Since late October, Pepes has been warming the spot previously occupied by Sanur Indonesian Restaurant. You might have heard that the man behind Pepes is Tom Hau, one of the brothers who co-owned Sanur. If this sounds suspiciously like the aftermath of a family feud, don’t bother coaxing the staff into airing the Hau’s dirty laundry, as our attempt only succeeded in drawing a blank look.
Feud or not, it is business as usual at the brightly lit Pepes. With the peek-a-boo glass walls, tables dressed with ikat (an Indonesian weaving) and rough-cut grey concrete walls, this is one trendy warung. The menu, while short – 24 items to be exact – is filled with familiar favourites: fork-tender beef rendang swamped in a dense coconut mush to melt-in-the-mouth eggplant sautéed with a wicked, sambal-laced chilli paste.
A must-have at Pepes is ayam pop, chicken simmered in a complex brew of ginger, garlic and chilli powder, then crowned with cut chillis and chopped onions. The chicken was juicy and imbued with the profound flavours of the spices. Kepala ikan, fish head bathed in a piquant yet sweet-and-tangy, assam-based broth, is another very enjoyable dish for those who prefer a coconut milk-free alternative to fish head curry.
But the twist is that Pepes strives for a healthy kitchen. The use of MSG is avoided whenever possible, an alternative is used in place of palm oil and the cooks also make an effort to drain off excess oil. Nice touches, but is taste sacrificed at the expense of health? Decadent tahur teloh arrived nicely fluffed up and drizzled with kecap manis (a syrupy soy sauce) but strangely, tasted flat. Lush kangkong tossed in piquant sambal arrived a tad watery, though the sambal-imparted pungency helped make up for this.
Pepes’ mall location means that business can be hectic. The waitstaff are generally effi cient but the restaurant manager can occasionally come across as brusque. On one visit, she took issue with our table for poring over the menu, curtly asking us to return it. That’ll be a refund on the 10 per cent service charge, please! Eve C
#04-16 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Rd
|Opening hours:||Daily noon-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm|
|Do you own this business?|