Nasi Padang by Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee
Rendezvous Restaurant, now located at the Central, has been around for more than 70 years and is synonymous in Singapore with Nasi Padang. When I reviewed Samy’s Curry at Dempsey, I mentioned how Samy’s was one of the restaurants I grew up with – Rendezvous was another. Lunch at my grandparents’ place was a weekly affair, and Rendezvous was often the preferred choice of da pao.
When I was younger I was always curious as to how the restaurant’s name came about and I recall that the only other time I had heard the word “rendezvous” being used was in The Empire Strikes Back during the scenes where:-
(a) the rebel base on Hoth was being evacuated and Princess Leia made the announcement to evacuate and meet at the rendezvous point; and
(b) Wedge Antilles tells Luke he will see him at the rendezvous point right before Luke gets into his X-Wing, leaving Hoth.
I finally found the answer to that question today, when I read the synopsis of the restaurant’s history on its website, prior to writing this review. It’s rather simple actually (and in that sense elegant), but the name arose because the restaurant (previously located at Bras Basah Road) was a frequent meeting point for British troops stationed in Singapore. It’s strange, I’ve been eating there for more than 20 years and only now understand this fun fact.
But I digress. This is after all a food review isn’t it? Well, I like writing food reviews like this because there isn’t much to say when the food is this good. I’ll admit, and I think many old-timers (hahahaha) would agree, that the standard of the restaurant’s nasi padang has somewhat dipped in the past couple of years, but the fact remains that it is still the best nasi padang around. Period. There is no close second in my opinion, at least in Singapore (and no, the one at Zion Road doesn’t hold a candle to Rendezvous, at least to me – that one’s closing at the end of this month by the way). So even if standards have deteriorated, it really doesn’t matter. If you want to eat the best nasi padang in Singapore, then the choice is clear: Rendezvous Restaurant at The Central.
Onto my recommendations of the die-die must try dishes.
The Beef Rendang
Oh where do I begin. Thick, savoury rendang hides chunks of slow-cooked beef which absolutely melt in the mouth. Black sauce and rice is a must.
The Chicken Curry
This is one of the dishes the standard of which, in my view, has somewhat dropped. The curry gravy is still distinctive as it s addictive, but the consistency of this dish is somewhat lacking. It used to be core favourite, but I now exclusively prefer the beef rendang. Still, this is defintiely a must try.
Hard-Boiled Egg with Sambal
The photo really doesn’t do this dish justice – amazing! The only problem is a tendency to overcook the egg (you know this happens when a grey film forms around the yolk) but who really cares when the real gem is the sambal?
Not really a “must have” – rather a “good to have”. The base is extremely sweet and lemak; very Indonesian in terms of its taste profile, but lacking that crucial x-factor….which I can’t quite put my finger on. It can’t fight with the genuine article in Indonesia but for the life of me I can’t identify why. More research (i.e. eating) needed!
All in all, Rendezvous is still one of my favourite places to eat and if there was one dish I would single out, it would be the beef rendang. Generations of Singaporeans have patronised this restaurant with good reason and if you haven’t tried it before, then I’m really jealous because it’s just like a great book which you’re yet to read. You’ll be hooked from the very first bite.
All images captured with the Ricoh GXR & GR A12 50mm f/2.5 Macro and the Leica M (typ 240) & 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH (FLE).