(THE NEW PAPER) - It is an extension of Hotel Indigo and sits on a heritage property - the former Joo Chiat Police Station - which adds to the experience.
The restaurant does not have an enviable task. Its main function seems to be championing heritage dishes and it has a competent menu to that end. But with heritage dishes, we all have a favourite and an opinion, so we are seldom happy.
Baba Chews does not stray too far from the norm but has certain touches to keep it interesting. It has to strike a balance between keeping it authentic and keeping it relevant.
Does the food fare better than the offerings around the district?
Not always. But it is good enough to ensure returns.
Crab in soup is hardly new, and in the Nonya dish bakwan kepiting, crab meat is part and parcel of the experience. And the Snow Crab Bakwan Kepiting ($15) works for me.
The Korean snow crab stock - not the usual type of crab used - is sweet and has impact, while the crab meat and pork meatballs are full of flavour.
It is comforting yet thrilling.
This is such a clever idea, I wonder why I had not thought of it before.
I love laksa sauce - the more lemak, the better - and who does not love fresh fish?
Baba Chews combined the two to create the Claypot Soon Hock Laksa ($52), and I may not have to order fish head curry again.
The broth is the winner here because it has the right amount of spiciness, balanced with creaminess.
The Korean wheat noodle is unnecessary, and while this may be a controversial choice, I would have preferred yellow noodle instead.
Also relatively new is its version of the Otah ($15). It comes as pieces of traditional otah (made of mackerel) and also in the form of a prawn and otah siew mai.
I find both versions to be tasty, though not unexpected. The Clams dish ($16) is simply white clams sauteed with Chinese wine, a dash of chilli padi and ginger, and it worked.
The heat could have been bolder, although I am happy with the current level because it makes the sauce drinkable.
The one dish I cannot get into is the traditional Chap Chye ($13). This has been done by so many restaurants and even more homes that no version is ever perfect.
I have tasted many that came close to my ideal but this does not. It is a tad bland.