The Arch is not a name you would usually associate with Peranakan or Straits-Chinese food, but that is what a three-month-old Peranakan restaurant in Seah Street is called.
What's more, there is not a single Peranakan element in the interior either.
Instead of having ornate carvings on the walls or intricate embroidery in antique showcases, you get a clean, modern dining room that looks more like a Western restaurant.
The only clue to its nature are the words 'Straits cuisine' under the restaurant's name at the entrance.
Owned by actor Sebastian Tan of Broadway Beng fame and his two older brothers, Max and Mikel, the name is taken off another restaurant in England which Max runs.
That restaurant, however, serves Cantonese food. It has been around for 20 years and was passed on to Max by his father-in-law.
But for the Singapore restaurant, the brothers - although Hokkien themselves - decided to focus on Peranakan food because their chef, Ben Teoh, is a Baba.
However, not everything on the menu is Peranakan, as Sebastian points out.
One of the specialities, for example, is an ox-tail casserole ($25), which is more of a Western dish.
But it is definitely the dish to order.
The chunks are braised till the meat is tender enough to come off the bone with little effort, and are drenched in a thick, tasty gravy fragrant with spices and the flavour of the meat.
Pieces of celery and cauliflower are also stirred into the gravy to provide variety in both taste and texture.
As for the Peranakan offerings, I am impressed by the ayam buah keluak ($12).
The chicken is tender and the jet-black gravy is rich with the oils from the pureed buah keluak, a black nut from Indonesia.
Unlike most versions of the dish, the mashed kernel here is not stuffed back into the hollowed shell of the nut but stirred into the gravy instead.
This makes the gravy tastier but those who find joy in digging the kernel from the shell will miss the fun.
Chef Teoh also does a mean sambal that has plenty of zing, whether it's the sambal belacan dip served with the ngor hiang or the one used to fry vegetables such as ladies' finger and eggplant.
Both vegetables ($8 each) taste great, cooked till soft, all the better to absorb the fiery flavours of the sambal.
The ngor hiang roll ($8), however, is too firm for my liking. The problem is that the filling comprises mostly minced lean pork. A bit more fat would have made it softer and more moist, while a more generous amount of chopped water chestnut would give it more crunch.
The assam fish head ($18), too, can do with a tweak in the recipe.
The gravy is a bit too thick and not as tangy as it should be. The result is that the dish is like a cross between a curry fish head and an assam fish head - neither here nor there, really.
Desserts are good, though.
The pulut hitam ($2), for example, has a pleasant fruity sweetness from the dried longans cooked with the black glutinous rice.
And the bubor chacha ($2) has a fuller flavour than Chinese versions because of the Peranakan practice of cooking the dessert with gula melaka instead of white sugar.
All in all, the whole dining experience leaves a sweet taste in the mouth.
Prices are decent, the setting is comfortable and the cooking generally above par, qualities that make this a restaurant for all occasions.
32 Seah Street,
Open: 11am to 3pm, 6 to 10pm daily
Food: *** 1/2
Price: Budget about $30 per person
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