Nyonya food has somehow enjoyed a resurgence in Singapore these recent years, with many modern Peranakan restaurants opening up (Maybe thanks to The Little Nyonya?).
I was curious about Bonding Kitchen, especially after learning that it was opened by a private home-dining chef. Therefore, you may get some of the “home-dining” experience in terms of its décor and execution.
While the restaurant is located in the heart of town, it still requires some finding – at Orchard Gateway Level 2 at the same stretch as Supply & Demand.
The restaurant is separated into two sections – the main dining area and an inner semi-private area with an island kitchen where guests can interact with Owner-Chef Danny Chew as he does his preparation. Decorated in calming medium-blue with fresh flowers – I like.
Some background of Chef Danny: With more than 20 years of culinary experience, he was running a Peranakan private-dining concept in Johor Bahru before deciding to open this establishment here. He isn’t unfamiliar with Singapore, having graduated from At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy.
We know that Peranakan cuisine while colourful is extremely labour-intensive. Some restaurants may take shorter-cuts in food preparation – it is inevitable facing certain situations such as the lack of manpower, and customers who want their food served fast, fast, fast.
The first thing I experienced here was seeing Chef Danny deep-frying the Kueh Pie Tee shells FROM SCRATCH. I had prepared this with my grandma during much younger days – loads of effort and patience required, but haven’t seen it done for decades.
And so yes, sambals are handmade, garnishes like kaffir lime leaves are julienned just before garnishing (not pre-prepared), and even the blue pea butterfly flowers are self-planted.
A note: be prepared to wait a while especially during peak hours, but good things are worth waiting for. Here’s more:
Bonding Kitchen’s Kueh Pie Tee ($12 for four)
As earlier mentioned, the Pie Tee shells are made in-house resulting in a crisp and thin pastry. The shells here are lighter in colour and also fluffier, not as crunchy-hard as the typical ones.
The mang guang fillings of young shredded turnips are stewed in a flavourful prawn stock.
This is done served DIY style, so you can try your hands on stuffing them in with the soft turnip, prawns, quail eggs and crispy lard bits. Don’t forget to top it off with some of the specialty chilli cuka (a vinegary) sauce.
Pong Tauhu ($10 per pax)
Never quite had Pong Tauhu soup like this – it reminded me of a lighter style of seafood bisque, tasty with depth.
The rich broth was prepared using a duo combination of prawn stock and pork and chicken bones superior stock.
Scoop up that plump and soft meatball (I wished there were two) made from chopped pork collar, pork belly, pork fat, shrimps and soft tofu.
The thinly shredded bamboo shoots were added just before serving, so that you don’t get that strong-earthy taste within the soup itself, while still enjoying that subtle bamboo crunch and flavour.
Kacang Botol Kerabu ($16)
Everyone enjoyed this ‘salad’ like this, partly because it was refreshingly tangy and helped cut through the richness of the other dishes.
The dish contained primarily young winged beans (supposedly high in protein) topped with fresh cooked shrimps, roasted cashew and ikan bilis.
The true star was the zingy dressing made from cold-infused mint and lemongrass in freshly squeezed calamansi juice. I thought the balance was quite well-achieved here –a sweet-tarty taste that would ‘wake you up’, yet not exceedingly sour.
Bonding Kitchen’s Wagyu Beef Rendang ($32)
I am the type of eater that would pour rendang gravy all over the rice, and so was slightly surprised the rendang came in a drier rendition.
The recipe required no addition of water, with over 5 hours of simmering of rempah and coconut milk.
The cow did not die in vain here, as the Australian wagyu was lean, not-too-fatty, yet succulently-tender. Flavourful, and surprisingly not too spicy at all.
In every dish, there is typically a small highlight. This came in a form of fried coconut shavings which gelled beautifully with the coconut-y paste.
Sotong Masak Hitam ($20)
This childhood favourite is a recreation from Chef Danny’s nostalgic memories. I initially didn’t want to order this dish due to unfamiliarity, but I was reassured that this was “everyone’s favourite”.
They are right.
Known as squid cooked in its own ink, do not be deceived by the appearance. Take a bite and be wowed by the complex, sweet-sour robust flavours.
Two more words – wok-hei.
If you fear the squid being rubbery-chewy, somehow this had springy yet tender texture.
Ngoh Hiang ($14)
This was a good-credible Ngoh Hiang, with tightly wrapped and packed hand-chopped pork meat and shrimp, mushroom, water chestnut seasoned with five spices rolled within crisp beancurd skin.
If I needed to nit-pick, perhaps the fillings could be more juicy, and customers may wonder about its price-point.
Chef Danny plated it almost fine-dining style with sweet sauce and spicy chilli decorated beneath.
Ayam Buah Keluak ($22)
Not quite right to write about a Peranakan restaurant without talking about the iconic dish of Ayam Buah Keluak.
This chicken dish with Indonesian black nut and lemongrass was stewed with a spicy and tangy sauce. Overall a pleasant rendition, but perhaps I was looking out for more robust flavours.
No digging of the nuts required here, and there was a touch of buah keluak paste at the top for added creaminess and nuttiness.
Nyonya Chap Chye ($15)
Another familiar dish of braised cabbage, with mushroom, black fungus, fried lily buds, beancurd skin, and pork belly.
I liked that the vegetables were cooked in prawn broth which rendered that sweetness and slight-umami. You could also taste nuances of tau cheo (fermented bean paste) that didn’t overwhelm the rest of the flavours.
Cabbage was soft, yet not cooked till ‘disintegrated’.
$7 for Cendol could sound pricy, but a lot of its ‘price’ went to sourcing the ingredients – handmade green pandan jelly, red beans and kidney beans cooked in-house, and specially imported gula melaka.
The pandan jelly is 100% handmade from pandan leaves which explains the different shapes of the jelly. Also customers can request for more coconut milk and gula melaka to adjust to your own preference.
Bunga Telang Lemongrass Pandan ($6.50)
Pair the meal with refreshing beverage made from natural blue pea butterfly flower juice.
If you are heading to Bonding Kitchen for the first time, perhaps get the 6-course set menu ($68.00++/2 pax) to try some of the signatures of Ayam Buah Keluak, Babi Pongteh or Hokkien Lor Ark; or the 7-course set menu ($118.00++/4 pax) for families and groups.
277 Orchard Road, Orchard Gateway, #02-18, Singapore 238858
Tel: +65 8860 9087
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 5:30pm – 10:30pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Bonding Kitchen.