I haven’t yet regained my appetite from the strenuous trek in Bhutan and my tastebuds seem to have gone haywire after eating too many fiery Bhutanese meals. 

I was craving for some appetite-stimulating food since the start of the day.  Kimchi stew for lunch or Peranakan food for dinner.

As I had to visit the orthodontist over lunch, the choice was abundantly clear.  Pig out on Peranakan food during dinner (since eating Korean food makes TBH sulk). 

I have been wanting to visit this new Peranakan restaurant called Candlenut Kitchen at 25 Neil Road.  A couple of blogs I frequent raved about the restaurant’s fabulously authentic food as well as the rather young co-owner and chef behind it.  An SMU-graduate, he enrolled in the Sunrice Academy, graduated with flying colours, and set up this restaurant.

I love Peranakan food.  So, try I must.

Located in one of the shophouses along Neil Road (with an open carpark just across the road), Candlenut Kitchen is a casual dining place which seats approximately 50 persons.   We ordered the itek tim, ayam buah keluak, chap-chye and ngor hiang.  I would have liked to order more, such as the kueh pie-ti, but there were only two of us, and we didn’t want to over-order.

I am no Peranakan food connoisseur but I thought all the dishes which we ordered were very good.  Especially the itek tim.  The soup was robust and had a good balance of sourness and saltiness.  For some reason which we didn’t bother to find out, my bowl of soup came half-filled, leaving me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

While the food is very tasty, the service was quite lacking.  The serving staff is a pretty young bunch who are clearly untrained.  Yes, they are bright, smiley and very eager to please but still, fell very short of the basic level of service expected.  They should be sent to a Cantonese restaurant like Lei Garden or Imperial Treasures to be trained under those hawk-eyed waitresses.

Alright.  The restaurant made an effort to serve us all our food at the same time, piping hot. (something that many Western, charge-you-an-arm-and-a-leg restaurants are unable to do.)  Kudos!

But the serving staff forgot to bring us our rice. 

We twiddled our thumbs, salivated at the food set before us, and waited.  Nothing happened.

We then realised that the serving staff had decided that it was more important to dry the wine glasses and serve wine at another table than to give us our rice.  We were left in the lurch!  Waving madly for a while, someone else finally took notice of us and two plates of rice eventually made their way to our table (with profuse apologies).

Also, I wasn’t quite sure how I was expected to scoop the yummy buah keluak stuffing from the nuts as we were not provided with any suitable cutlery to do so.  (Maybe they didn’t expect us to actually eat the stuffing…? Are they insane? Well, finicky TBH doesn’t eat the stuffing but I worship it!)

So we asked for a small spoon.  They gave us a teaspoon which unfortunately was still too big to fit into the opening of the nuts so I ended up using the handle of the teaspoon to scoop the stuff from the nuts.  (The staff apologized profusely for the inconvenience caused, tried to look for something else to give us, and ended up giving us a two-prong fork.)

We were also a little taken aback when the service staff expressed surprise that we asked for sweet sauce to go with the ngor hiang.  (Would they have been less surprised if we had asked for tomato ketchup and chilli sauce?  Sigh, I just cannot understand Gen Y, or is it Gen Z?)

I want to visit Candlenut Kitchen again, and I hope they have ironed out the kinks in their service by then.

Also, have to ask my Peranakan friends to give this place a try to ascertain if the food is truly authentic.

Candlenut Kitchen
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