I can't decide if I like Candlenut Kitchen. On the one hand, I loved the exceptional food. Familiar favourites and modern interpretations, given equal billing, are executed with both polish and flair. And, the very wallet-friendly price-points further bolster the Peranakan restaurant's appeal.
On the other hand, I find Candlenut's restaurant policies lacking in sense and sensibility. For starters, there is just ONE multi-course set for dinner, with no exceptions for ala carte orders whatsoever. To compound matters, tap water is not served at all, only bottled water is available, so even though we had ourselves a glass of wine and lemongrass ginger juice, we still had to purchase a 500ml bottle of mineral water at the exorbitant price of $4. Honestly, it's a major turn-off that a restaurant is as rigid as this.
Dinner was a Set Tasting Menu ($50) of 12-courses, refreshed seasonally. Even if each course was considerably petite, 12 courses added up substantively to a most value-for-money dinner if I ever saw one.
The first of four appetizers was a deconstructed Kueh Pie Tee, whereby each of the components harmonized into a magnificent symphony.
The Warm Minced Pork Relish followed, weaved with punchy banana chillis, black peppercorns, aromatic laksa leaf strips, and presented atop a lettuce bed.
The Grain-Fed Australian Beef Flank Satay, burnished in a stickily sweet peanut sauce, was so meltingly tender and juicy, I wouldn't have known it was beef if I hadn't been informed otherwise.
The Tumbuk Prawns, the last of the quartet of appetizers, was served chilled,. Speckled with laksa leaf, chives, and raw shallots, this was wonderfully clean and clear; its refreshing overtones enhanced by the starfruit slice.
The first of five mains, was a fork-tender braised beef cheek swimming in a stew-like buah keluak-flavoured Rawon Soup, topped with fried shallots and spiked with chilli. The heady and potent concoction was fantastic ladled over white rice.
The Chap Chye, a melange of cabbage, shitake, dried beancurd skin, and glass vermicelli softly braised in a delicate prawn stock, was excellent. One of the best renditions of this classic.
By far the most phenomenal of the already stellar dinner was the Blue Swimmer Crab Curry, of impossibly sweet chunks of freshly shredded meat flash-cooked in a mild tumeric coconut milk curry, while kaffir lime leaves lent a piquant touch. So freaking good.
The sambal-ed King Tiger Prawn, wok-fried with pungent petai beans, was a massive hunk of succulence and fiery sweetness.
Rounding off the mains was the Ayam Bakar, chicken fillet grilled to a smoky perfection with kicap manis, shallots, and green chillis.
Before embarking on desserts, we were served a green apple-accented jelly to cleanse the palate.
The contemporary desserts here were exemplary, like the Candlenut Signature Chendol Cream, a panna cotta-like pudding layered with pandan jelly and sweetened with gula melaka.
A lighter option was the zesty Mango Cream with Lime Sorbet, dotted with jackfruit, and sago pearls.
The finisher was a petit fours of sorts, the kueh lapis and pound cake, crafted in-house.The pound cake was amazing, overshadowing the less-than-impressive kueh lapis.
The complimentary starter of belinjau crackers with a chilli-spiked kecap manis dip was a Godsend, especially since my galfriend got held up by work by an hour.
331 New Bridge Road #01-03
Open Mondays to Fridays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays