So before Malcolm Lee became all Michelin fame famous, I had the opportunity to visit his restaurant when he first opened at Cantonment Road. Good wholesome Peranakan food was what he was known for. I remember having good impressions of his cooking, very tasty, wholesome, “home cooked” food.
Now that his cooking has been recognized by the Michelin inspectors, it’s no surprise that he has since packed up and moved to more lavish digs at Dempsey and his prices have certainly increased as well. However, I trusted that the quality of the cooking would still remain and when J suggested visiting, I was all for it.
So basically, we went all out and got the “Ah-ma-kase” meal, which is basically a full course selection of the chef’s best dishes.
We started out with 4 appetizers, all served at once (asian table style). We had the homemade kueh pie tee, otah otah, kurobuto pork neck satay and ngoh hiang. The appetizers were great, a good way to start the meal. Our favourite was the kueh pie tee, though the pork neck satay came a very close second.
Next, on to the mains. Again, the mains all came at once, asian table style and was served with steamed white rice.
We started off with a spicy seafood soup, consisting with a prawn and crab tofu pork ball, bamboo shoot and prawn oil.
Next up, we had a round of curries, with the chef serving his famous “mum’s curry with local red snapper fillet, taupok and kaffir lime leaf”.
We then had the blue swimmer crab curry with turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime leaf. This curry was extremely spicy, it really tested our tolerance for spicy foods.
To further add on to the seafood theme, we had tiger prawns served with tamarind, and petai beans .
The only meat protein we had that night was the wagyu beef flank with sambal. This was probably one of the more expensive dishes on the menu, but it was probably our least favourite of the night. We thought that the sambal completely overwhelmed the flavour of the wagyu.
Next up dessert, after a palette cleanser, we were served a trio of desserts:
Kueh salat, bangkit crumble and coconut sorbet
Mango sago, lime and mint granita
Chendol cream with pandan jelly and gula melaka
So one thing I definitely noticed during our dinner was the increased quality of the food produce and how the menu makes it point to note these quality ingredients. From kurobuta pork to wagyu beef, Candlenut has definitely taken things more upscale since my initial visit.
Does it work? Well, the restaurant was very full the night we visited with at least two seatings throughout the evening. We saw many foreigners there and the restaurant certainly has an extensive wine list for those diners who wish to enjoy their curries with some wine (and we saw many a table opening a bottle).
The quality of the cooking is still evident. We enjoyed the appetizers very much. There were some misses in the mains, which makes one wonder if the quality ingredients makes a difference, especially if there is going to be lots of strong spices involved. Nevertheless, the desserts was wonderfully made and it was a nice end to the meal.
Taste wise, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Candlenut trumps the other peranakan restaurants such as Novena Peranakan Cuisine. What they have succeeded in doing however, is creating a brand, making themselves known and they certainly seem to be working towards elevating peranakan cuisine to that of haute cuisine.
Add: 17A Dempsey Rd