I always felt proud to be able to pronounce the word “Rendezvous” as a small child, and I would correct my family members that they called our favourite Nasi Padang restaurant wrongly.
I started eating at Rendezvous Restaurant because of my dad. He loves the Padang food and would eat it at least once month back when they were in Bras Basah. Then the placed was closed for redevelopment into a hotel and they opened up in Raffles City. And when Rendezvous Hotel opened, they opened up at the original location once more. Then the economic crisis hit, and both locations were shut, and they moved to the current The Central location.
The Nasi Padang is served by ordering at the buffet windows. And the entire selection from the menu is displayed chap chai peng (economic rice).
But beware, Rendezvous has never been economical, it wasn’t back in the 70s, it isn’t now in the 21st century.
And there are different types of curries to choose from – from the spicy to mild to sweet, there’s always one special type of curry for every palate.
This is the dish that started my Nasi Padang infatuation over the years. The fishball curry is not spicy, and to the 3 year old me, it was the perfect curry. Of course, mother’s curry was the best, this has to be the second best. I ate this with so much anticipation. The curry was still familiar taste, but the fishball was not as bouncy and chewy as before. I guessed something has to give along the years.
The family used to order lamb rendang, but I changed the order to beef rendang because my sister stopped eating lamb, supposedly of its “heatiness”. The rendang rempeh is delicious as always, but the beef was not folk tender. In fact, it was quite dry and hard.
Loved the crunchiness of the chicken gizzards but it was the chicken livers that lifted this dish to another level. The soft and creamy liver was cooked just right and the curry added that deliciousness to the raw tastes of the organs.
I was disappointed that it was soggy and not crispy. Princess is an expert of begadel – she always orders it everywhere it is on offer – and she didn’t like the combination of the herbs and spices.
Korma is different from the other curries as it uses coconut cream and is much richer. Their kormas are totally not Indian kormas, so instead of calling it racial appropriation, this is an excellent example of how we can incorporate different styles of cooking in Singapore and made them our own.
The chicken rendang was better than the chicken korma in my opinion, because the chicken turned out better. But I still prefer the korma rempeh.
The colour combination of the sayur lodeh (vegetable curry) was kind of strange, and then I realised they did not put in carrots. But they have introduced another vegetable that is seldom seen in sayur lodeh – okras or ladyfingers.
The cucumber salad is another dish that my family will always order. One can make this at home. Slice cucumbers, red onions and chilli and dressed it with rice vinegar, sugar and salt. That’s it. But their formula leaves the cucumber crunchy and not overly sour.
The best way to enjoy these delicious dishes is to put a bit of everything onto steamed white rice. And spice it up with their homemade sambal.
Do note, this is just sambal, not sambal belachan. They don’t put belachan in their chilli and if you ask for sambal belachan, they will tell you with a straight face, “Don’t have.”
And to round up the meal, their famous chendol. Topped with shaved ice, the gula melaka was smokey and full of the coconut sweetness. Only if the chendol jelly has a stronger pandan flavour. Mixed it all up for a really satisfying dessert. Be warned, the sugar level in this one cup will kill a diabetic.
Accidental Nasi Padang Stalwart
You must be wondering why a restaurant with such a Western sounding name is serving traditional Nasi Padang? When Rendezvous first started as a coffee shop more than 70 years ago, it served mainly Western dishes and was popular among the British and ANZ troops stationed on the island. Hence, the name “Rendezvous” as it was a “rendezvous point” for those boys on R&R.
Fast forward to the 50s, when the troops move out after the independence of Malaya and subsequently Singapore, the owner Mr Seah Soo Khoon realised that they have to change to entice the locals to dine here in order to keep going. Hence, the introduction of Nasi Padang.
Over the years, some things never change for Rendezvous – the prices on those classic gold letter board, the arch doors and the marble tables. There’s that nostalgic photo that showed their original location at the junction of Bras Basah and Selegie Road that had the same arches.
Not sure about their claim to be authentic, but I grew up with this taste of Nasi Padang. When I finally tried the real thing in Padang, I was surprised how much I have been “trained” by Rendezvous to reject some of the flavours from the place of origin. I brought Princess there for the first time this month, and it’s also almost 20 years since my family ate there. There were many comments – some bad, mostly good – but the memories of the place were worth the trip (and the price) alone.
Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee 福樂居大酒店
#02-72/75/77/92 The Clarke Quay Central
6 Eu Tong Sen St, Singapore 059817
Tel : 6339 7508
Date Visited : Sep 2020