With a name like Violet Oon helming National Kitchen at the National Gallery, you’re pretty much guaranteed good stuff. So it’s a safe bet if you’re looking to host a family dinner or visiting friends (which kind of fits with the location being at a national monument).
The whole setup really is quite gorgeous. As if by osmosis, everything at the National Gallery just seems to be elevated and National Kitchen is no exception. From the dazzling chandeliers to the pretty Peranakan-inspired wall and floor tiles to the pleasing colour palette of the restaurant, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered a glam-nyonya auntie’s home.
The menu doesn’t just feature Peranakan fare – just like our “official” national demographic, you’ll find Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian items as well. They even have Idly, but when your momma makes them so well or you can just head on to Ananda Bhavan to get it at about half the price, well…the rest is obvious.
So, we started with Kuay Pie Tee ($17) and Ngoh Hiang ($15). Even the KPT experts I was with said they were really good. Crispy shells with delicious turnip and bamboo shoot filling that you can spice up all you want with the accompanying chilli sauce, and a plump half-prawn on top.
The Ngoh Hiang too is yummy, and seeing as how the restaurant only serves halal food, the traditionally pork-based dish is made with prawn, crab and chicken instead.
Then we moved on to the classics of Ayam Buah Keluak, Beef Rendang and Eggplant Sambal.
The Ayam Buah Keluak ($23) had copious amounts of gravy that was spicy and tangy and also, very generous with the actual buah keluak nuts – so you can scoop out the earthy, bitter-nutty flavour of flesh inside.
The Beef Rendang ($22) is top notch too – I say so because the actual beef pieces were tender, yet lean pieces, none of the fatty, inedible stuff some sub-standard rendang dishes have. Plus, the gravy had the fragrant, spicy, coconutty taste typical of a good rendang dish.
The chilli hit came from the Eggplant Sambal ($12) and the Ikan Goreng Chilli ($19) – I loved the spiciness, but you might want to make sure you have some cooling lime juice or enough rice by your side!
One good thing is that the portions aren’t too tiny. Thanks to the Kuay Pie Tee and Ngoh Hiang appetizers, the five of us were satiated with the 4 mains we ordered, and you must leave room for desserts.
Which are really good too. Some interesting items on offer like the Kueh Beng Kah ($9), which is a grated tapioca cake. Normally I run far away from tapioca-based desserts, but this had me reaching for spoonful after spoonful as it wasn’t gluggy but light and especially delicious with the coconut cream and gula melaka drizzle.
A dish that is quite close to my heart, I remember eating quite a lot of it growing up, with mutton curry, is the Roti Jala ($10). These fishnet-like crepes are soft and light, and you can easily eat 5 pieces on your own. At National Kitchen, they are served as a dessert instead, with gula melaka and banana sauce and, happily this combination works well too. A cool twist indeed. The consistency and texture of my mom’s ones are better though, you won’t see any brown areas from overheating!
Verdict? Charming ambience, lovely service and delicious food but be prepared to shell out for the “brand” name and location.
National Kitchen by Violet Oon
Address: 1 St. Andrew’s Road #02–01, National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing) Singapore 178957
Contact: Email: email@example.com or Call: +65 9834 9935
Lunch: 12PM – 3PM (last order 2:30PM)
Dinner: 6PM – 11PM (last order 9:30PM)