Excellent Afternoon Peranakan Tea at Violet Oon at ION Orchard (Singapore)
After spending several days in Singapore and understanding the multicultural city-state and Peranakan cuisine, Violet Oon is an upscale version of what that cuisine is. We visited its ION Orchard location for afternoon tea and it’s a understated beauty.
Violet Oon is the grande dame of Singaporean cooking and is widely considered to be an authority on Asian cuisine, specializing in Nyonya food. She had her own television cooking show in the 1980s and wrote three cookbooks on Peranakan cuisine. In 2012, Violet and her children, opened Violet Oon’s Kitchen in Bukit Timah and two other locations: National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery of Singapore (2015) and Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill in Clarke Quay (2017) before opening at ION Orchard.
The retail area has a long glass-encased pastry displays showed the cakes and baked goods like jewels. The shelves of glossy boxes of cookies just begging for someone to buy one for a shared (or self) indulgence.
We walked toward the back where the dining area is located and ordered the Singapore High Tea Set and we had two different pots of tea – Singapore Dream (very pineapple forward and my table’s favorite) and National Blend.
The tea set was absolutely delicious. Bold, authentic flavors found Peranakan cuisine but plated more elegantly and made with better ingredients. Also the traditionally English items have twists that adapt to its cuisine.
The gula melaka scones had deep caramelized flavors and had a light and tender crumb. Slather some of their homemade kaffir lime or pineapple jams and I’m in heaven.
The selection of savories in this tower were varied and delectable. The otak on Belgium endive leaf was tasty and I love the hit of chili to counteract the dense, slightly sweet fishcake while the endive gave it freshness. The egg salad tartlet with pineapple patchare had an interesting touch of acidity and sweetness. The kuay pie te was crisp and the savory pork filling topped with a large shrimp tasted luxurious in its own way.
For the entire dessert tier, Violet Oon’s kitchen nailed it perfectly. The kueh lapis, the layered steamed cake had a dense, very moist crumb and I liked the subtly spiced, molasses-like sweetness of the filling. The chewy, coconut covered cylindrical cakes of kueh ko sui (pandan flavored; green colored) and kueh dah dah (gula melaka syrup and coconut milk flavored; brown colored) were delightful. They weren’t too sweet and the coconut flavor was always in the background despite having the pandan or palm sugar being the spotlighted flavors. Bubur cha cha panna cotta is a very unique panna cotta I’ve never had before. Besides it being so colorful, the various textures of silky and slightly crunchy from the grated sweet potato and agar agar jelly.
Just because we can’t have enough of their sweets, their signature (and very large) slice of Pandan gula melaka cake, a small assortment of buttery cookies and their new coconut candy. The cake had the lovely pandan flavor and it’s incredibly moist sponge cake. The layers alternate between the lush cake with gula melaka crunch and a lovely classic buttercream frosting. The coconut candy texture is akin to a chewy taffy when you bite into it but interestingly enough it seems baked. It’s a very sweet confection and it’s intensely coconutty.
Of course, I had to have some edible gifts for myself and friends at home in New York City who have not experienced the amazing sweets of Violet Oon.
The pandan kaya jam is my mother’s dream sweet spread. Kaya jam is essentially a coconut curd made with eggs, coconut milk and sugar. The addition of pandan makes it extra special. The pineapple tarts are not the pineapple tarts that you might be familiar with (as in Taiwanese style) as its crust is salted that gave it a heightened savory kick that cuts the sweetness of the wonderfully thick and chewy pineapple filling. The cashew cookies were buttery like a shortbread cookie but dotted with cashews.
The loaf of gula melaka cake with cashew crumble is a wonderful cake to snack on for the afternoon or even breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea. The deep molasses-like flavor of the gula melaka cake was perfect with the nutty cashew crumble that added crunch and a touch more sweetness. The overall cake wasn’t sweet at all and made so hard to stop eating at one slice.
I have lots of love for Violet Oon because of the excellent Pernakan fare and sweets. If she manages to open a boutique or cafe in New York City, I would be a regular.
ION Orchard, Level 3
2 Orchard Turn
Phone: +65 9834 9935