A black wooden signboard in bold gold capitals is framed around bright hanging lights, and glass displays of handmade beaded shoes, showy jewellery, and intricately painted china sit nearby. This is The Peranakan, the Straits Chinese restaurant located at Claymore Connect in Orchard Road. But food isn’t no longer the only thing that’s being passed down – the owners recently opened The Peranakan Gallery the next door over.
We take a trip into the gallery while waiting for our food, and it’s deeply intriguing to see an array of household items, accessories, games, and furniture on display – things you’d see in the Peranakan Museum. We walk into a seating arrangement of wooden tables and chairs, arranged strategically under huge golden chandeliers, with floral wallpapers plastered over free wall spaces. It’s like walking into a scene from The Little Nyonya.
It won’t take you long to cover the gallery area, but it’s chock full of information that only a true blue Peranakan will be able to tell you: about how they used to play cherki back in the days with rubber bands on chopsticks, sit at a long table with the matriarch at the head, or clip the kebaya with three equally-spaced brooches.
After the little excursion, we start our meal with the refreshing Butterfly Pea Tea. The drink is deep blue, with passionfruit at the bottom and peppermint as garnish. Squeeze in some lime juice and it changes to a vibrant purple. We then order the Tok Panjang ($48+/pax), a Peranakan traditional feast that’s eaten during special occasions and reunions.
It’s an extravagant spread of delights: soups, starters, and mains all presented on banana leaves. Bak Wan Kepiting is a rich broth of bamboo shoot and golf ball-sized meatballs, and Itek Tim is an appetisingly tangy soup of duck, kiam chye, assam skin, and plums. Both are rich and savoury, like my grandma’s soup. We also love the Nasi Ulam, a cold rice salad, for its light herbiness and refreshing feel.
Among the mains, the unanimous winner was the Ayam Buah Keluak, considering its novelty and its distinct flavour. For those unaware, buah keluak is a highly poisonous nut that requires tedious work prior to being edible. It is bittersweet, nutty, and I must confess, extremely addictive. It’s one power-packed nutty goodness, and best eaten together with the accompanying chicken and steamed rice.
We like the Satay Babi (this has no sticks or peanut sauce): tender, well-marinated, and cooked with lemongrass and housemade rempah. Another worthy mention is the Beef Rendang, which simply melts in the mouth. The meat doesn’t fall apart easily despite its softness as they use beef shin, a tough cut that slowly breaks down after cooking for hours.
It’s a lot of food, but we proceed with The Peranakan’s Super Sedah High Tea ($30+/pax). Most of the savouries are renditions of their signatures cut down to bite-sized portions and revamped to tea-session snacks. The same Satay Babi transforms into a Kongbak Pao, while Prawn Ngoh Hiang and Kueh Pie Tee are also served in this set. Start with the pie tee, as the fillings will soak the shells quickly.
Their Mee Siam, a thin rice vermicelli soup, tastes slightly different from what you’d find in hawker centres due to the addition of fermented beans – a pleasant surprise. This is replaced with Dry Laska on weekends, so don’t be surprised at the change! The most filling of the lot has to be Pulot Enti Hae Bi Hiam, a mix of blue glutinous rice and dried shrimps paired with grated coconut and gula melaka. The saltiness of the glutinous rice balances the sweetness of the gula melaka well so it’s not overwhelming.
The sweets will keep you munching happily. The fluffy Apom Bokwa (rice flour cakes) is mixed with banana, gula melaka, and coconut sauce, and keeps you chewing happily. For Durian-lovers, there’s Apom Balek with a dollop of creamy D24 durian puree, or you can choose to dip the apom in their XO Durian Pengat. The Peranakan also serves homemade Pineapple Tarts all-year-round, snipped on the surface by a Peranakan grandma. The tropical sweetness is light, fragrant, and indulging all at once.
The whole experience is like visiting a Peranakan friend: it feels authentic enough that you get a warm fuzzy feeling of home. This is an all-in-one stop for Nyonya culture that is delightfully holistic, memorable, and satisfying for the taste buds.
The Peranakan is located at 442 Orchard Rd, L2 Claymore Connect, Singapore 238879, p. +65 6262 4428. Open daily 11am – 10pm.