Visiting Singapore for the first time, National Kitchen by Violet Oon was high up on my list of places to discover authentic Singaporean cuisine. Violet Oon is a national treasure in Singapore, renowned for her faithful Peranakan dishes – she started her career as a journalist before she became a food critic, cookbook author, cooking show host, owner of two restaurants and Singapore’s most well known chef!
The restaurant is located in the same iconic building as the National Gallery which in itself is worth a visit and one of the ‘must-see’ things in Singapore! We therefore took the opportunity to stroll through the impressive National Gallery before we made our way to the restaurant. We found the elegant, slightly opulent yet very inviting and welcoming entrance to the restaurant in the City Hall Wing.
The dining room had a charming old world feel to it, decorated with dark wooden panels, rattan ceiling fans, mirrored walls, glamorous chandeliers and a collection of old vintage Peranakan tiles (reclaimed one by one by Violet’s son, Yiming, also the manager of the restaurant). The black and white photos on the wall that include photos of a young Violet Oon, made the place feel homely and gave an insight into Singaporean life.
I decided to start the meal with a glass of Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado ‘Rose’ while still admiring the stunning interiors and nostalgic atmosphere. The restaurant was still empty when we arrived at 6pm but filled up quickly.
As a starter we ordered Ngoh Hiang – deep fried prawn, crab and chicken with water chestnut seasoned with five spice powder and wrapped in bean curd skin.
For the mains we shared the Chicken Lemak – boneless chicken stewed in a melange of fragrant spices with coconut cream and kaffir limes. It was a lovely and flavoursome dish and a nice introduction to traditional Singaporean cuisine.
I also had to have chilli crab here – which is often known as the national dish of Singapore. On our short stay in Singapore I had not managed to taste this famous dish and since we had a flight to catch this was my only chance. The waitress was amazingly helpful – due to a large group coming in they were out of chilli crab but she was determined that I would not leave Singapore without that taste experience. I have no idea how she found another chilli crab but after a little bit of waiting it finally arrived. The spice (a lighter version for me) and sweetness of the sauce worked incredibly well with the fresh crab meat that was rather challenging to manoeuvre out of its shell (In fact, I think that might have been the messiest meal I have ever eaten in a posh restaurant ;-)). We used Mantou, traditional fried buns, to soak up the rest of the delicious sauce before we had to leave for Changi Airport.
You might also like: Top 15 things to do at the ‘World’s Best Airport’ Changi in Singapore
The friendly service, stunning interiors and delicious food makes this restaurant stand out. Violet Oon passed on her passion for food on to her two children Yiming and Su-lyn that are both involved in the restaurants. We had a lovely chat with her son Yiming about his mother’s culinary journey, Singapore and their plans for the future. We would have loved to stay longer and order some of the dessert but sadly our time in Singapore came to an end.