True Blue Cuisine: Bring us home to Mum’s cooking
Reviewed by : Viviane Then. Other Foodadvisor Writers?
cuisine in Singapore never seemed to be a restaurant's forte until True Blue Cuisine came along in 2003. Whipping up dishes of authentic Peranakan
cuisine, home recipes found in mum's cooking in every Peranakan home are reproduced and compiled in a menu's worthy of fine dining. This historically rich cuisine influenced by the mix of Chinese and Malay culture has placed True Blue Cuisine in Wine and Dine's list of top ten restaurants in Singapore.
- The Vibe
Tucked into the second floor of a shophouse facing Katong Mall, True Blue Cuisine reflects the rich heritage of the dwindling Peranakan community, which used to occupy the Katong area. Adjourning from the staircase to the restaurant's dining area is a journey into Peranakan history itself. Surrounded by walls lined with old photographs of Benjamin‘s (Managing Director and chef) family, stone fixtures and other antiques, this is a truly a walk to remember. Display cabinets in the main dining area showcase his personal collection of porcelain and other intricate decorations. Illuminated by small bronze chandeliers, the restaurant gives a homely feel to diners seeking true blue Nonya dishes.
- The Food
Sit down to a fragrant cup of True Blue Flavoured Hot Tea, a brew of red dates and dried longans. Sweet yet refreshing, it cleanses the palate with a delightful sweetness lingering at the back of the throat.
One must note the absence of pork in True Blue despite pork being a staple meat of Nonya Cuisine. Instead, chicken is used as a substitute to appeal to a wider range of customers. As a result, the Ngoh Hiang ($10) pales in comparison to the original hand-rolled delicacy. Deep fried till it is a little crispier than usual, the ngoh hiang lacks a strong flavour of minced pork, although accompanying sweet chilli sauce seemed to be the dish's saving grace by enhancing the overall taste.
There are other dishes which True Blue Cuisine fares well in – the Ayam Buah Keluak ($16.00), stewed chicken with buah keluak (black nuts) and the Beef Rendang ($14.00). Comprising of stews and sauces made up of indigenous herbs and spices common amongst the Straits Chinese, these two meat dishes tease the senses with a fragrant spicy taste. Whilst the ayam buah keluak brings out the exquisite taste of black nut paste with minced meat, the beef rending matches up in its well-cooked beef which is soaked in its thick, dry curry.
What may serve, as an eye-opener to guests who are new to the Asian culture will be the personal ladling of rice from a wooden rice bowl onto one's plate by restaurant staff. Bring in the Chap Chye ($10), an exotic blend of cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and shrimps cooked into a stew to conclude the main course. This signature dish well known to most Chinese speaks for itself – the cabbage leaves are cooked long enough to absorb the delicious stew yet not at all mushy. Of course, there is always the Udang Besar Goreng Assam ($20), three prawns marinated in sweetened sauce, which does not match up in quality given its exorbitant pricing.
Something not to be missed is the delightful Nonya dessert. Onde Onde, balls of soft pandan-flavoured dough sprinkled with grated coconut are highly popular. Melted palm sugar oozes out and melts all senses when its chewy rice ball breaks apart. After all, there is always space for desserts as good as these.
- The Service
Going out of their way to make the restaurant's patrons feel thoroughly at home, members of the warm and friendly restaurant staff do not hesitate to translate, explain and recommend the menu's choices. Through constant refilling of sweet tea, hand-ladled rice and efficient serving of food, dining at True Blue Cuisine gets as comfortable as dining at home.
The SD Food Advisor's take on True Blue Cuisine
To experience authentic Nonya cuisine in an air-conditioned, homely yet finely decorated setting, True Blue Cuisine will be a good introduction to overseas friends who are new to the Peranakan culture. Efficient service certainly adds to the homely feel of the restaurant to thoroughly present a comfortable dining experience. Prices may be high compared to local eateries or perhaps home-cooking, so be prepared to spend a little more than usual when dining there.