It's been a while since we last visited a Violet Oon's. And with all the hoopla surrounding its newest outlet in the National Gallery, it all but passed me by the Peranakan doyenne's eponymous Satay Bar at Clarke Quay.
We'd fortuitously stumbled upon Violet Oon's Satay Bar & Grill, as we were wandering around Clarke Quay looking for a late-night dinner option after class. The bistro opens till midnight, everyday, and is one of the best restaurants in the sea of dining options in Clarke Quay.
The menu, a mix of familiar old-reliables and contemporary fusion dishes, was substantive. The food was superb: classics are finessed perfectly, and the modern stuff was delightful...but their satays were simply exceptional.
Service was great as well, personable, spontaneous and attentive. Even when we do takeaways, they'd serve iced water for refreshments.
No visit to a restaurant called "Satay Bar" would be complete without a order (or two) of satay. The Chicken Satay ($14) was absolutely smashing, juicy, flavourful, and wonderfully smoky. I went through 2 sticks before I realised I'd clean forgotten about the peanut sauce, which was amazing on its own. Blended with grated pineapple for added oomph, its piquant spicy-sweet contrast enlivened the fresh cucumber, red onions, and soft steamed rice cakes.
As awesome as the chicken satay was, the Beef Satay ($17) just slayed it. Here, 150-day grain-fed Black Angus was stripped, steeped in marination, and imbued with a heady char. Insanely good, and a definite must-try.
A fail-safe classic, the Kueh Pie Tee ($17) of pastry caps filled with julienned turnip stewed with bamboo shoots, prawn bisque, topped with poached prawn halves, and sided by chilli mix and sweet sauce, was fantastic. One of the best, if not the best renditions out there.
The Sayur Lodeh ($13) a medley of vegetables stewed in a spiced coconut gravy, was jazzed up by the mellow nuance of fried tempeh. I love tempeh, so the fact that this had tempeh made this an immediate win.
Another cannot-miss was the Grilled Garam Assam Barramundi ($32), locally farmed for sustainability, burnished with a piquant pineapple compote fragranced with lemongrass, ginger flowers, and laksa leaf. As delicious as it was pretty.
The Babi Pong Teh ($18), with fork-tender pork belly hunks, black Chinese mushrooms and bamboo shoots, slow-braised in a rich gravy of yellow bean paste, cinnamon and cloves, was kicked up with fresh green chillis. Comforting and homestyled.
For dessert, don't miss the Pulot Hitam ($12), sweetened with gula melaka for a smoky accent and topped with a scoop of coconut ice-cream for a boost of creaminess.
But, for durian lovers, there's the Durian Pengat Chendol ($15), which was surprisingly nuanced and balanced.
Violet Oon Satay Bar and Grill
3B River Valley Road #01-18
Tel: 9834 9935
Open daily from 6pm to 12midnight