The iconic City Hall building was just recently reopened as National Gallery in early 2016, overlooking the Padang. One of the restaurants that I have been dying to try was National Kitchen by Violet Oon hence I suggested the place for a business lunch.
One would probably be lost if visiting the National Gallery for the first time as it’s really huge. Do enter via the Coleman Street entrance to make your way to the restaurant.
The restaurant was packed even for a weekday lunch, with service staff hustling around to attend to requests. We ordered a few classic starters and some mains to share for three persons.
Rojak is the Singaporean salad with fruits and vegetables – a toss of guava, sour mangoes, apples, pineapples, cucumbers, jellyfish and crispy Chinese crullers (油条) in a sweet, sour and spicy sauce, topped with peanuts and pink ginger flowers. I usually pick off the crullers (bad habit :P) as they are so delicious with the sauce but this dish had few of those in it. The taste was well-balanced and not too spicy, but it wasn’t memorable for me.
You gotta try this if you visit Singapore – one of my favourite Singaporean quick bites. The filling inside the crispy fried cups was a combination of bamboo shoots and turnip cooked in a prawn bisque, garnished with a prawn and sweet sauce. On the side there was a chilli sauce you could add to the cups for some extra punch. The cups were so crispy and the filling was oozing with flavours from the prawn bisque – easily one of the best Kuay Pie Tee I ever had.
Satay is our local “kebab” served with a slightly spicy peanut sauce on the side. Just like in this National Kitchen’s rendition, the satay is usually accompanied with red onions, cucumbers and steamed rice cakes to munch on in between bites of the grilled meat on the stick. The tender chicken (with the right amount of fats) was well marinated with spices and its flavours were enhanced by that rich and thick peanut sauce that had grated pineapple in it to balance the dish. A must-have if you do visit National Kitchen.
A classic vegetarian dish with different types of vegetables and bean curd skin braised in broth and in this National Kitchen version, in a rich prawn bisque. The saltiness of the dish was overwhelming and I was definitely disappointed as I do love Chap Chye.
Chicken rice is another must-have when you visit Singapore. The National Kitchen did a good job with the chicken rice, which was rich in flavours from the chicken stock it was cooked in. Kudos to providing three options of sauces to go with the chicken – super spicy chilli sauce (that I loved), ginger jam and thick dark soya sauce. The chicken was tender and juicy but paled in comparison with Maxwell’s Tian Tian Chicken Rice or other renowned ones. Overall, the rice was commendable but there are way too many delicious Chicken rice in Singapore that comes at a lower price tag.
Laksa is a rice noodles dish that is usually served soupy. In this dry laksa, it’s cooked almost alike pasta with the sauce reduced to intense spiciness and flavours, complemented with prawns, fried tofu (tau-pok) and bean sprouts. The green garnish is what we know as laksa-cai (菜) which means laksa vegetables, exclusively used when serving these noodles. My business associates found this too spicy but it was super delicious in my opinion. It’s an interesting interpretation of this dish, with the hero still being the gravy, though the noodles could be less mushy.
There were so many interesting desserts that we would have loved to try like the Pulot Hitam with coconut ice cream and Roti Jala with Gula Melaka and Banana sauce, but we really couldn’t eat anymore. We did have the Kopi VO (Coffee Violet Oon) from the drinks menu which had an unique aroma (signature blend of Arabica and Robusta beans roasted in margarine and caramelised) and a good balance on the palate.
The National Kitchen with their authentic Nyonya style decor and dishes most definitely deserved their name and popularity. I would love to revisit to try the other dishes in the menu especially the desserts.
National Kitchen by Violet Oon
1 St. Andrew’s Road
#02–01, National Gallery Singapore
(City Hall Wing)
(65) 9834 9935