Chilli Padi Nyonya Restaurant – 辣椒香 losing its glory
In business since the early 90’s, this restaurant has beed raved about to be one of the best Peranakan food places in Singapore.
For the Glutton family, especially with my wife’s Peranakan background, we were eager to have a taste of what Chili Padi had to offer – and having heard all the good things about it, we couldn’t help but bring our high expectations along.
Traditional yet exquisite ornaments displayed around the restaurant, from the colourful table cloths to the typical bright red and black on the wall to the photos and paintings of the old strait Singapore, all helped to bring Baba culture to life. There was even a wall displaying all the accolades and awards received dated as far as late 90’s.
No crowd when we visited them on a weekend evening – we were their first customers, and the food was served at lightning speed. Not a surprise, as most Peranakan food require hours of kitchen work and pre-cooking, and only heated up when the orders are placed.
Beef rendang (Small $9.80)
The beef was tender but the seasoning somehow lacked any punch, though served in a clay pot, it was simply missing rendang flavour, and was a fairly ordinary dish.
Ngoh Hiang – Five spices prawn roll (Small $6.00)
We make sure to order this popular Baba dish whenever we visit a Peranakan restaurant. Here, the ngoh hiang was relatively bland, the spices and seasoning was perhaps too mild and quite a disappointment.
Bak Wan Kepetin – Pork meat Soup (Small $10.80)
Usually with a hint of pleasant sweetness, it may become a turn off if there’s just too much of it. This was the problem with the soup here, though the meatballs were good and tender. However, the over sugary taste in our view actually spoiled the entire bowl of soup.
Ayam buah keluak (Small $9.80)
Buah Keluak – the black hard shell nut actually contains highly toxic cyanide, a small dose of this compound present in the food is good enough to seriously hurt you or even cost a life. However, it has not stopped many keluak lovers going after this truffle-like nut for its acquired taste, safe to eat thanks to the tedious and lengthy detoxification process to extract the poison out of the nut.
A daunting preparation process before the fruit can be enjoyed, the nuts have to be buried in the ash, boiled and soaked in water for a long period of time the moment they’re harvested from the trees. Whenever my in-law cooks this dish, she will further soak the nuts in water for a week, changing the water at least twice a day just to ensure there’s no cyanide left on the shell. That also explains why this Buah Keluak never comes cheap, the restaurant is considered very generous if you can find more than five nuts in a medium size serving.
This is one of the iconic dishes in the Paranakan food heritage and an important gauge to seal the culinary skills of a good Peranakan chef. Unfortunately, the Ayam Buah Keluak from Chili Padi was another big disappointment, the fragrance of the buah Keluak was completely masked by the chili, with too little flesh from the nuts used to fully appreciate a good Chicken Buah Keluah.
Nonya Chap Chye (Small $6.80)
The mixed vegetable dish was ordinary in taste and again not able to impress us too much.
Home-made Otak (4 pieces $6.40)
The texture has the right firmness but the flavouring again was not distinct enough to be impressive.
Fish Head Curry Assam ($19.80)
Only half of fish head but the fish was fresh, with a good balance of curry and assam.
Egg FuYong Medium ($9.80)
My two teenage kids finished 99% of the contents of the plate – and it had to be good, I thought. However, the price seems to be a little too steep for the portion that was served.
We were a little hesitant about going for their dessert, having been disappointed by their main dishes. We went ahead to order a Fresh Durian Chendol and a Nonya Beancurd.
The Nonya Beancurd Pudding ($2) was silky smooth and eating it with Gula melaka was a pleasing experience.
The Durian Chendol ($3.80) was just ordinary and nothing to rave about. Red bean was hard and Gula Malaka not distinct and very much overpowered by the Durian.
We paid about $28 per person but from the quality of the food, we are afraid that it may not be worth the value.
The food quality from Chili Padi rather falls short of our expectations, and didn’t seem to live up to all its accolades.
Overall, Chili Padi probably deserves 2.75 to 3 stars, if you are around the area and hankering for Peranakan food just to fill your stomach, Chili Padi may still be able to get the job done. However, if you are searching for really good Peranakan food, Chili Padi may not be the best choice.
Chilli Padi Noyna Restaurant
Add: 11 Joo Chiat Place #01-03, Singapore 427744
Tel: 6275 1002 Fax: 6348 8382
Hrs: 11am – 2.30pm, 6.30pm – 9.30pm