Kovan Heartland Mall holds little appeal for me. Most of the restaurants comprise of run of the mill franchises (e.g. Thai Express, KFC, Old Chang Kee, Sakae Sushi, Pizza Hut) and there isn't really much to shop and browse.
That is, until I stumbled upon Nyonya Memories restaurant yesterday.
Nyonya Memories (managed by the same folks who run Ivins) is located at the second floor of Kovan Mall. Its shopfront is unassuming, with a small dessert counter fronting the main entrance. Having had a late lunch, Hubby and I weren't feeling exactly hungry but were drawn by the cheap prices, interesting food selection and packed tables.
At SGD7.90, diners get to choose rice with a selection of ayam buah keluak, prawns, fish curry or babi pongteh. Top up an additional SGD3.90 and you will further enjoy a barley drink, itek kim soup and pulot hitam for dessert. Hubby opted for a buah keluak rice set while I ordered the babi pongteh set with top up. Being the greedy gremblin that I am, I also ordered an ala carte serving of chap chye (SGD5).
The ambience is distinctly Peranakan, with Peranakan embellishments, like kum cheng pots and wooden carvings scattered throughout the restaurant's premises. Familiar Peranakan tunes like "Rasa Sayang" also lend further authenticity to the experience. Unfortunately, tables are quite closely spaced together and the floor is grimy. Ventilation is also rather atrocious (even after washing my hair immediately after coming home, I still reeked of rempah).
Hubby's ayam buah keluak rice was first to arrive. It looked like a snapshot from a food magazine, with a dollop of buah keluak paste perched artistically atop a fiery bed of rempah drenched chicken. Every restaurant's version of buah keluak varies. In this case, the assam flavor was more intense. We also found the buah keluak seeds stuffed with a mixture of ground meat and buay keluak flesh. Won't say this is the best buah keluak we have eaten (we still prefer Baba King's sweeter and thicker version) but this was quality stuff nonetheless.
The only lack lustre item that evening was our order of chap chye, which was underwhelming and a tad too salty for my liking. I should have ordered the sambal ladies finger, which is known to be one of the restaurant's signature dishes.
This is definitely the best pulot hitam I have ever eaten. I felt immediately drawn into a cocoon of unadulterated bliss. Time seemed to stop as the savoury sweetness of this unassuming (and ridiculously cheap) dessert worked its magic from my mouth to my tummy. My mouth is still salivating as I write.