The endless cooking on Little Nyonya made me crave so much for authentic Peranakan cuisine. And many good friends have recommended Ivins, renowned for its ‘home-cooked’ Peranakan specialties.
Their story began with the owners’ dream to present affordable quality Peranakan cuisine to one and all, and the couple first started their first eatery at Ladyhill Hotel and subsequently Far East Plaza. Backed with a strong customer following, Ivins has now expanded to two restaurants – at Bukit Timah and Upper Thomson.
Though I wasn’t amazed at the long queue of customers; I was more surprised with the lack of system and waited quite a fair bit because the cashier came over to attend to us.
It’s a waiting game. Although I was first in line, I waited about 15 minutes for our table, and another 20 plus minutes for the food. And they came only after my friend reminded the rather impatient looking waitress that those behind us have got their dishes. (Minus Points.)
The restaurant was probably family-oriented and therefore décor was minimalist, with discolored frame photos, dirty green ‘carpeted’ floor and a smell of curry in the air. Serving staff wore baggy clothes which reminded of some eatery at Batam.
Prices are rather affordable and the smaller portions would benefit big families or friends who would like to share food. Some of the signature dishes are Ayam Buah Keluak ($5.90), Assam Pork Rib ($4.90), Curry Fish Head ($13.20), Udang Sambal ($5.00), Papaya Titek ($4.50) and Itek Sioh ($5.50).
Of the 5 items I order, they didn’t have Beef Rendang, Otak Otak Pangang and Buboh Cha Cha. (Minus more points!)
The saver for the meal was surprisingly a Penang Char Kuay Teow ($4.20), broad rice noodles stirred fried with fresh seafood. The overall texture wasn’t too dry or moist, unlike most other versions which could be too soggy.
The Ayam Curry ($4.90) though rather spicy had thick gravy to my liking. The chicken unfortunately was dry and bony which made the eating experience rather inconvenient. (Chor Chor won’t be happy because older people would like tender chicken.)
For a change, I tried a Bakwan Kepeting which had bamboo shoots and crabmeat stuffed in minced pork. The balls didn’t have the overwhelming porky taste, and the clear stock could be refreshing after eating the other spicy dishes.
You may want to give the Nonya Chap Chye a miss and the dish just further reminded me how good my Ah Ma’s version was. The vegetable wasn’t simmered long enough, and had a strange faint sweet taste with pale tau kee.
The restaurant is probably more known for its affordability more than its taste. After all, Peranakan food is very rare here. (Daughter in laws should be reminded not to bring Chor Chor here, unless she’s in a very good mood.)
IVINS Peranakan Restaurant, 2/4 Jalan Leban Tel:+65 6451 4622
Opening Hours: 11am – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm; Closed Thursdays