunny smile of our inexperienced young waiter.

Frankly, the menu doesn't really contain many items. The only vegetable dish served in the ala carte menu is chap chye. Some of the items also seem like quick fixes using the same sauce base (think buah keluak prawn, buah keluak chicken and buah keluak pork). My wild guess is that the owner/chef probably wants to smoothen out any teething kinks before further expanding his repertoire.

We decided to pass on the (very affordable) SGD10 lunch set and order ala carte instead as some of the highly recommended items were not part of the lunch set.

Here is what we ordered:

Yeye's Chicken Curry. Purportedly a recipe passed down for generations, this is curry like no other. The gravy was thick, rich and peppery. The chicken pieces were tender but did not seem to have fully absorbed the richness of the gravy. Nonetheless, this was our favorite dish. My colleague liked it so much that she decided to make a return visit on Friday.

Chap Chye. The vegetables were fresh and studded with generous portions of black fungus, chinese mushroom and prawn. As is the case with the chicken, I felt that the vegetables were not simmered in the stock long enough. My colleague also felt it was a tad too salty for her liking.

Braised Pork Belly. The recipe for this dish is supposedly passed down from the owner's mom. The meat was cut into wafer thin slices which yielded a surprisingly crunchy texture. We also enjoyed the accompanying sweet chili sauce.

Trio of desserts- Kudos to the chef for creating a unique "fusion" dessert that pairs familar Peranakan favorites like chendol and sago gula melaka together with pannacotta and vanilla ice cream. Eaten individually or as a combined mess, the resulting flavors were extremely well balanced and refined. This was definitely an eye opener for me.

You can't really compare Candlenut Kitchen with nearby Peranakan heavyweight Blue Ginger which caters to the more upmarket office crowd. Candlenut Kitchen is very much run like a family business, with spartan decor, a no frills menu and spotty service. Nonetheless, the restaurant possesses an endearing quality that tugs on my heartstrings and leaves me craving for more.

This is one great young chef to watch out for.

Candlenut Kitchen
25 Neil Road
Tel: 6226 2506

Other reviews on Candlenut Kitchen:
Business Times
Chubby Hubby

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