Peranakan cuisine combines Chinese, Malay and other influences into a unique blend. Cooking Nyonya food is no simple affair. It is extremely labour-intensive, which explains why there are relatively few Peranakan restaurants in Singapore, not to mention peranakan buffet.
But, new Executive Chef Paul Then of Orchard Hotel has done it! Helming the entire Culinary department, he has launched a whole new delicious spread of authentic Straits Chinese dishes at Orchard Café’s show kitchen. From a range of appetisers, soups, hot dishes and scrumptious delights all the way to desserts at Chef’s Baba Theatre Kitchen, the Tok Panjang buffet will be all set to dazzle!
We started our meal with some salad and seafood on ice. Orchard Cafe has a good variety of seafood on ice: Philippines lala, snow crab, scallop, black mussel, tiger prawns, oyster and whelk.
There is also a Japanese food corner where the boy gets to enjoy his sashimi and sushi.
When’s the last time you had a kueh pie tee? DIY your own kueh pie tees by putting moist turnips, prawn and peanuts into the little crispy top hats. Don’t forget to add some chilli sauce for the spicy punch.
Their grilled satay is very popular among diners and we have to wait 5-10 minutes everytime. But I am totally ok with that, I love my satay hot and prepared ala minute! These elegant sticks of marinated chicken thigh are accompanied by a peanut sauce, pretty tasty.
Stir fried lobster with Thai basil sauce has the right amount of intensity and flavours which make this crab dish a clear favourite for me.
Now here comes the main exciting part – BABA THEATRE KITCHEN!
Pursuing his dreams from the age of 14, Chef Paul brings with him over 30 years of hotel kitchen management and F&B operations experience. His professional accolades include being an integral part of a two Michelin star Hong Kong restaurant, on the panel of Chef consultants of First and Business Class for Cathay Pacific Airlines, and recognized as part of the 19 Great Chefs in Hong Kong by Heep Hong Society in 2010. Not forgetting that Chef Paul is the creator of the popular Durian Pengat that we have grown to love!
His rich Peranakan heritage has brought together assorted flavourful spices and unique creations in the buffet line. This pernakan corner will be permanent and you can enjoy a whole range of nyonya food!
Oh, the babi pongteh is yummy – melting soft pork belly pieces in a mild, savoury taucheo (fermented soya beans) gravy. The meat is cut into smaller pieces and well absorbed the thick, sweetish gravy that is just perfect with steamed rice.
Nobody can skip this Lembu Rendang where the chunks of slow-cooked Australian beef cheek are tender yet remain whole, and completely suffused with the aroma of coconut and fragrant herbs.
And not forgetting the classic Ayam Buah Keluak – a earthy rich gravy with tender chunks of chicken that have soaked in all the flavour.
We also had a bowl of Nonya laksa where the gravy is not too rich or spicy, and is flavourful with the taste of dried shrimp.
Here’s a bowl of Bak Wan Kepeting.
You can enjoy other nyonya dishes such as Mango Udang Kerabu (Prawns, Mangoes & Sour Plum sauce), Nonya Chicken Salad, Ginger Flower Sambal Belachan, Itek Kiam Chye (Braised Fresh Duck Soup with spices), Nangka Curry (Jackfruit Curry in Light Coconut Broth), Ikan Kuah Lada (Atlantic Pomfret and Brinjal with Tumeric and Peppercorn Gravy), Nonya Chap Chye etc.
Besides the peranakan food, you can also enjoy a range of Indian, Chinese and Malay dishes. Surprisingly, Orchard Cafe’s chicken rice is quite yummy. The rice is not too oily and the chicken is so tender. Look at the skin, shiny shiny!
If you ask me to recommend one dish that you die die must try, it has got to be Chempedak Ban Chang Kueh. This crispy pancake is usually filled with grounded roasted peanuts and sugar. What is unique at Orchard Cafe is. they add chempedak into the batter, hence making it very fragrant. I think we ate about 8 pieces of that.
Also, there is an assortment of nonya kuehs.
DIY ice kachang?
Complete your splendid meal with sweet delights like Deep Fried Chempedak with Glutinous Rice Fritters and Melaka Palm Sauce, Hot Pisang Pengat, Kueh Dadar, Chendol, Chempedak Binchang Kueh and of course, the original Chef Paul creation – Durian Pengat!
Chef Paul is said to be the creator of this popular dessert, and it was first introduced when he was with Ellenborough Market Place. You can taste the gula melaka in the dessert. Personally, I find the version here too smooth. Would be better if there are strands of durian fibres lah.
There’s actually many more items on the Peranakan menu, but only a few are highlighted each day. Don’t let the casual air here deceive you—the Peranakan cuisine served is prepared with care and pride. I think the buffet is a modest spread and a great introduction for those of us unfamiliar with nyonya food.
Exclusively from 1 to 11 August 2013, Orchard Café will be giving all guests a reason to rejoice and appreciate the nation’s 48th year of independence! Other than the range of peranakan dishes, Chef Paul has also specially added 10 Must Try local delights to the extensive buffet spread in tribute to our National Day. What’s more? Plan out your Red & White ensemble and book your table in pairs now! Every 2nd diner in RED will get to enjoy all these scrumptious food at only $4.80 (up to a maximum of 12 diners only)!
Address: Lobby Level, Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road
Reservations: 6739 6565