Spices Cafe, Singapore

since i only had 4 full weekdays in sunny singapore after my last internship ended and before i was off to new york, food consumed for each meal was a very deliberate and purposeful choice. the mother insisted on taking me to this lunch buffet before being packed off to the uk (where good nonya food is far from aplenty) and though initially hesitant about departing from my firm favourites (ie bak chor mee/roti prata/chirashi round 2/3/4), i’m really glad spices cafe made the final cut because i left extremely satisfied and all ready to return to the land of roast chicken and grilled salmon.

located in the oft-overlooked concorde hotel that is at the less happening part of orchard road just before the istana, spices cafe serves up a yummy peranakan buffet lunch in a nice setting that far exceeded my expectations. they offer almost any nonya dish you can imagine, and i would say that almost everything i tried was above average which is no mean feat given the huge array of food available.
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managed to snap some pics of the glorious food sitting all nice and pretty before the hungry patrons attacked:
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rojak & gado-gado station
okay faithful followers of this blog (thank you guys!!!) will know that i am a fan of rojak (my all-time favourite being silver stream rojak) but few people know that i am also a fan of gado-gado so a rojak AND gado-gado station was like… a dream come true hahaha. started off with this but went back many many many more times. the rojak is completely DIY – you make the sauce yourself based on the recipe displayed there which makes for quite a fun experience, and its always nice to personalise your rojak with just the ingredients you want. for me, its always lots of peanuts and pineapple 😀 the recipe was not bad i have to say; the final product tasted pretty good every time i mixed a plate!

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kway chap & laksa

20140917_120553popiah / kueh pie tee / satay
the popiah & kueh pie tee are made on-the-spot by the chef manning the station, and they have both chicken and pork satay that come accompanied by ketupat, cucumber, the all-important peanut sauce, and some pineapple sauce too! yum…

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cooked main dishes
they had a huge array of cooked dishes including the quintessential nonya dishes like chap chye, buah keluak (was really disappointed by this though!!! rather sad because i adore buah keluak so much that my maid sometimes cooks and freezes it for me to take back to ldn with me 😛 ), prawns with petai etc. they even have a daily crab dish – it was black pepper on the day we went, and i was pleasantly surprised by how the black pepper seasoning was spot-on and the crab meat was firm, naturally sweet and juicy. bibs are provided so that serious crab eaters can leave without evidence of their crustacean feast; a nice touch!

20140917_120513dessert spread
i would have dubbed this the best part of the buffet, except everything else was really rather yummy too so the amazing dessert spread will just have to be deemed another great part of the buffet 🙂

on to some close-ups of the food i had the great pleasure of savouring:
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one of the many rounds i went for – here i sampled the (going in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom) petai with prawn, chap chye, pork, squid, egg fu yong and oyster omelette. all of them were good, but the stand-out for me was definitely the squid. it was wonderfully tasty and the squid was cooked to perfection (neither rubbery nor mushy), something not easy to achieve when mass-cooking for hungry buffet-goers. i also liked the chap chye, a classic nonya dish done well.

also had several rolls of freshly-made popiah throughout the meal:20140917_122220
i’ve definitely had better popiah elsewhere, but this was not a bad rendition at all. the popiah skin was thin, filling was tasty, and chilli added just the right kick to it. i would have liked the addition of more crispy garlic bits to add some texture though. i loved how the rolls were smaller than the regular popiah rolls you get at other places – big enough to satisfy popiah cravings but small enough so that there’s still space in one’s stomach for other food. also note the kueh pie tee in the background – yummy! but i feel they would have been made even more optimal with the addition of some prawns or peanuts on top.

besides the “soupy” laksa and kway chap dishes they had, there was also a big pot of pig organ soup. i’m not a fan but my mother had a bowl and seemed to quite enjoy it:20140917_123441
speaking of the laksa and kway chap, i don’t have a picture of the laksa but i very fondly recall it to be a very good bowl of laksa – deliciously lemak but not too rich, creamy or heavy. i daresay it was better than bowls of laksa i’ve had from katong laksa and the like. didn’t try the kway chap, but it looked pretty good with a whole range of condiments (tau pok, egg, tau kwa, innards etc) to pick to go with the kway chap.

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another of the many rounds of food – you can see i took more squid. in fact, i took it every single time i paid a visit to the buffet spread 😛 yes, i liked it that much! on this plate there’s better scale to see the aforementioned fun-sized popiah, each roll was cut into just also had some glutinous rice and fried carrot cake this round, along with satay. the fried carrot cake was very average, i remember thinking it could be tastier (but then again, its hard to please with anything other than ghim moh carrot cake heh). as for the satay, i was impressed! both the chicken and pork satays were tasty, tender and moist. super yummy when generously drizzled with both peanut and pineapple sauce. YUM.

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another staple of the day – gado-gado!!! had several servings of this and took plenty of tempeh every single time. i love tempeh!!! (do you sense my excitement) the peanut sauce to go with the gado-gado was great, and i loved how the tau kwa and carrots were cut into big chunks and not measly pieces. could really do with some of that delicious tempeh now…

and finally, on to the glorious dessert:
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the dessert spread did not disappoint. besides the huge assortment of kuehs, there was an array of fresh fruit, a chendol machine, bubur cha cha, putu mayam, and potong ice cream in assorted flavours. this is one buffet you definitely want (and need) to save space for dessert at…
absolutely loved how there were 2 huge bowls of thick, creamy and super yummy durian and banana sauce at the side of the kuehs, to be generously slathered on all kuehs as desired. the durian penyet also deserves a special shout-out: creamy, smooth and thick – a durian lover’s dream come true! the bubur cha cha was good but i would have liked it with some jackfruit (in fact i think i stole some from the fresh fruits section and added it 😛 ), and all the kuehs were good. the more common ones (kueh lapis, 9 layer kueh etc) were done well, while there were some more novel ones added to the mix as well. i didn’t have much of the putu mayam, but my aunty is a fan and she had 2 servings of it (even after all that food) so it must have been good!!!

at a really affordable price of $32++ ($23++ for above 55s), there is really nothing much to complain about at this buffet. not only is the food delicious, the service is also great – the restaurant is staffed with several lovely ladies in traditional peranakan kebayas who make you feel as if you’ve stepped into their homes for some comfort food. also love that this is in a quieter part of orchard road, tucked away along a stretch few walk along because most would hop on the train from somerset to dhoby ghaut; its like one of orchard road’s hidden gems (but now you know about it 😉 ) definitely no regrets spending one of my treasured last meals in sg of the summer on this place, and i won’t be surprised if it actually gets added to my list of must-gos when home for the holidays. its truly the perfect one-stop spot to satisfy peranakan food cravings; i can’t wait to head back for more… till christmas!

Spices Cafe
Concorde Hotel
Singapore 238840

PS. ever thankful for the best family that is always always always willing to go all-out to satisfy my random food cravings with me, even if it means having double the number of meals we normally have 🙂 ❤

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