INDOCAFÉ | Michelin Bib Gourmand Peranakan Restaurant hidden along Scotts Road
Hidden along Scotts Road is Michelin Bib Gourmand Award-winning Peranakan Restaurant INDOCAFÉ in a charming colonial house helmed by Chef Heng Eng Ho. Chef Ho is born in Penang and has over 20 years of experience under his belt. INDOCAFÉ recently underwent a facelift ands a new menu to go with its new look.
We were excited to try their food because preparing peranakan food is such a laborious affair and it is no wonder you don’t see peranakan restaurants all over the island. Once we were seated, the staff quickly served us these belingo crackers with sambal belacan, gula melaka and achar. Each condiment paired differently with the crispy belingo cracker. Try to go slow on this addictive snack lest you fill yourself up before the actual meal!
We started off with their Trio Platter which consists Kueh Pie Tie, Ngoh Hiang and Otah Otah. These are available as ala carté but the Trio Platter is only available in their Signature Tasting menu. I liked the Signature Kueh Pie Tee as the shredded turnip was nicely fragranced with dried prawns and crabmeat and encased in deep-fried pastry cups. The Ngoh Hiang is also another hit – juicy pork marinated in five spice powder and sweetened with chopped water chestnuts and spring onion before wrapped in bean curd skin and fried till crispy.
Also on the starter menu is the Itek Tim ($14), a salted vegetable duck leg soup that is commonly found on the menus of Peranakan restaurants. In INDOCAFÉ’s rendition, the pickled mustard greens in the soup gave the soup a touch of tartness and we could taste traces of nutmeg and brandy in the soup. It is comforting to have, even for those who do not usually take duck.
Onto the mains, we recommend ordering the INDOCAFÉ Wagyu Beef Rendang ($38). This was our favourite of the lot – the wagyu beef cheek is fork tender and is cooked with spices, shrimp paste, chilli, coconut milk, nyonya rempah, turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaf, galangal, star anise, cinnamon sticks etc to produce this aromatic sauce you will want to drizzle over your rice.
Their Babi Pongteh is also quite unique. Cooked using Spanish Iberico pork belly, Chef Ho shared that the meat is marinated to the bone with fermented soy bean paste then cooked with aromatic spices. The pork belly is not too fatty but still retains its tenderness. The sauce is of a slightly sweeter profile, but went well with the Jasmine rice too.
The last dish to pair with rice was one that the staff recommended. Ikan Sambal Bunga Kantan ($39) is INDOCAFÉ’s signature – deef-fried Patagonian tooth fish that is doused in sambal and Thai sweet and sour chilli sauce with touches of ginger flower. It is not as fiery as we expected, so the spice level should be acceptable for kids and elderly too. What stood out was the flavour profile of the fish – a smooth mouthfeel, buttery texture and natural sweetness. Although it is deep fried, it is still flaky and moist on the inside.
The last savoury dish that we had was the Dry Laksa ($26). It is served with Argentina Red Prawns that were fresh and partially de-shelled for easy eating. It is a soulless rendition of the laksa dish that Singaporeans are all too familiar with. If you let this dish sit for a bit, the noodles would soak up the laksa sauce to make it even more lemak.
Our visit ended on a high note with INDOCAFÉ’s signature kueh salat ($15). The glutinous rice that has been tinted blue with butterfly blue pea flower has a smooth layer of pandan coconut custard that is so satisfying to bite into. If you’re torn for choice or do not know where to begin, INDOCAFÉ has a Signature Tasting Menu ($98++ per person) that features the best of Chef Ho’s creations. I love INDOCAFÉ’s new looks and how it provides a space for intimate conversations away from the hustle and bustle of the city (even though it is centrally located). I’m looking forward to another meal there to try out the other Peranakan dishes. Budget per person: $45 to $60