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I'm not sure what kind of crack some previous reviewers were smoking, but Candlenut is definitely one of the culinary gems in my book.
In our country where foreign chefs are highly celebrated, international 'best lists' nominating foreign cuisines and chefs to represent Singapore, one can't help but ask, where is the Singaporean chefs and restaurants?
Alas, in came Candlenut, helmed by local Singaporeans, Chef Malcolm lee and restaurant manager Chan Jia min.
I have travelled far and wide for food, multiple cities, dozens of michelin stars collected, yet there will always be a time i miss rice and curry. Whenever i am back home in Singapore, i crave for the food at Candlenut.
Why? Because it is sincere, it is genuine, it is detailed. There is much thought put in to it, it is robust yet balanced. It shows finesse, it shows depth. it tells a story of heritage and progression. It feels like i'm dining with my friends and family.
I dined at Candlenut on 6 separate occasions and each time, i hunger to return. I've tried both their previous ala-carte menu and their latest transition to a tasting menu, dubbed the 'Ahma-kase menu' (Ahma being grandmother).
My absolute favorites are the chicken satay, mum's curry, gula melaka king prawns, Buah keluak ice cream and textures of coconut. The Ahma-kase was very very good too, $50++ per pax for approx 10 carefully cooked and plated dishes, is a GREAT steal. I've heard some people commenting on it being too expensive, to them i say, please eat out more often and stop embarrassing yourself, a plate of random aglio olio pasta can fetch $22, what's $50 for 10 detailed, carefully planned dishes?
I shall not elaborate further on these dishes as the Ahma-kase menu changes regularly, depending on what Chef Malcolm can find daily at the wet-markets. It might not even be on the menu when you visit, but ain't that fun? I can go on and on to explain every single flavor profile of each dish, but that would be unethical for me to spoil the surprise for you.
Yes, service can be sketchy at times, but the young bright eyed service staffs reminds me of my younger days when i was working between school days, trying my best to provide the best service possible in my capacity. In fact, it's rather endearing for me.
Who can fault them when they are so sincere and genuine? I'd much rather have Candlenut's team friendliness than polished robotic michelin servers.
Chef Malcolm Lee aims to showcase Singaporean Peranakan food on the world stage, to push the boundary of the cuisine further, and in my humble opinion, he and his team are very much well on the way.
Tourists, do pay them a visit when you're in town, take it from a Singaporean foodie.
Forget what other 'best lists' tells you are must visit (i've ate all of them too), seriously, who flies thousand of miles to Singapore to have french/italian/any other random cuisine rather than Singaporean cuisine?