Weets Eats: Baba Chew’s new menu has winners
I have such a soft spot for Baba Chews.
This eatery is housed at the former site of the Joo Chiat Police Station, which was one of the iconic buildings in Katong.
Chef Alvin Leong is such a talent and has been trying to update South-east Asian food. The updates do not always work, but it happens often enough for me to take notice.
It has been about 2½ years since Baba Chews turned up in Katong, and since then, there have been minor tweaks to the menu.
But this year, there was an overhaul.
While it retains the essence of its original Peranakan concept, the menu is now about 80 per cent new. There is also a wider variety of dishes.
A new offering is the XO Pork Belly Char Siew Rice Bowl ($19), with a tasty char siew, although I wish I had a fattier cut.
Still, the rice is just oily enough to make up for that and that hint of XO sauce is all that it needs for flavour.
It is ballsy to do laksa in the middle of Katong when you are surrounded by so many legendary laksa stalls. But the Laksa Salmon ($26) works.
Salmon is an unexpected but welcome update because I find the buttery fish a great complement to the lemak sauce. In fact, I wish there was more sauce.
The laksa sauce may not be groundbreaking or too different, but it is familiar and comforting.
Another winner is the Chicken Rendang Lasagne ($18).
I can eat rendang anything and in any form, so why not as lasagne?
The pasta means little to me with this dish, but the minced chicken rendang is aromatic, mellow and deep, like rendang should be.
Not everything works for me though. For one, I couldn't get into the Peranakan Pulled Pork Burger ($20).
The Iberico pork is cooked pong teh style (braised in fermented soya bean sauce), which usually makes me happy.
But I prefer it with a more robust sauce, or a variety of textures (maybe some deep-fried shallots or peanuts), so it just doesn't click.
The presentation is great - it is one of the most photogenic dishes on the menu - but it is just not as exciting as it looks.
You may think that the Baba's Chendol ($10) is pretentious. The presentation of a bowl of shaved ice and chopsticks nearly made me roll my eyes, but dig a little deeper and the individual elements work.
The homemade pandan jello, red bean mousse and that intoxicating gula melaka make you forgive the gula melaka popcorn, which you eat with chopsticks.
It is hardly the best chendol out there, but it is a good attempt.
#01-01 Katong Square Tel: 6723-2025
Opens Sunday to Thursday 6.30am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday 6.30am to midnight