Having eaten at Immigrants a few times, i found the food standards to be dropping. the buah keluak rice which i was completely bowled over with when i first tasted it a few months ago is now dry and tasteless (like it was re-heated in the microwave). the cockles and chicken wings didn't need any superb cooking skills prepare - a tad overpriced if you ask me.
Plus points are: great place & crowd, with good selection of drinks. I would have my share of Peranakan food at the REAL Peranakan cafes/restos nearby (Joo Chiat IS famous for its Peranakan heritage after all!) before hopping to Immigrants for drinks.
Immigrants is not for the faint of heart. Chef Damian specialises in full-on flavours, and none of that dumbing down to please the masses!My group started off our meal with the fresh cockles, done the traditional way i.e. barely blanched and bloody delicious (emphasis on the bloody!) with a killer sambal dip. Here's a tip: don't wear white if you're planning on having this dish, unless you want to look like an extra from Dexter.The others enjoyed the sambal goreng. I must confess, it's not my favourite thing because it contains liver, but the offal lovers said it was fantastic ... I preferred the heritage salsa: it's like a very "cheng" rojak in salsa form.Must-have dishes: ngoh hiang (you'd swear it was made by grandma), grilled seafood otak (too delish for words), Eurasian pork cutlets (bagedil on steroids), squid bombs (they were indeed da bomb). And of course: SAMBAL BUAH KELUAK FRIED RICE. Try it once, and you will be obsessed with the need to eat it again. And again. And again. Damn, I really want some right now.Warning: all of the varieties of sambal and chili at this place will blow your head off. I am a die-hard Peranakan consumer of chili, and even so I need to use these in moderation. You have been warned!
Between my first visit over a year ago and this visit, it seems standards at Immigrants have dropped somewhat.
Where's the memorable buah keluak fried rice? Instead, we were advised to order the buah keluak paste to go with the white rice. This paste was way too salty while the white rice was hard and undercooked. The sweet potato leaf with prawns dish was overcooked and the prawns fell apart as they were being forked. The restaurant should also consider larger dinner plates. It's really uncomfortable trying to use a fork and spoon in a tiny metal bowl which is fine for serving, but not for dining.
I hate to give a bad review especially since I had a very good impression from my first visit. But I had brought an overseas guest to dine at the restaurant and felt extremely let down.
I do love the range of beers though!
This Joo Chiat restaurant-and-bar's kitchen is manned by chef Damian D'Silva, well-known chef and champion of local cuisine. While it is a gastrobar, the bar bites are far from typical and the dishes are bursting with local and heritage flavours. The sambal buah keluak fried rice ($20) is an easy favourite. For the unititated, this is a good introduction to the bold, nutty flavour of the black mangrove nut. The rice glistens jet-black and is positively saturated with the inimitable earthy flavour of keluak seeds married with sambal chilli. The portion is small, which works, because this is a very rich dish.
I've eaten twice at Immigrants now, and both times were huge let-downs. While my first dining experience could be put down to teething problems (I ate there with a friend shortly after Immigrants opened), the second time was really saddening, especially since I still have a vivid memory of previous good meals that Damian had cooked up before. Those super high standards that Damian used to hold have clearly fallen.
Having eaten regularly at Damian De Silva's previous stall (Big D's Grill), I was looking forward to my second meal there, especially after reading Damian's article in the Australian Daily Telegraph. He had plugged Immigrants as #1 in the top 10 list of places to eat in Singapore. I decided to give his place a second try with my wife a couple of weeks back, just to see if the restaurant deserves his (self awarded) ranking.
We decided to pop by for an early dinner, and ordered the buah keluak rice (which was always my favourite at Big D's), sweet potato leave with sambal, otak and one other Peranakan dish. EVERYTHING tasted like it was re-heated in a hurry...the sauces were loaded with sugar, there was barely any heat in any of the spices, and the otak was dried out inside like an Egyptian mummy. Everything was also over-salted, as the food is clearly designed to sell the alcohol in the pub...
Suffice to say that I have gotten better meals on Indian domestic airlines.
Immigrants clearly does NOT deserve to be in any top 10 list of Singapore's must-eat destinations...
Also, to those reviewers who claim that you can't find better Peranakan food, I suggest you sober up, walk out of Immigrants and find any Peranakan place along Upper East Coast Road. I personally much prefer Peramakan or Candlenut (which has markedly improved in its new Dorsett location).
We tried a number of dishes - the cold tofu with century egg, buah keluak rice, babi masak nanas, squid bombs, beef cheek rendang, ayam sioh and the sweet potato leaves lemak. Overall the food quality was good and quite satisfying. Be prepared for burning tongues as the different sambals are really HOT but shiok! The portions would be just about right for 4. We literally stumbled out after dinner because we were so full and mainly due to the buah keluak rice which was quite rich. Between the four of us, we ordered two bowls but didn't manage to finish it.
The Babi Masak Nanas could have been a bit more sour, the Ayam Sioh was a bit blah and the sweet potato leaves could have had more lemak gravy but overall we give the food a thumbs up however it's not somewhere we would go often because it IS pricey. To us, it was a treat because we were celebrating a birthday but on a normal night, a family would not want to spend that much. The buah keluak rice cost us $20 per bowl!!
Ambience was average and the dining tables were small in size and number.