11 December 2016

Candlenut | Excellent Peranakan cuisine with a modern twist

This post just proves that I am the pro in procrastination. Actually Candlenut has been on my to-eat list since this blog was started back in 2013. And yet I must wait until it got a Michelin star in July 2016 before I visited. And yet I must wait until it shifted from Chinatown to Dempsey before I document my visit to its Chinatown outlet back in end July. So it's really an achievement that I managed to reach the end of this paragraph!

Initally we just wanted to try some ala carte dishes but I didn't know they don't serve ala carte during dinner. They only have a set menu at $68++ for dinner. Before you think it's too expensive for Peranakan dishes, I need to correct that it is Peranakan-inspired and they use premium ingredients e.g. Wagyu beef, NZ lamb, and quite a bit of seafood.

(Clockwise) Charred octopus with chincalok and achar, Blue swimmer crab kueh pie tee in yellow curry, Buah keluak pork dumpling, Wagyu beef satay

The appetizers started off well. My most favourite was the Wagyu beef satay which was well-marinated with spices, fork tender and grilled to perfection. The blue swimmer crab kueh pie tie, an interesting twist to the traditional kueh pie tie, was excellent and addictive. 

On to the mains..
Charcoal grilled John snapper fillet with black mango sambal, ginger flower and Japanese cucumber kerabu
Pardon my ignorance but this is the first time I've come across black mango sambal. I think it is mainly mango mixed with sambal and hence it is both sweet yet spicy at the same time. Excellent pairing with the soft tender snapper fillet. The ginger flower and Japanese cucumber kerubu improve the visual presentation of the dish while giving the overall taste of the dish a refreshing perspective too.

Pork meatballs in rich chicken and seafood broth
Another favourite dish are the meatballs. The broth is full of sweet and umami flavours. It is perfect to diffuse some of the spiciness from the spicy dishes.

Wok fried sambal, wild caught baby squid, petai beans, tamarind
This spicy squid is not for those who has low tolerance for spicy food. I left the petai beans alone.

Sayur lodeh kang kong with crispy whitebait and baby sweet potato leaves
The sayur lodeh kang kong is cooked in well-balanced coconut milk and spices. But what makes the dish outstanding was the salty crispy whitebait which gives the dish an interesting twist in flavours, textures and overall presentation.

NZ Maori Lakes lamb shoulder rendang, green banana, kaffir lime leaf, serunding
Last but not least, we enjoyed the lamb rendang which was classic rendang at its best. 

Durian soup, Mao Shan Wang ice-cream, D24 durian puree, feuilletine (left), Chendol (right) 
We got to choose our desserts from a list. Without much thought, we went for the durian and chendol respectively. No regrets. The durian dessert was as if I was eating real durian and the feuilletine tasted very local, similar to the wafer egg rolls I ate when I was young. As for the chendol, it's typical chendol that's done well. No complaints.

Service was super attentive. I was there when Candlenut was still celebrating their Michelin win and I got complimentary wine. Candlenut is probably the only Peranakan restaurant in the world that has a Michelin star and I really think they deserved it because they totally brought Peranakan cuisine to greater heights by incorporating creative ideas. The only pity for me is that they have shifted to Dempsey which is really a hassle to get to without four wheels. Till then, this will stay in my favourite dining memories of 2016. 

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