The Place Katong is spicing up. One of the newest boutique hotel to open in this precinct is Hotel Indigo Katong, which houses a new restaurant called Baba Chews Bar and Eatery. The restaurant sits on the former space of Joo Chiat Police Station, where the standalone building has close to 100 years of history. I fell in love with the Peranakan inspired colonial interior, from the chairs to the tiles which pay such a strong tribute to the Peranakan heritage culture in Katong. That said, Baba Chews is not strictly a Peranakan restaurant per se, as part of its cuisine is also inspired from the Straits of Malacca, so you can pretty much expect some Malaysian fares as well.
The Food Helmed by Head Chef Alvin Leong, who is a Malaysian himself, the philosophy for the food here is about hearty and comforting food that reflects Southeast Asian Cooking, according to Chef Alvin. There is an All-Day Dining Menu, a family style Dinner Menu, as well as a Weekend Brunch Menu here.
Light bites from the All-Day Dining Menu include the Chilli Crab Cake (S$15) and Foie Gras Tau Kwa Pau (S$20). I enjoyed the former, which is served alongside homemade chilli crab sauce and a serving of ‘mantou’ chips. The chilli crab sauce stayed true to the essence of the real dish with generous crab fillings. The Foie Gras Tau Kwa Pau is a modern take on the traditional ‘Tau Kwa Pau’, served with foie gras braised in a homemade ‘Lor Chup’, where most Chinese should be familiar with this traditional braising sauce.
A must try item here for me is the Pong Tauhu (S$10), a traditional Peranakan soup made with homemade prawn stock and pork meatballs. This was a very comforting dish to have before our mains were served.
I knew I had to try the Ayam Buah Keluak Burger (S$18) when I spotted it on the menu, which is also chef’s signature dish here. The Buah Keluak sauce was spread over the chicken patty, served between two multigrain ciabatta buns and a side of ‘Achar’, which is basically pickled spicy vegetables.
If you fancy the classic Straits of Malacca flavours, there are the Nonya Laksa (S$18) and Penang Char Kuay Teow (S$15). The prices are no doubt on the high end. For the laksa, it is also somewhat a luxe version as it comes with sea scallops as well, cooked in a broth of prawn stock. The texture of the Char Kuay Teow came across too thick for me, and I wished that there was more ‘wok-hei’ in its flavour.
For dinner, the Peranakan Dinner Menu is available, in addition to the all-day dining options. The dinner menu is designed for sharing among groups, where diners are recommended to order four dishes for a table of four. One of our favourites is the Beef Short Ribs Rendang (S$25), where the homemade ‘Rempah’ was so aromatic and delicious. Needless to say, the beef short ribs was very tender.
The Barramundi Goreng Chilli (S$29) uses locally sourced sea bass, pan-seared and drizzled with homemade ‘Sambal’ chilli. I don’t recall it being spicy, so for those with high threshold for spiciness this may not be satisfying enough.
For desserts, we tried the Kueh Durian (S$12), a contemporary spin on the traditional ‘Kuah Dadar’, stuffed with homemade D24 durian mousse and shredded coconut cooked in ‘Gula Melaka’ (palm sugar), then wrapped in pandan crepes. This will be heavenly if you love both durian and kuah dadar, don’t worry the durian taste was not too overpowering if that is a concern. To sweeten it, this is also served with a scoop of ‘Gula Melaka’ ice cream.
For something more refreshing and palate cleansing, I will recommend the Sour Plum Ice (S$10), which comes topped with calamansi ice-cream.
For drinks, Baba Chews serves up coffee using beans from Common Man Coffee Roasters while its sea selections are from TWG teas.
Rants The menu may be somewhat confusing for first timers as the Peranakan dishes are only available for dinner – probably good to just have a menu for both lunch and dinner?
Will I return again? We love the interior of Baba Chews, which retained that old Peranakan charm in a modern fashion. The rendition of the dishes ere are more progressive, so it may not appeal so much to you if you are more of a traditionalist at heart. That said, Baba Chews is definitely a decent dining option if you are in the Katong vicinity.
Make your reservation instantly at Baba Chews here.
Taste bud: 3.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 3.5/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
All-Day Dining Menu 11am to 10.30pm (last order)
Dinner Menu 6.30pm to 10.30pm (last order)
Bar Bites Menu 11am to 12am (last order 11.30pm)
Weekend Brunch 10.30am to 3pm (weekends and public holidays only)
Ranted by The Ranter