It stands to reason that a trip to the East Coast and Joo Chiat should involve Peranakan food. The area around Joo Chiat has some of the best Peranakan architecture around. In fact Joo Chiat has been identified as a heritage town in Singapore, specifically because of its significance to Peranakan culture. The shophouses, the colours, and the cultural influences of Chinese, Malay and more all meld to create a kind of crazy patchwork.
As is Singapore’s way, with progress constantly beating at our door, a new development has included more than a twist of Peranakan. The old Katong Police Station is part of the new Hotel Indigo chain and includes a Peranakan inspired restaurant called Baba Chews. The space has been influenced heavily by Peranakan culture; tiles, menus and napkins all pay homage to their Peranakan routes.
Our evening at Baba Chews started well. A sweet waitress explained that our table wouldn’t be ready for 10 minutes (we were early) but found us another table to take a seat at. We ordered drinks, I chose badly. Moo and Meme thankfully went for the Greywacke Malborough Sauvignon Blanc ($95++) which always goes a long way to making everything ok 😉 We were told our dinner seating arrangement was a high table so we elected to take a lower table out the front instead. This was actually two round tables joined together which wasn’t ideal, but neither was a high table. Here’s a head up restaurants. Most people are happy to have a few drinks at a high table, but not to eat their meal. Just sayin’.
We were pretty hungry so three of us ordered three mains, a veg and two sides. The food arrived pretty much at once but it would have been better to focus on just one or two things at a time. Unfortunately once our food arrived the servers seemed to disappear entirely. I had to get up twice to ask for cutlery and to check on the whereabouts of a dish that had been forgotten.
My first mouthful was of the duck (an extra we hadn’t ordered but decided to keep). The duck was like confit duck in an Asian style gravy (above left) which was tasty and slightly sweet and sour. The duck leg itself was slightly on the dry side.
Beef short ribs rendang ($25++) were superb. Beef short ribs are becoming my favourite new cut of beef. The meat is so tender, and even when fatty, the fat is soft and moist and melts in your mouth. Cooked in the rich and coconut spiced rendang gravy, that’s not tooooo spicy, this was a superb dish.
I also enjoyed the Buah Keluak chicken ($18++), although the buah keluak nut itself is not my favourite thing. The nut was stuffed with a pork mince mix but the graininess and dryness did not appeal to me. The chicken on the other hand was very moist and tender. The gravy had a good depth that made me want a bit of prata to mop it up with.
Our final main was the pork rib ($25++), again served in a rich broth. This broth was more sweet in flavour and sort of massaman style with potatoes floating in the broth. The broth on this one was sweeter and more watery than the other gravies but the meat itself was tender and tasty.
I’ve no veggies to report as the one dish we ordered (eggplant) didn’t turn up. We did try the butter wild rice ($5++), a small portion but full of buttery goodness, and the mashed potatoes ($5++). The potatoes were a little chunky but quite flavoursome.
Disappointingly when our bill arrived, we’d been charged for the duck that we hadn’t ordered and for the aubergines that didn’t arrive so we had to send the bill back. Happily both items were removed from the bill.
One of the positives of Baba Chews is that being part of Hotel Indigo the restaurant is open from breakfast through to dinner each day.
Baba Chews isn’t soley Peranakan, the food is inspired by the Straits of Malacca, among other influences from the region. The food is good and there are a few dishes that I read about subsequently I’d like to try. But after three trips to the east coast in two weeks I’m unlikely to be racing back any time soon.
86 East Coast Road, #01-01 Katong Square, Singapore
phone +65 6723 2025
Open Monday to Sunday 6.30am to 10.30pm