My favourite dining spots: Violet Oon
Because F&B insiders know best
My guilty pleasure is eating a whole tub of the seasonal fruit called Duku Langsat while in bed and reading Murder and Mayhem — a new mystery novel which I love. In between chapters, I peel and pop the Duku Langsat into my mouth, seeds and all.
A hawker stall I would queue for is China Street Fritters in Maxwell Market. They still make the fresh pink Hokkien pork sausages and liver rolls — just as they did back in the day in China Street — and its flavours for me date back to the 1970's when I started writing a food column for the now defunct newspaper called The New Nation.
Weekend brunch with friends is usually at Glory Food in Katong. The Padang food that forms the mainstay of the menu is superbly well cooked and I also get to eat my Kueh Pie Tee along with other Nyonya dishes such as Laksa. It is not a particularly comfortable brunch venue but it holds a special place in my heart.
When I have friends in town, I always bring them to Maxwell Market or ABC Brickworks Food Centre at 6 Jalan Bukit Merah for the wide variety of Singaporean street food. I also love to bring visitors to the Geylang Serai market in the mornings between Tuesday and Friday so that we avoid the busy weekend crowd.
For a more swish experience, I love bringing visitors to Marina Bay Sands to walk around the boardwalk at dusk and to have them graze at one or two of the restaurants inside. I personally love the steaks at CUT by Wolfgang Puck, which brings back many happy memories of Los Angeles for me.
I'm a regular at the corner coffee shop three doors away from my restaurant, Violet Oon Singapore. I love to sit there and watch the world go by. If I want a healthy meal, I opt for the fresh fish soup with less salt and no milk.
My go-to supper spot? I seldom have supper nowadays but one place I love to hang out late at is at the old Havelock Road where there is a Teochew porridge stall called Lim Joo Hin Eating House. The runny Teochew-style porridge is comforting at the end of a long night and I always order the Chye Buay (mashed up salted vegetable stew), braised duck, salted eggs and a wide variety of the dishes on display.
My all-time favourite restaurant is Pete's Place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel — my friends and I have dined there for over 30 years. We rediscovered it recently as it has undergone a revival but the enduring vibe at the Italian trattoria still prevails. I have always loved the salad and bread bar as well as the Italian dishes that have been refreshed recently.
My favourite dish at Violet Oon Singapore is Daging Chabek, an Indonesian Chinese dish, which was amongst the first of the elaborate dishes I learnt to cook as a teenager from my grand aunt, Aunty Nanny Zecha. In addition to being an exquisite interpretation of beef slowly braised in spices, this dish is full of sentiment for me.
When dining with family, we opt for a meal at home. As we are in the restaurant business and have a family with young grandchildren, we have dinner at my daughter's place so the younger ones can be bundled off to bed the moment they get tired and testy.
A heritage eatery I hope will never disappear is Glory Food in Katong because they have not modernised and updated and are exactly the same as ever — with the Nyonya kueh display out in the front and the Nasi Padang food that greets you as you venture inside. It is not a particularly pleasant dining experience but it is familiar and comforting.
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