A Nostalgic Culinary Experience at National Kitchen by Violet Oon

April 21, 2024

Set in the heart of Singapore's vibrant Civic District, National Kitchen by Violet Oon offers not just a meal but a journey into the rich tapestry of Singapore's culinary heritage. This elegantly appointed restaurant is nestled within the iconic National Gallery Singapore, making it a perfect spot for both art aficionados and culinary enthusiasts. In this review, I'll take you through the exquisite dishes, the enchanting ambiance, and the impeccable service that define National Kitchen by Violet Oon.

Photo: Yè

Stepping Back in Time

As you step into National Kitchen by Violet Oon, you're immediately transported to a bygone era, reminiscent of 1920s Singapore. The restaurant's decor is a lavish spread of black marble floors paired with dark wood paneling, punctuated by opulent gold and brass accents. The Peranakan tiles and vintage photos lining the walls add a touch of nostalgia, setting the stage for a historic dining experience.

Photo: D. Lundy

The Culinary Maestro: Violet Oon

Violet Oon is a revered figure in Singapore’s culinary scene, often hailed as the country's food ambassador. Her passion for preserving and celebrating Peranakan cuisine is evident in every aspect of the restaurant. At National Kitchen, she elevates traditional dishes with her signature flair, ensuring each bite resonates with authenticity and innovation.

A Symphony of Flavors

National Kitchen’s menu is a tribute to Singapore's culinary diversity, featuring Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian dishes. Here’s a deep dive into some of the standout dishes I had the pleasure of sampling:

Starters: Kueh Pie Tee

Photo: XY Wen

We began with the quintessential Peranakan dish, Kueh Pie Tee. These delicate pastry shells, filled with a savory mixture of braised turnips, carrots, and prawns, are a joy to eat. Topped with a fiery sweet chili sauce, they make for a crunchy, juicy start to the meal.

Main Course: Beef Rendang

Photo: Chzhna L

No visit to National Kitchen is complete without trying the Beef Rendang. This dish is a masterpiece, with tender beef that melts in your mouth, coated in a rich, coconutty spice paste that has been simmered to perfection. The complexity of flavors from the lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves make every bite a discovery.

Another Star: Buah Keluak Ayam

Photo: Qing-Ling Tran
Photo: Oona Lloyd

The Buah Keluak Ayam is a bold dish featuring chicken cooked with Indonesian black nuts. The nuts impart a deep, earthy flavor that is unlike anything else. It’s a challenging dish for the uninitiated, but a true representation of Peranakan complexity and richness.

Sides: Sambal Bajak and Acar Awak

To complement the mains, we had Sambal Bajak, a spicy and sweet chili paste that ignites the palate. The Acar Awak, a tangy pickled vegetable medley, provided a refreshing contrast to the rich mains, rounding out the flavors.

Desserts: Chendol and Kueh Beng Kah

Photo: Yè

For dessert, the Chendol was sublime. The pandan jelly, coconut milk, and gula Melaka (palm sugar) came together harmoniously, accompanied by shaved ice that cooled the tropical heat. Another dessert, the Kueh Beng Kah (tapioca cake), was served warm with a caramelized coconut sauce—comfort food at its finest.

Beverage Pairings

The restaurant offers a selection of wines and traditional beverages. I opted for the Teh Tarik, a frothy, sweet milk tea that balanced the spice-laden dishes wonderfully. The restaurant also serves a variety of cocktails that infuse local flavors, which can add an exciting twist to your meal.

Service With a Smile

The service at National Kitchen is as impeccable as its menu. The staff are knowledgeable about the intricacies of the dishes and are happy to guide you through the menu according to your taste preferences. Their attentiveness and warmth ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Final Thoughts

Dining at National Kitchen by Violet Oon is like taking a walk through Singapore's history, with each dish narrating a story of its multicultural heritage. It's a place where every meal is served with a side of history, and every bite is a reminder of the rich culinary traditions that the city-state has to offer.

Whether you're a local or a tourist, a meal here is more than just dining—it’s an educational and cultural immersion. I recommend National Kitchen to anyone looking to experience the soul of Singaporean cuisine in a refined, elegant setting. This restaurant doesn't just serve food; it serves memories, lovingly prepared by one of Singapore’s most esteemed culinary personalities.

Photo: Adele

So, if you’re ready to delve into a multisensory dining experience where the past meets the present in the most delicious way possible, make your way to National Kitchen by Violet Oon. Your palate will thank you for this unforgettable journey through Singapore's gastronomic landscape.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon
1 St Andrew's Rd, #02–01 National Gallery, Singapore 178957
Open Hour:
Sunday, 12–5 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Monday, 12–3 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Tuesday, 12–3 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Wednesday, 12–3 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Thursday, 12–3 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Friday, 12–5 pm, 6–10:30 pm
Saturday, 12–5 pm, 6–10:30 pm

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