Candlenut Dempsey Dinner Top Shot

Candlenut at Como Dempsey – Modern Peranakan

[Updated 22 December] Candlenut is now at Como Dempsey, a work-in-progress “lifestyle quarter” that will eventually house multi-label fashion store, Dover Street Market and a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten (widely-acknowledged as the creator of the molten lava cake).

Asides from Candlenut, Ippoh Tempura Bar, Osaka’s oldest, premium tempura restaurant is already open as well.

I brought visiting friends to Candlenut for dinner, on the back of my earlier experience with them where I was impressed by the creative and unique flavours of the Peranakan meal.

Walking into the new establishment, I could immediately feel the difference. Where the smaller space at Dorsett Residences (near Keong Saik) automatically made me feel like I was entering a cosy Peranakan home (with all its little Nyonya trinkets), the new space appears stark and almost clinical.

Only the beautiful lights overhead saved the setting by casting a gorgeous warm glow in the restaurant.

Candlenut Dempsey Interior

Candlenut Dempsey Exterior

There’s al fresco dining at this new space, which would be a nice idea on cooler days and this time, the space is big enough to accommodate private room seatings too.

But let’s get to the food – the most important aspect.

The good? All the dishes tasted fabulous, just like my first experience with them, I really appreciated the little twists that Chef Malcolm Lee adds to the dishes to make them just that bit more interesting.

Candlenut Dempsey Kueh Pie Tee 2
These Kueh Pie Tee were filled with sweet crab meat. But they were tiny, and this dish cost me $16
Candlenut Dempsey Pork Satay
The sweet Kecap Manis glaze was perfect with the tender pork
Candlenut Dempsey Ocean Trout
Ocean Trout Curry – nice creamy, spicy laksa-inspired sauce
Candlenut Dempsey Ayam Buah Keluak 2
Every Peranakan restaurant’s mainstay – the Ayam Buah Keluak. Here, it’s very well-balanced flavours of nuttiness, spice and sweetness that greet you
Candlenut Dempsey Lamb Rack
Tender Lamb with a killer homemade sambal spice paste!

The Kueh Pie Tee ($16), Satay ($16), Ayam Buah Keluak ($22), Crab Curry ($28), Lamb Rack ($28) and Ocean Trout ($28) were all delicious.

The bad? The portion sizes! I honestly don’t know what happened but I felt like all the dishes had gone on a diet and shrunk. And at the prices being charged, I think they could have been a bit more generous. Just look at the teeny $14 piece of Kueh Salat below.

Candlenut Dempsey Dessert

I could have sworn my dish-of-the-other-night, the Buah Keluak ice cream ($15) had shrunk too but the staff explained that perhaps it was the same size as before. Just that the dish it comes in now is much smaller. Okay, optical illusion then.

Well, I had featured Candlenut in my 2016 Masala Guide (my list of Best Restaurants in Singapore) and after my recent experience, I wondered if I should still mention it but I realise that it still does meet my “flavour bomb” criteria – the creativity of the dish, the passion of the chef/owner and the taste of the food.

And so, I would recommend Candlenut purely on the above, but just be prepared for the underwhelming “value exchange”. And you know I am all about the VFM (value for money).

To be fair, the last time, we had their ah-mazing “ah-ma-kase” set meal for $60 each (now priced at $78) and so perhaps the set might offer more value for money?

I think I’ll spring for that next time, just to confirm!


[Updated 22 July] Happy to hear that homeboy Malcolm Lee’s modern Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut, has been awarded one Michelin star by the 2016 Michelin Guide Singapore.


[Original post] I just had my senses assaulted the other day. In a good way. It was at Candlenut, Singapore’s very own modern Peranakan restaurant.

Serving only “ah-ma-kase” (can’t take credit for coining this brilliance, it’s on the restaurant’s website) menu for dinner, dish after dish, I was teased and tantalized by the delectable treats being placed in front of me.

The “chef’s choice” dinner starts with 4 small snacks. Small as they were, they were punchy and filled with surprising twists. Pieces of bright orange Cured Ocean Trout fill a kueh pie tee shell, topped with a single laksa leaf – close your eyes and you might think you were eating laksa instead.

Candlenut Appetizers

A small and innocuous-looking Crab Cake, topped with Green Curry and Thai Basil, wakes your palate up immediately with a spicy kick.

Then it’s the Charred Octopus with a very unique taste, thanks to the chincalok (fermented shrimps) and sourish pineapple achar. Not your usual char-grilled octopus.

But my favourite of the snacks was the Wagyu Beef Satay. Marinated with a Buah Keluak Black Nut sambal, the bitterness of the nut disappeared into the caramelized sweetness of the grilled skewer and every piece of the tender wagyu beef was delish!

For mains, 5 dishes are presented to you. We started with the Assam “Cheena” Soup that came with prawn and mackerel omelette. Needless to say, the soup had just the right amount of sour and spice and the prawn was sweet and fresh.

Candlenut Soup

Now, I am a little squeamish when it comes to offal, but at Candlenut, they served a salad of Burnt Eggplant, Chicken Hearts, Roasted Chicken, Tofu and Cashews, and I loved the dish! It was a “complete” dish – it had crunch, zest, spice and the chicken hearts are sliced small so it’s really not that intimidating to eat.

Candlenut chicken hearts

Then there was the Charcoal Smoked Snapper with a green chilli relish and tempeh (slighly fermented soybean cake). The smoky aroma was evident and the nuttiness of the tempeh added to the earthy flavour.

Candlenut Snapper

Now all this was served with steamed white rice, but of course, no white rice should ever be eaten without copious amounts of curry. Luckily, they were serving Rendang and Chicken Curry that night – so I could drown my rice in them the whole night long.

The Braised Lamb Shoulder Rendang was leaning on the sweet side – the green banana used probably added to the sweetness, so not the more robust rendang we normally find elsewhere.

Candlenut Rendang

The chicken curry, which we were informed is the grandma’s special recipe, was spicy but with a sour tinge, again very different from a classic chicken curry. Still, both the rendang and chicken curry were tasty and perfect with rice.

Candlenut mains

By now, we were stuffed, but dessert was on the way, so we sucked it up and awaited what was to come. Now, if you do go to Candlenut, you must try the Buah Keluak Ice Cream ($5 supplement)! Don’t get me wrong, I am not a buah keluak maniac, and in fact, my first taste of the ice cream left me wondering how I was going to finish it all. BUT, when you mix it up with the luscious salted caramel chocolate sauce that it comes with, it will amaze you and it will all make sense. The Buah Keluak ice cream itself is mixed with rich Varlhona chocolate, and the nutty flavours of the buah keluak and the cocoa are very much complementary. Together with some crumble for crunch and get this, fizzy pops that will bring you back to your childhood, this is a very special dessert, indeed.

Candlenut dessert

All this, for just $60 per pax, in an ambience that is cheery with service that is equally bubbly, definitely worth trying out the “ah-ma-kase” dinner at Candlenut!


Candlenut:

Address: Block 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676

Contact: 1800-304-2288 (Local calls only) or candlenutres@comodempsey.sg

Opening Hours:

Lunch: Mon – Sun: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Dinner: Sun – Thu: 6:00PM – 9:00PM

Fri, Sat, Eve of Public Holidays & Public Holidays: 6:00PM – 10:30PM

 


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