The Straits Times | Food Picks: Cai Eats Private Dining, Grey Area Coffee Roasters and Kohi Coffee Bar

By Tan Hsueh Yun, The Straits Times on 3 June 2022

Cai Eats Private Dining
Family Meals

Cai Eats Private Dining Feast

If the name sounds same-same but different, that is because you might have had one of the Chua siblings' perfectly rolled ngoh hiang. Their business started off being home-based, then they opened a retail shop and production kitchen last year and, now, they have taken Cai Eats to the next level.

They call it private dining, but people eat in a space that is licensed for dining and serving alcohol in. There is one catch. They serve just one table of diners each time, for lunch or dinner, and will take parties of give to eight.

Doing most of the cooking is Mr Irwin Chua, 29. He and his sisters, Amanda and Charmaine, came up with three menus and prices range from $68 to $118 a person. Their recipes are handed down from grandparents on both sides and the dishes are what the Chuas tuck into at home.

The $68 a person menu packs in all the Cai Eats signatures but, even for customers familiar with the food, there are new dishes to discover. The House Salad is one. Think of it as fruit rojak meets Thai larb. Japanese cucumber, pineapple, sweet basil, roasted peanuts and walnuts, dried cranberries and shallots are tossed with a dressing made with Thai fish sauce and hot chilli flakes, lime juice and chilli padi. And no, it will not blow your head off.

Another is Thin Ngoh Hiang Crispies, a flattened version of the signature ngoh hiang. These emerge much more crisp from the fryer and are perfect with the Hainanese chilli dip. I also love the Sambal Petai, which, unlike other versions, has dried cuttlefish added to the usual dried shrimp and ikan bilis. It cries out for rice. But hold your horses, Cai Eats' fully loaded Glutinous Rice is part of the meal.

Cai Eats Laksa Terengganu Kuah Putih

And for the main course, there is a terrific Laksa Terengganu Kuah Putih or Beef Noodles (add $10 a person). Please opt for the laksa. Its snowy-white gravy looks deceptively plain, but it sings of aromatic herbs and stirring in sambal belacan and squeezed lime juice makes the dish very slurp-worthy. Hand-flaked mackerel and finely shredded cucumber round off this very satisfying main.

Dessert is Kueh Wajik — made with glutinous rice and served with lashings of gula melaka, grated coconut and a scoop of ice cream.

The seafood menu ($108 or $118 a person) includes freshly shucked oysters and an unusual Ketupat Sotong — squid stuffed with glutinous rice in an aromatic coconut milk gravy. There is also Mabuk Prawns, where the crustaceans cook in a broth heavy with booze and herbs.

Rounding off the menus is a shabu-shabu, one of $88 (US Prime sirloin) or $108 (A5 Japanese wagyu) a person. It comes with dipping sauces, vegetables, tofu, Japanese fish cakes, kurobuta pork belly slices, Inaniwa udon and mochi for dessert.

The siblings are now taking bookings for July. Get ready to pounce.

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The Straits Times.