NYTimes article about Violet Oon's restaurant
Sounds interesting - I'd driven past her new restaurant several times since it opened but never thought of stopping to go in. A friend of mine who lived in the neighborhood gave an account of her last meal there which weren't too encouraging.
But Violet Oon has a special place in the hearts of us Singaporeans. Her articles in the New Nation paper back in the 1970s introduced many of us to the various food spots in Singapore, which seemed so much more colourful back then. I remembered tasting Violet Oon's cooking for the first time during the food promotion-cum-book launch of her "Singapore Family Cookbook" at the Hilton Singapore in the late-90s. After decades of following her food writings - her dishes didn't seem to live up to the high expectations I'd perhaps unrealistically had of her.
Her subsequent forays: Shepherd's pies, etc at the Takashimaya basement food court and a short-lived eatery in Toa Payoh also didn't quite measure up to our expectations.
But I simply *must* visit this latest place of hers. Sounds like her children's invaluable input might have just given her that little edge she needs this time :-)
For some strange reason, we always tend to look faraway for places to eat, whilst not noticing the ones right at our doorsteps. Violet Oon's Kitchen is located along Bukit Timah Road, very near from where I lived, and just across the road from where many of my family members lived at Jalan Kampung Chantek and Swiss Club Road.
Today, I got a couple of cousins to try out Violet Oon's Kitchen. What we had:
- Ngoh hiang: which are crisp rolls of pork, prawns, crabmeat and water chestnuts, scented with 5-spice and wrapped in beancurd sheet rolls. The version here was definitely the *best* I'd had in Singapore - subtle and perfectly flavored, not overly salted as in other Nyonya or Chinese places. If only the rolls were served hotter, but that's a minor infraction. To anyone who wants to know how "real" ngoh hiang should taste like - you must come to Violet Oon's Kitchen!
- Kueh pie tee: one of the off-the-menu daily specials. The ones here were very tasty indeed, and I liked the fact that we can taste the "tau kua" (beancurd) bits within the grated jicama, which was also very well-flavored. Fresh whole shrimps topped each pie tee. But again, these were not served fresh and hot, and the "pie tee" shells were not crispy at all. A pity - else, they would have been *perfect*.
- Vio's Meatless Meatballs: one of the restaurant's non-Nyonya fusion options - walnut and parmesan cheese balls smothred with an intensely-flavored tomato gravy. The gravy was, in fact, a bit *too* intense, but the "meat" balls had a wonderful texture and were incredibly addictive. Loved this dish.
- Vio's Chicken Curry with Roti Jala: the chicken curry was *too* spicy, lacked potatoes (which I liked when having Nyonya-style chicken curry) and didn't seem to have the aromatic lemongrass scent I like; whilst the lacy 'roti jala' crepes, which were beautifully delicate and soft, were also the ugliest-looking roti jala I'd ever seen! Still, I think I prefer "ugly but tasty" over "pretty but stodgy/hard/dry/stretchy" roti jala any time.
- Black pepper prawn pasta: one of my cousin had a fetish for black pepper crabs and thought this fusion-dish would closely approximate the taste of that dish. I didn't like it.
Desserts: WOW!!!! These two Nyonya desserts were the *best* I'd ever had in ANY restaurant of any ilk in Singapore!!!
- Pulot hitam with vanilla ice-cream: I'd had this dessert in Chinese restaurants, but the version here used superior quality Gula Melaka and fresh coconut milk. Perfect!!
- Bubur cha cha panna cotta: The BEST dessert I'd ever had in Singapore, period! Again, good quality Gula Melaka, fresh coconut milk perfect balance of flavors and textures. I'd recommend anyone to visit Violet Oon's Kitchen just for this dessert!
I think Violet Oon's emphasis on good quality ingredients, especially for her desserts put 99% of other restaurants in Singapore - with their canned/powdered coconut milk and cheap brown sugar - to shame.
I love this place. I'm surprised it took so long for me to discover it!
Violet Oon's Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: +65 6468 5430
I do believe she's one and the same. I have tremendous respect for her and CH's efforts, especially in conceptualising Sesame+Soy at Penang's G Hotel. Penang's a hawker food paradise, but lacked a modern, sophisticated Chinese restaurant until they came along. And the food is fabulous!