Last Updated: February 21, 2018
It’s time for you to be pampered. National Kitchen by Violet Oon has just the thing with its local-inspired tea menu guaranteed to make you feel like a tai tai.
Opened by internationally-renowned chef and food connoisseur, Violet Oon, National Kitchen is one of her three restaurants that celebrate traditional Nyonya cooking accentuated by her decades of culinary experience.
Located aptly in Singapore’s National Gallery, National Kitchen easily resembles one of the stunning galleries in the museum. Its open windows allow a good amount of light to flood in, giving the restaurant a more relaxing ambience.
Every part of its interior is gorgeous from the elegant pendant chandeliers to the rustic rattan fans that pay homage to traditional Nyonya culture.
The dark wood furniture also brings out the beautiful streaks of blue, gold and jade — significant colours in Peranakan culture.
It even has an opulent 1920s-era bar that would make you feel as if you were attending a party in ‘The Great Gatsby’.
From 3pm to 5pm, National Kitchen serves up its unique Singapore High Tea Set ($56++ for 2 pax).
Diners are given a choice of beverage between Tea or National Kitchen’s very own local-style kopi: Kopi Vo. The Kopi Vo was very aromatic and has raised the bar for my morning kopi fix.
Similar to Western high tea sets, the food was served to us on tiered trays. Forget about English scones and dainty tuna sandwiches though; all the tidbits served here have a unique Singaporean twist, just dressed up with the same elegance that traditional English high tea is served with.
First up, we tried the ‘appetiser’ plate comprising tasty bite-sized treats. Served with a spoon, is the Nasi Kuning Serunding. The red coconut flakes on top added both spiciness and sweetness to the turmeric glutinous rice. The radish in the Kueh Pie Tee was soft and juicy while the shell managed not to get too soggy.
Next, we tried the Crostini, of which, one had buah keluak and the other, otah. While typically paired with Italian flavours, the buttered crostini was reminiscent more of our traditional charcoal-grilled toast.
Considered as the ‘truffle’ of Eastern cooking, the paste-like texture of the buah keluak contrasted the crunchy crostini well. While its sharp taste is an acquired one, the addition of coconut milk and mild spices made it lighter and more palatable.
The Otah Crostini was one of my favourites. I loved that the fish had enough spice to make me sweat a little and subsequently enjoy the relief provided by the sweet coconut cream on top.
For the ‘main course’ component of the high tea, we had Hae Bee Hiam Sandwich and Pulled Beef Sambal Pao. The spicy dried shrimp floss filling of the sandwich had great texture and was mildly sweet and spicy.
However, I would have preferred it if the cucumber slice was placed inside the sandwich so that every bite of spicy floss had some of the crunchy, refreshing cucumber.
National Kitchen’s Pulled Beef Sambal Pao added sumptuous spiciness to the traditional Hokkien Kung Bak Pao. It was very satisfying watching the thick bun layer just pull apart effortlessly. Plus points go to the slow-cooked beef that filled every corner of the bun.
Finally, the desserts! First up, the plate had old-school Kueh Lapis Legit that was thin and buttery. The softness of the cake was truly something to revel at. Some legit kueh lapis there!
This dessert served as a shooter is the Kueh Beng Kah. It consists of two spongy tapioca cakes that were of consistent texture and infused with coconut cream. In the glass, they are dipped in coconut milk and gula melaka, which added creaminess and a caramel-like sweetness.
If lemon meringue pie were to have an Asian sibling, this Kesturi Pie would be it. The citrus curd added zest while the ratio of buttery shortcrust base to kesturi compote was balanced and just right. Also, the bright-orange papaya at the top of the pie really was the cherry on top.
The Kueh Dah Dah was quite impressive. The pandan-infused crepe was rolled so precisely and beautifully and paired well with the subtle sweetness of the crunchy coconut bits inside it.
My favourite on the plate was the Roti Jala With Gula Melaka and Banana Sauce. The traditional Nyonya-laced pancakes were so impossibly thin and delicate that they just soaked up the sweet banana coconut sauce. I only wish there were more.
Our final dessert was Kueh Lapis Sago, a pearl tapioca multi-coloured layer steamed cake infused with pandan. Just a drizzle, or drench, the entire thing with gula melaka and bam, you are good to go!
For the high tea, you can also add on Violet Oon’s signature Dry Laksa ($16++ for 2 pax). Traditionally served as a soup, Chef Oon’s Laksa has all the same flavours but served with gravy.
This was a standout as the flavours of the laksa leaves and chilli were able to shine through stronger without being diluted in soup. Perhaps the only critique I have was that my prawns were a tad overcooked. But this dish was definitely worth the top-up!
National Kitchen also treated us to a favourite in the Tea menu outside of the High Tea Set. Hold your breath for this: Chilli. Crab. Mantou.
My favourite dish of the entire meal, the Chilli Crab Mantou ($15) was presented to us in a similar fashion to skewered burgers. But it was so much more than just a crab burger.
Just look at that! The crab meat filling was moist and juicy while the moreish flavours of the chilli sauce had me craving for more. What sold this dish most of all was the mantou bread, which was crisp on the outside but oh-so-soft in the centre. If only Chef Oon had a mantou buffet.
If your schedule permits the time, the Tea session (3pm – 5pm) at National Kitchen is definitely worth a go. The high tea was very well-paced and you will definitely be able to enjoy a decadent meal with familiar local flavours and a chill ambience. Sit back, relax and let National Kitchen treat you for an afternoon. You deserve it!
Expected Damage: $30 – $50 per pax