National Gallery Singapore: National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore

National Gallery Singapore: National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore

Special feature

Text: Denise Kok

Singapore's culinary heritage comes to the fore at this handsome restaurant serving iconic local and Nyonya dishes

Visitors to the National Gallery Singapore might encounter one of the most comprehensive representations of Singapore art in the region, but the journey, it seems, doesn't end at the exhibition doors. At the National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore, the national narrative carries over into edible works of art whose histories hark just as far back as the Nanyang movement of the 1930's.  

Here, you'll find Violet Oon, celebrated chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and leading authority on Asian cuisine, dishing out iconic Nyonya and Singaporean dishes based on recipes culled from her 50-year-old recipe collection. Expect to find familiar favourites such as fish head curry and chilli crab sitting alongside oft-forgotten heritage dishes the likes of Hakka abacus beads. 

While the kitchen pays homage to time-honoured recipes, pork is most notably left out of the menu (the ngoh hiang here is made from chicken instead of pork). The restaurant might not be Halal certified, but it procures its meats from a Halal-certified source, allowing for Muslim diners to partake in the feast. 

National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore

For regulars of Violet Oon Singapore, Oon's restaurant on Bukit Timah Road,  the interior of this restaurant might strike a familiar chord. Seductive dark wood, colourful Nyonya tiles, and handsome marble tables are not unlike those you'll find at Violet Oon Singapore.

Joining the main dining area is a private dining room that seats 12. Come end December, the restaurant will welcome diners to its handsome veranda backdropped by 30-feet-tall Corinthian columns and a spectacular view of the padang. 

National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore

Take your time to survey the sepia-toned images mounted on the walls of the restaurant. They provide invaluable clues to Singapore's culinary heritage. Joining memorabilia from Oon's family archives are photos contributed by Oon's longstanding friends in the industry as well as members of the public who came forward with their own fragments of culinary history. There are vintage photos of a soy sauce factory as well as a glimpse of the Four Heavenly Kings — pioneering chefs and advocates of Cantonese cuisine in Singapore — during their salad days. If the walls could speak, they would certainly have a tale or two to tell. 

National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore. #02-01, National Gallery Singapore, City Hall Wing. 1 St. Andrew's Road. Tel: 9834 9935