We used to celebrate special occasions at Jurong Hilltop Restaurant when I was a kid. Prior to every trip there, I would put on my best clothes, tie my hair in pigtails and be on my best behaviour, much like what I would do for a school excursion, because it did feel like we were going on a holiday, next to Jurong Bird Park no less! I would always anticipate the seemingly long (but it is actually quite short, I perceived time rather badly as a kid) drive up the ‘mountain’, and if we were having dinner, I would always run to the viewing area to take in the beautiful night scenery of Jurong Island. Yes, this place was special to me, and still is, even though the scenery here pales in comparison to the one across Singapore’s city centre skyline now. I would also race my sister down the spiral slopes leading to the restaurant, and I secretly dreamt of rolling down the slopes if my mum would ever let me.
The most embarrassing yet exciting part of this excursion was hidden in the Indonesian section of this restaurant (the other part serves Japanese), where a certain naked lady sat on the wall, shrouded in mystery. As a kid, I tried not to look, but oh gosh, it’s hard not to look (I was curious, not pervy ok…). Twenty years down the road, everytime I’m back here for some Indonesian goodies, the woman’s still here, unchanging, still confident and completely unabashed by the number of stares she has garnered over more than two decades. I still don’t know who she is.
Nudity, unobstructed night views, spiral slopes aside, Jurong Hilltop Restaurant offers rather good food at affordable prices. We have dined at the Japanese section, and the kiddo in me loved it (not sure about my more refined palette now) but what I really adored was the Indonesian food.
I haven’t been here for perhaps 2-3 years, and the food is still good! We had tahu telur, which wasn’t what I would have preferred (I like the tall, basket-looking ones), but I haven’t had tahu telur in years, so I was happy with what we had. The satay here is rather different from that sold in hawker centres. The Indonesian version is drier, less fatty, more meaty, but oh-so-fragrant. We went for chicken and mutton satay, I loved the chicken ones which were skewered tender pieces of pure thigh meat. The mutton ones were a little too dry. Our family favourite is the assam fish curry here, pleasurably tangy, sour, such a perfect match with rice! We also had sambal kangkong, which was pretty good, and fried squid (the hard crunchy type cooked in dark sweet sauce, didn’t take a picture here). On my parents’ recommendation, I had chendol for dessert and it was sooooooo delicious! It’s actually more like a chendol drink, very refreshing, not too thick and cloying, I had to stop myself from having more because a cup of Koi milk tea was waiting at home for me.
I like Hilltop for simple reasons, the food here tastes very much home-cooked and is so affordable, the setting is also very unassuming (well actually this is because it remained very much unchanged since the 80s), almost like an air-conditioned zi char place. Most of all, this is a place that was special to me when I was a kid, so many happy times were spent here and I would come back again and again just to relive those days. And also to see the naked lady. Hehe.
Jurong Hilltop Restaurant is located at:
2 Jurong Hill (near Jurong Bird Park), Singapore.