When seeking a quality dining experience, Clarke Quay is probably the last place you’d think of. Similarly, Peranakan food might not be the easiest to take to if you didn’t grow up having it. Yet Violet Oon’s managed to put both on the map with Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill.
The success of the Bar & Grill lies in a combination of factors: its location next to the entertainment precinct’s main taxi stand, its robust but accessible dishes, and quick yet attentive service. The dinner-only charcoal grill concept is poised to be the go-to for the area’s flux of mainstream tourists and locals perfectly, specifically those looking to kick-start a night of grand celebrations, anytime between 6pm and midnight, daily.
Oon has packed more flavour and character into this 90-seat space than all the previous restaurants in this space combined. It’s not just the striking and familiar aesthetics of this eatery (it’s similar to Oon’s other two outlets); the food is robust and adventurous, without being impetuous.
The Satay Bar & Grill’s five headlining offerings of plump, juicy satay skewers cooked to a light char will open any meal beautifully. The lesser-seen tangy and tender tripe variant is made with a recipe Oon learnt from her aunt over 40 years ago. The well-marinated pork Hainan satay is just as delicious, with its flame-grilled mix of pork and fat. The skewers are served with a thick ground peanut sauce enveloping a dollop of fresh pineapple puree – which adds a welcome sweet and tangy taste.
The proud fastidiousness of the Peranakan culture is seen in dishes like the Nasi Goreng Nyonya, which offers flavour and the crunch of hae bee (dried shrimp) in every grain. The kitchen also serves a more fiery, pedas version, with fragrant rice tossed with plump prawns and sambal belacan, served with piquant sambal chilli hijau – made with green chilli padi, lime and ikan bilis.
The signature beef rendang with its tender meat shows that the restaurant doesn’t stint on quality. And the uncannily meat-like walnut balls made with cheese and kaffi r lime, and gula melaka ice cream with crushed peanuts let the culture’s improvisational roots shine.
Some may say that Oon has not been flying the traditional Peranakan flag high enough – we beg to differ. The first step to championing any cuisine is awareness and likeability, and there is absolutely nothing we don’t like about Satay Bar & Grill.
VIOLET OON SATAY BAR & GRILL
#01-18, Clarke Quay, 3B River Valley Road, S(179021)