The buzz: It was just a few years ago that, after a long hiatus, Violet Oon and her children relaunched Violet Oon's Kitchen in a cozy space on Bukit Timah. Well, expansion plans have kicked into gear, with a second venue opening at the National Gallery, joining the likes of Odette and Aura. Given what a source of national pride the gallery is and the amount of tourist traffic it has been drawing, it makes perfect sense for it to also house a restaurant by the doyenne of Peranakan cooking.
The space: Enlisting the same designer who did the space at Bukit Timah, the space oozes privileged, colonial-era nostalgia, with opulent chandaliers, black and white images on the walls, Peranakan tile trims and black and gold beveled wall panels. It's the kind of place you go to with your parents, your business partners or a fancy Katong princess. And because it's the National Gallery, you have some prime, low-slung views at the verandah, where they do light bites and drinks.
The food: The menu has a lot of the classics from Violet Oon's Kitchen, with Peranakan essentials like buah keluak ayam ($23) and chap chye ($15). But, keeping with the "national kitchen" theme, there are plenty of iconic Malay, Tamil, Chinese and Eurasian dishes—though we're assured the recipes and stories behind each have great personal meaning to Violet. Don't miss the butter prawn ($32) and the rich, balanced and slow cooked fish head curry ($35) which she takes to new heights. (Avoid the dry idly [$7], though, although the chutneys are very nice.) The verandah light bites menu has hand-holdable stuff like kue pie tie ($17), satay ($10) and tau kua pao ($11)
The drinks: Pretty basic. A short list of beers and wines, a few by the glass, a few classic cocktails (like the Singapore Sling, $16-20). On the non-booze front: a selection of kopi drinks ($4-6), tropical fruit smoothies ($7-9) and mocktails/housemade sodas ($8-9).
Why you'll be back: To have Peranakan food from a legend while in the pretty surrounds of Singapore's hot new opening. And that fish head curry.