Mutiara on Ponsonby Rd is always popular with the locals for their $10 workday lunches, but not many know they have a great-value dinner menu and BYO too. It’s the sort of family-run place that’s pleasantly dated and one of the few spots on the strip where you feel comfortable rolling up for a midweek can’t-be-assed-cooking meal in whatever (even the foodcourt is a minefield these days).
Mutiara serves Nyonya style dishes, which are inspired by Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine. The menu offers oldies-but-goodies such as mee and nasi goreng/lemak/kandar as well as some more interesting options, and you can eat your fill for less than $20.
The restaurant is a bit cramped and very yellow, decorated with traditional Malay cloth, ornaments and artwork. The friendly staff are even dressed in kebaya and, in my admittedly limited experience, just smile and wink at you if they spy you refilling your wine glass with Beefeater under the table (note that this was on a Saturday evening, it’s got a much more G-rated vibe on school nights).
The combination platter ($11 for a generous mix of money bags, spring rolls, the usual suspects) is a great entree for sharing, and the Kum Heong Har (“double fried” tiger prawns) and Rendang Kampung (a dry, hot coconut cream-based curry with your choice of meat) are my picks from the mains. I have it on good authority that the sizzling platters are amazing as well.