Local chef Malcom Lee creates more Peranakan dishes in an airy and modern setting.
The island is obviously awash with elevated Pernakan food, but it's Candlenut that much of our panel of foodies is gaga for. The understated, decidedly casual space at Dorsett Residences (moving soon to Dempsey) recently made the bold move to do communal degustation menus for dinner. We're impressed and excited that Peranakan food is getting the fine dining format (and a Michelin star), especially when the flavors are so glorious. Lee fuses innovation with the deep, robust and complex flavors of Nyonya cuisine passed down through the his family’s generations, to create dishes like the tiger prawn lemak nanas and the snapper with black mangga sambal. The dinner menu also works on a seasonal tasting basis, so you won’t always get the same thing over and over again.
Well known chef Malcolm Lee, who closed his noted Peranakan restaurant Candlenut Kitchen at Neil Road last year, has relaunched at the Dorsett Residences. The young chef made his name offering gussied up Nonya fare: Prettily plated dishes served up in clean modern spaces. The recipes won’t impress traditionalists and flavors can seem muted. The assam sotong ($14)—though inventively cooked with squid ink—didn’t deliver the pucker-y kick expected of the traditionally sour dish. And the buah keluak short rib ($24), while technically competent (featuring fork tender meat), was just too light. The thin sauce just didn’t have the richness required of the gut busting classic. But there were also great successes like the wing bean salad ($14)—fresh and bright with tangy lime, crunchy cashews and sweet candied anchovies—as well as the buah keluak ice cream ($14), an eye-opening combination of the black nut with dark chocolate and chilli specks (which crackle in the mouth like pop rocks). Those innovations alone are worth a trip here: They offer excitement and fun traditional grub just can’t provide. Come here if you’re feeling adventurous: just know that the food won’t provide the comfort of your grandma’s cooking.
Eat this at Candlenut: Buah keluak ice-cream. It's one of I-S Magazine's 50 things to eat before you die (2013).