For the uninitiated, The Wandering Palate website is for all intensive purposes, a blog of my disordered thoughts and utterances; incoherencies, mental wanderings, intoxications, delusions, hallucinations – essentially the wanderings of delirium.
Having resided in Singapore for six years now, I am constantly asked to recommend restaurants here; nothing abnormal about that when you’re a wine and food writer.
However, I have until recently, purposely eschewed commenting on the local scene, more intent on ‘wandering’ the planet, discovering and absorbing civilizations, cultures, gastronomy and compotation, interpreting all this through my prose on the Wandering Palate website.
I also wish to avoid being typecast as Singapore-centric, as invariably people presume your field of vision – and knowledge – is constrained to where you live; very frustrating and contrary to the ‘Wandering Palate’ psyche.
Equally, I am mindful that I am a New Zealander (Ang Mo) married to a Chinese Malaysian and whilst fairly well assimilated in Asia, out of respect for the highly attuned indigenous palate here, the emphasis is on my personal choice, rather than a critique.
All that said it’s about time that I wrote about the food and restaurant scene here. If I may indulge in some philosophical viewpoints first, otherwise you can scroll straight to my favourites should you be more intent on recommendations.
Singaporeans eat a lot, and frequently!
Indeed food is the national sport in Singapore with most locals eating daily at Hawker Stalls – small, usually family-run stalls – cooking their regional specialties with dishes costing around S$2.5 to S$7.
Hawker stalls not only offer exceptionally affordable eating but an excellent variety of cuisines from different cultures: Chinese, Indonesian, Peranakan, Indian, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese and more with many stalls only serving one or two dishes that they have perfected of many years or family recipes handed down by generations.
In much the same vein as Malaysia, these stalls have evolved from their humble and sometimes gritty roadside streetscape and are now grouped together in Hawker Centres and Food Courts. Many would say the authenticity and wholesome quality has been sacrificed in this evolution however, the realities of rapid urbanization in Asia and essential health and hygiene standards have forced change.
These Hawker Centres also encompass the core fabric of Singapore society, dining communally and convivially and the topic of much discussion at present with a growing awareness that preserving this unique dining culture is vital to the social ethos of the nation.
Singaporeans certainly take Hawker Stall cuisine very seriously and critically, seeking out the very best stalls or individual dishes. Intense debates on which stalls are better than others and dissecting the ingredients dominates daily conversation and one sure sign of a good quality Hawker Stall, even if blatantly predictably, is a long queue.
I am an ardent patron of Hawker Centres and Food Courts myself and you will find me most mornings at a wet market, normally Ghim Moh or Tiong Bahru, immersed in Bak Kut Teh or Egg Prata.
However, from a personal perspective, there are some aspects of Hawker Stalls and Centres that I find both frustrating and crucial to the very survival of this inimitable culture.
The first is the complete absence of expatriates. Apart from curious tourists, I am invariably the solitary Caucasian and I find the absence of expatriates worryingly xenophobic, if not thoroughly disheartening that people come to this country and do not attempt to assimilate, incarcerating themselves in condominium sectarianism and slaves to the supermarkets.
Whenever I confront expatriates on this phenomenon, invariably they cite issues of comfort and hygiene. And yet, the level of hygiene in general in Singapore and conversely Hawker Stalls, is probably higher than where they have come from.
Actually, there are hygiene ratings (A, B & C) that have to be displayed by law, with the majority being rated A and a ‘C’ rating does not mean the food hygiene is not up to scratch but more of an indication of inferior or old kitchen fit-outs invariably in Hawker Centres or old building that are in desperate need of renovating.
I would suggest to our conservative expats, as in initial introduction to local Asian food, explore the basement food courts at Takashimaya or Food Opera at ION, which you will find a more welcoming air-conditioned environment and standard of fit-out and cleanliness moreover, some of the best Hawker Stalls operators in Singapore have been lured here.
Secondly: I would like to encourage Hawker Stalls owners to focus more on higher-quality ingredients, which will mean the excessively puritanical Singaporeans, need to be willing to pay more. I don’t think I have come across a meaner, more demanding diner than Singaporeans when it comes to Hawker food and a reluctance to pay a fair price for better quality food.
Hawker Stall operators are increasingly forced to use substandard ingredients to make a reasonable profit, at the expense of nutrition and authenticity of the dish. This diner frugality is also fuelling a worrying trend of large, commercial groups taking over Hawker Stalls, who will ultimately be the only ones able to attain an economy of scales and operate profitably; and the march towards mediocrity goes on.
I believe it will require the Government to step up their efforts with significant subsidies to increase the maintenance and appeal of Hawker Centres and also extend or modify the current rent subsidy scheme to encourage more people (individual operators) to become artisan cooks and Hawker Stall owners.
I fear that genuine Hawker Stall operators could be added to Singapore’s extinct list eroding the very nucleus of the nation’s worldwide reputation as a food Mecca and diversity that embraces and symbolizes the countries unique multiculturalism.
Thirdly: Hawker Centres, Food Courts and even our ultra-efficient Changi Airport are becoming an environmental disaster zone. Many Hawker Stalls have deteriorated to using Styrofoam plates, plastic bags and cups, plastic utensils – basically everything becoming throw-away to the point Singaporeans have become completely oblivious to the contamination and contribution of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the environment.
To put this into perspective, Singaporeans generated 6,500,000 tonnes of waste in 2010, that’s a whopping 1280kg per person, and now more than the reportedly largest waste generating country, United States at 760kg per person.
Of this, 58% was recycled (positive, in a way) and 42% disposed and mostly incinerated (negative). After paper and cardboard and plastics, food waste is the next highest disposed waste accounting for 19% (negative), all of which could have been used for bio-methane gas production and converted into energy/electricity. (Source: NEA and www.zerowastesg.com)
The prodigality of plastic and recklessness of food waste is worrying; moreover what image do we project to visitors when we serve food on Styrofoam plates at Changi Airport.
Can we expect the public to change? Probably not; indifference and laziness prevail.
The fact is many individuals think any personal effort on the environment front is futile. Just look at a simple thing like asking to stop using plastic bags; you would think you are asking someone to chop off their right arm at the suggestion to buy/use reusable bags. Meanwhile there is a floating plastic island in the South Pacific twice the size of Texas.
It will take the Government to legislate and force change, both in attitude and instigating environmental programs and technology, which I am sure, will be achieved as Singapore is a dynamic country where things do get done.
Moving on, the next level of dining and perhaps somewhat blurred between Hawker Stalls and fully-fledged restaurants is the myriad of small eateries, occupying practically every street, alleyway, shop houses, building basements, malls, hotels, surrounding wet markets and anywhere else you care to imagine, encompassing a kaleidoscope of cuisines unparalleled on this planet.
This is the heart and soul of Singapore’s multiculturalism, a melting pot of ethnicity and cuisines that spoils us beyond measure and is the fundamental conduit of social harmony.
One does however sense a creeping passiveness or perhaps a degree of taking all this for granted, maybe because there are feasibly too many restaurants. And the Government also thinks there are too many restaurants with an agenda to reduce the amount of food operating licences and capping foreign labour in the hospitality industry.
Meanwhile, Singaporeans continue to eat at any given time of the day and night and you simply cannot walk for more than a few minutes without encountering food of some form, which I think is brilliant!
It is nation that truly lives on its stomach and I can only assume that most of the inhabitants have a very high metabolic rate as they eat constantly and the eateries always appear full, least the good ones.
Seeking out the best of these eateries and discovering new ones would be, for the individual, a lifetime project. Putting this into perspective the Singapore Government Statistics website based their 2010 figures for the Food and Beverage Industry on 6500 establishments with receipts totalling 6 & 1/4 billion dollars and up 10% on 2009. That’s a lot of eateries to get around and as a collective, a serious contributor to the Singapore economy.
Whilst there will always exist the conundrum of finding out where the best places are to eat, the most effective critique is by far the food ‘grapevine’; word of mouth is a powerful thing on a 20 by 40km island with 5 & ½ million food-obsessed people who constantly debate where best to eat.
I have been working my way around the reportedly better establishments now for 6 years and have hardly scratched the surface however have formed my own views and favourites.
One does need to grasp that dining at this level is not about service or surrounds, it is primarily about good, authentic food. Proprietors and staff are for the most part are friendly and genuine but don’t be too demanding, as these establishments run below the threshold of what Westerners would deem casual dining; whereas the indigenous population would see this as constitutional.
Most establishments at this level are tolerant of BYO wine, even if you have to bring your own more appropriate glassware at times. Occasionally I encounter a profiteer trying to embezzle $30 or $40 a bottle corkage, to which I offer them the opportunity cost of having my patronage, or not.
In terms of sound professional critique at the Hawker Stall and constitutional eatery level, my preferred reference over any other publication is Dr Leslie Tay’s blog http://ieatishootipost.sg/ and you can download his I-Pad App for 99 cents which has over 460 of the best Hawker Stalls in Singapore geo-tagged. You should also procure a copy of Dr Tay’s book, “The End of Char Kway Teow and other Hawker Mysteries”, mandatory reading.
I do feel more qualified commenting on the evolving cafe culture in Singapore, having witnessed this evolution in New Zealand and Australia with cities like Melbourne and Wellington now unquestionably on par with the likes of Paris, Vienna, San Francisco, New York etc.
Singapore is trying – desperately – to establish a cafe culture however there are some fundamentals missing from the equation; vital elements such as artisan bakers – great sourdough bread is crucial to this culinary slash social morning cabal. Truly excellent coffee is also devoid. Something is missing here; possibly it’s the milk or perhaps a lack of barista training. Also, and strategically, cafes need to be open early, not the 9, 10 or 11am that is completely bemusing.
Staff charisma is also a key factor, or more to the point a lack of charisma. Cafe culture encompasses a certain amount of recalcitrant attitude and intellect, a sort of grunge element and savvy lip, all of which is normally on tap in the form of University students desperate to earn money and this is about the best way for them to do so in terms of flexibility and being in the right clique.
However, University students in Singapore are obviously not short of money and employment at any level deemed socially crass, or certainly parents would pull their hair out at the thought of their offspring working beneath their stature. Ironically, this sort of people exposure and subsequent communication skills are invaluable in the passage of life.
Alas, cafes, bistros and restaurants here at almost every level are staffed by imported labour, primarily from the Philipines and Mainland China, who come from a completely different socio-economic background.
I know I am digressing from cafe culture to service standards in general but it needs to be said that for the most part, service in Singapore is relatively friendly, invariably honest even if at times unpolished. Relative to contemptuous waiters in Europe or America, most front of house staff here are far more amiable if not innocent by nature.
I actually believe it is the Singapore diner that is lacking in (behavioural and communication) skills more than the staff sometimes and that is both expats and locals, who become exceedingly demanding as soon as they are in a food service environment losing all decorum and behaving like they do behind the steering wheel of car.
I cringe when I hear of people deriding a waiter because they don’t speak English well enough; perhaps they might consider learning some Mandarin instead of belittling Mainland Chinese workers, it is after all the most spoken language here.
A little tolerance and diplomacy can go a long way with restaurant staff, for example; one of my favourite restaurants here is Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck, on the 5th floor of Paragon Mall. Practically none of the staff articulate in English, in fact most of them speak Cantonese – such is the venerable team here.
The service here is impeccable and genuinely friendly and I am treated like a VIP, partly because I am usually one of few Ang Mo’s in the place but also because I treat all the staff with respect and equanimity. There might also be some influence from them knowing my nickname amongst my wife’s clan, “Lap Sap Tong”, Cantonese for garbage bin – a term of endearment of course.
Moving up to fine dining restaurants, one can appreciate the anguish that restaurateurs face with front of house staff skills and mannerism, as the demands of the diner significantly increase and there is a certain skill set and personality necessary if not fundamental to the whole dining experience.
This is an issue that is not easily solved as career waiters are few and far between in Singapore and there is insufficient training resource in this field moreover, realistically attaining such skills takes many years of hands-on experience.
The problem is compounded by the Governments stance at present to which they are not issuing work visas for hospitality workers with the view that the industry should become more home grown and these positions filled by Singaporeans. Which is good in theory but in practicality we need well-seasoned professional waiters from abroad to train this part of the workforce, and it will take time to achieve this, time the restaurants don’t have.
Still, the fine dining scene in Singapore is most certainly dynamic with a strong contingent of French cuisine, a feast of contemporary and traditional Asian restaurants, a recent flood of Italian restaurants and the seed’s of contemporary east meets west Australian freestyle cuisine.
There is certainly no shortage of talent with very innovative chefs from all over the world and local masters including the unparalleled and unique to Singapore cuisine of Ignatius Chan at Iggy’s.
Japanese food is exceptionally good in Singapore, at all levels; from casual Yakitori, Ramen and Sushi Bars to the uber-cool Omakase at Tatsuya. There is a very large Japanese community here and in theory the driver of quality and consistency.
There are a number of high-end contemporary French restaurants, such as Saint Julien, Saint Pierre and Absinthe, all as good as you will encounter in France. The French Bistro scene is also beginning to show some flare and I really like what they are doing at Cocotte at the groovy Wanderlust Hotel and equally, Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chop House, which is a contemporary take on perennial classics in an All American flavour, and is my “Best New Restaurant of the Year”.
As you would expect, Singapore is well served with Chinese regional cuisines, to which I am always totally impressed by the large group operators such as Crystal Jade Group, Imperial Treasure Restaurant Group and Paradise Group, all of whom have impeccable standards of produce and cooking covering a myriad of regional cuisines with commendable authenticity. I am a regular at many of these restaurants and eateries and always impressed by the friendly and efficient service and how well one can eat so affordably and quickly, as we often do before going to the movies or having a casual bite out.
There are also countless smaller groups and individual restaurants specializing in Chinese cuisines, some archetypical Cantonese and the ubiquitous Seafood restaurants serving up the national favourite, chilli and black pepper crab; others such as Xi-Yan and The Majestic Hotel resplendent in their contemporary flare and redefining Chinese cuisine.
Hotels here compete fiercely with Asian cuisine, some with flagship regionally specific fine dining; others with entire food courts such as the Hyatt’s Mezzanine with its outrageously comprehensive Pan-Asian open-plan eatery.
Indian cuisine is plentiful here, both at the street level with legendary curry houses and a maze of eateries surrounding Little India and the Tekka Market, through to fine dining and evocatively decorated establishments such as Rang Mahal. My favourite is Chat Masala Too!
Ethnic and multicultural cuisines abound and our palates are constantly stimulated by the diversity of ingredients, spices and flavours; whether it be Peranakan, Indonesian, Malay or Pan-Asian such as Coriander Leaf, Singapore’s ‘Best Restaurant’.
The nightlife scene has also undergone a seachange here and there are a multitude of new nightclubs and bars with the live music and entertainment environment fast-evolving to keep pace with the metropolis. Now in my half century, I prefer the quieter surrounds of a wine bar and we have a handful of good venues now, although this is a sphere that needs to grow a lot more.
One of my favourite adult playgrounds is The Screening Room, where you can have alfresco drinks at the rooftop bar enjoying a fabulous sunset view then take in a movie and diner afterwards in their restaurant, Mamounia, serving up the best Middle Eastern food in town.
I also like Taberna; a tiny suburban wine bar tucked away in Binjai Park and run my wine maniac Tan Ying Hsien. Evening cocktails at The Tippling Club is pretty civilized too with guru mixologist, Mathew Bax, whizzing up extraordinary concoctions.
There is no question Singapore has a dynamic dining scene, although there some shortcomings that need to be addressed and peculiarities to adjust to.
Dining in malls is the norm here, yet challenging to some and you can understand this is a somewhat alien restaurant environment to those who come from say New York, San Francisco Paris, London, Melbourne or Sydney – actually most of the cities outside of Asia – where there is absolutely no coloration between malls and fine dining. These people are much more used to standalone venues that contribute considerably to the ambience and stature of the dining experience.
Despite the island nearly sinking with the amount of restaurants, there are many niche markets that remain underserviced and some large gaps that are painfully obvious. I would suggest that the middle-market is very much underdone, both from an expat and local point of view, who are becoming upwardly mobile and want more of what they see – overseas.
Like many countries and metropolis, and I guess in these testing global times, fine dining is on the wane but people still want to dine out and socialize, to dissimulate all the problems – of the world. Casual and contemporary, affordable dining is the order of the day, but ambience and clique is still very important.
Here I sense Singapore has yet to catch up, or is it in denial – there seems to be no sign of any financial crisis here. I believe we could do with an influx of Australian chefs, bringing with them their modern Asian-Australasian cuisine that has evolved there, if not revitalized their entire dining scene.
We are so underdone in Singapore in terms of modern Thai and Vietnamese food, even though they are geographically close, there is little presence. I can’t help feeling the cutting-edge Thai and Pan-Asian restaurants such as Chin Chin, Ezard’s, Ginger Boy, Cookie, Golden Fields, Chinta Ria, Sailor Thai, Longrain, Billy Kwong, Jimmy Liks and I could go on… would be ideal in this climate and that’s both weather and economics.
Justin Quek cannot take this entire burden on alone; we need to lure more Australian restaurateurs here to add some mojo and ‘fun’ to the dining scene here moreover some affordability in the mid-range market.
At the fine dining end, although this probably applies to mid-market as well, we have an ongoing issue with produce or the constraints of what produce is available.
There are two schools of thought here and canvassing many chefs in Singapore, most say we have an abundance of good local produce, even if none of it is grown/produced in Singapore; within a 100km radius we have plentiful bounty from land and sea.
However, when it comes to meat, poultry and game, there is are considerable limitations and regulations set by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) that restrict the imports of such to the point of handicapping the chefs and restaurateurs.
One could go into considerable depth on this however it is a polemic that is unpalatable (boring) to the average consumer but to put things in perspective; Singapore cannot and will never compete with Hong Kong in the high-end restaurant stakes unless it becomes more flexible in this area.
Having lived in Hong Kong for six years, I can say with some authority, that the depth of fresh (chilled, not frozen) organic produce available there is extraordinary; from French wild rabbit or hare to free-range Bresse chicken, venison from New Zealand to quail, chicken and pheasant from Australia, grass-feed free-range beef from Argentina and New Zealand and to Berkshire pork from England: all this might seems fanciful to some but to chefs, vital to their menu repertoire.
There is also a global movement towards small farm, organic animal husbandry and detailing the provenance to the consumer; nowadays it is not enough just to say its Australian beef or English pork, the consumer wants to know where exactly it is from and the breed, as does the chef who will be seeking the very best of the season and detailing all this on their menu.
We cannot even get a freshly chilled free-range chicken here in Singapore, which is considered a bio-hazard; mindboggling when you consider Singapore is the chicken capital of the world! Read more on this subject at http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/produce/a-happy-chook-is-a-tasty-chook/
Something needs to give here and the AVA could begin by having some trust in the Health regulations of other countries rather than blocking perfectly good produce with bureaucracy and ultra-conservative regulations.
Another gripe and something I believe is directly affecting Singapore’s image and competitiveness for the tourist dollar are the excessive wine mark-ups on restaurant wine lists. Indeed many have adopted London prices but without the depth or level of service you might forgive paying in top restaurant in London.
If I could again use Hong Kong in this analogy, which has similar issues of very high rents and operating costs, the tax on wine there was reduced to zero and in the passage of time has created a global wine hub and some of the best wine prices in the world moreover, consumption of wine in restaurants has doubled.
Singapore has volumetric wine duty that equates to around S$7.50 per bottle plus GST, but that is for every wine, irrespective of value, so wines at the very top end are consequently well-priced however, at the affordable end the value of tax can be more than the cost price of the wine. This high cost-into-store is compounded through restaurant margins and results in unattractive prices, to the point people simply don’t consume.
If Singapore is to compete with its arch rival Hong Kong, this will need to be addressed.
On a more positive note, there is one facet that few countries can compete with Singapore and that is its natural conduit for tourism, at the crossroads of Asian civilisations and cultures and the polestar of the region. There is no denying this is an enterprising food hub and magnet to international guest chefs visiting from all over the world.
And the Singapore Government is determined to spread this image around the world with a dedicated initiative called YourSingapore www.yoursingapore.com in conjunction with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) www.stb.gov.sg with a concerted campaign to spread the gastronomic word.
At any given time of the year, Singapore hosts countless chefs and a myriad of food themes and events that is unparalleled attracting people from all over the region and world, moreover keeping us who live here gastronomically stimulated.
This review is in no way meant to be comprehensive nor do I wish to compete with restaurant guides or such publications; no nauseating scores or ratings here.
Where I use the term ‘favourite’ it is a subjective personal choice and out of respect for the indigenous palate, I prefer to avoid judgment.
Where I use “Recommended”, I will have dined here several times and enjoy it sufficiently to vouch for it.
When I state “Best” it is an objective assessment that I feel qualified to bestow, nothwithstanding there will always be a degree of subjectivity in food and wine writing.
I am constantly researching and expanding my dining recommendations and would very much like to hear from you, whether it be your own recommendations or pointers, at the same time any gripes or assessments you don’t agree with.
Make sure you keep revisiting this review as it will be update regularly along with more extensive write-ups on each establishment
And remember, “Life is filling in time between meals… and a meal without wine could only be breakfast.”
Singapore Icon, Asia’s Best Gourmand Dining Experience
You don’t need me to tell you Iggy’s is a great restaurant. Already much adored by food lovers all over the world, voted best restaurant in Asia by several publications and ranked 28 in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, 2011. Their reputation is hard earned over many years, seven to be exact, with a cosmopolitan clientele that have come to expect the highest standards of personalised service and a dining experience that pushes the boundaries of gastronomic exploration and culinary sensory excitement. Read more… http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/restaurants/asias-best-gourmand-dining-experience-iggys-singapore/
Best Restaurant in Singapore
Coriander Leaf www.corianderleaf.com
People are forever asking me, which is the best restaurant in Singapore. I prefer to answer it by saying I have many favourite restaurants and it really depends on my mood and what we feel like eating. I think it is also pertinent to categorise whether one is entertaining overseas visitors or clients, or maybe just going out with friends or on your own. For me, showcasing Singapore to overseas visitors takes on a more local flavour, as in Asian, as I don’t see the value in taking someone from say Italy to and an Italian restaurant here – capice. Moreover, we have a large and diverse repertoire of excellent local hawker stalls, eateries and restaurants that not only do the nation proud but will stimulate the palates and senses of the most demanding gourmand. Right at the very top of my list for entertaining overseas guest and symbolising the very essence of Singapore – multi-cultural, multi-cuisine and a fast evolving modern Asian metropolis – is Coriander Leaf, the consummate Pan-Asian restaurant in the whole region. Read more…
Best New Restaurant in Singapore
Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chop House www.lukes.com.sg
Not so new kid on the block, Chef Travis Masiero is well-known in Singapore for his talents at Wine Garage and was working his magic at Spruce but moved on from there not so amicably. So we are happy to see him setting up new digs and he has hit the right spot with Luke’s serving up piping fresh oysters, some perennial classics like prawn cocktail and simply cooked high quality cuts of meat. Its comfort food and congenial ambience that remind me of France-Soir bistro in Melbourne ; a place we you become a regular, sitting at the bar for plate of oysters and a yarn with the chef or equally enjoying compotation with friends.
Best Duck Restaurant in Singapore
Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck www.imperialtreasure.com
Surely the best duck in all Singapore! This is Peking duck at its best and you have to have the carcase friend in pepper and salt, garlic and chilli to follow, divine! But it’s not just about duck here with an encyclopaedic Cantonese menu and a great front of house team. I’m a regular here, almost weekly – I just have to have my duck fix. The wine list is user-friendly here and there’s good glassware and a certain tolerance for BYO.
Best Duck (Stall and Takeaway) in Singapore
Gourmet Corner Ph 65333033 15 Phillip Street, CBD
Unquestionably the best duck in Singapore for curry; yes there’s a distinct difference in Peking or standard Roast duck to go with rice. These ducks are from Ipoh and have huge, thick breast meat, perfect the Wandering Palate duck curry recipe http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/produce/thai-duck-curry-receipe/ It is best to call a day in advance and have them set aside a duck for you.
Best Contemporary Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Majestic Hotel www.newmajestichotel.com
Chef Yong is one of favourite cooks in Singapore, not only a very likable sort but at the cutting-edge of contemporary Chinese cuisine. The Majestic is groovy and quirky and the restaurant a great place to take overseas guests to show guests classic Chinese dishes that are cooked and presented with flair. It’s a busy place lunch and dinner so make sure you book.
Best Modern Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
It all started in the back streets of Hong Kong where Jacky Yu was part of the underground movement of private restaurants, Yu now a celebrity chef revered for his modern Chinese/Asian fusion cuisine. The Singapore arm of Xi-Yan is a bit more mainstream restaurant although you chose from set menus and communal dining, I would suggest best enjoyed with larger tables of 6 to 12.
Favourite Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Jade Palace www.jadepalace.com.sg
My favourite and many Singaporeans too, as this place is constantly busy. This is great all-rounder restaurant, good for Dim Sum as much as it is for a dinner banquet for a table of 12. We come here frequently for wine dinners as the glassware and service are impeccable. The wine list is also excellent and priced around what retail bottle stores charge – Bravo! And above all, proprietor Mr Ho runs a great ship and is always ready to go that extra level to make sure you have a great experience.
Recommended Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Crystal Jade Group http://www.crystaljade.com/
I highly recommend any of the Crystal Jade Group restaurants, small eateries and bakeries; you can dine at ANY of their establishments with the knowledge the food will be consistently good, service prompt and generally friendly and above all, excellent value for money. Frankly I am totally impressed with this chain of restaurants, in that it manages to achieve extraordinary quality, value, consistency and good service.
Recommended Chinese Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Imperial Treasure www.imperialtreasure.com
This group of restaurants, largely Cantonese, also comes highly recommended and I find their food consistently good, authentic and excellent value for money. Moreover, the staff are genuinely friendly and efficient, and whilst it does pay to make a reservation as most of their establishment are very popular, you will normally be accommodated with their turnover of tables.
Best Steamed Bubs (AKA) Dumplings in Singapore
Din Tai Fung http://www.breadtalk.com/dintaifung/index.php
Yes, I’m telling you something you already know; Din Tai Fung make the world’s best xiaolongbao 小籠包 aka Steamed Dumplings in the English vernacular. From Taipei to Los Angles, Hong Kong to Toronto, thousands upon thousands of people frequent Din Tai Fung outlets all over the planet to get their dumpling fix. Actually, it goes well beyond the dumplings as there are other dishes in their repertoire that are probably more popular, in a day-today eating sense, and with their no booking, fast table turnover, this chain is more an Asian cafeteria than restaurant. Take the kids, take any… Read more… http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/restaurants/best-steamed-buns-aka-dumplings-in-the-world-truffle-dumplings-at-din-tai-fung-%E2%80%93-singapore/
Favourite Chicken Rice in Singapore
Wee Nam Kee
I have purposely titled this ‘favourite’ rather than best chicken rice in Singapore, mindful that I am a New Zealander married to a Chinese Malaysian and whilst fairly well assimilated in Asia, out of respect for the highly attuned indigenous palate here, the emphasis is on my personal choice, rather than a critique. You see, food is a national sport in Singapore and right at the very top of the games program is chicken rice, or Hainanese chicken rice, Singaporean style. It is so popular that it vies with Singapore Chilli Crab as the National Dish. Read more…
Favourite Chinese Seafood Restaurant (Chilli & Pepper Crab) in Singapore
Longbeach – Dempsey www.longbeachseafood.com.sg
You can’t come to Singapore and not eat Chilli and Pepper Crab. Most tourists and a good deal of locals head for the East Coast Seafood park to get their fix, however I do prefer Longbeach’s branch in Dempsey, partly because a lot closer to us but also I like the Dempsey surrounds and old Black and White Colonial buildings. Its chaos here, in a sort of organised way; typically brutal Chinese service but it’s an enjoyable experience. Actually, we take-away more often than not, and make sure you book in advance as it’s a VERY busy place – and if only I could get my hands on their wine list, which is currently tragic.
Best Classic French Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Saint Julien www.julienbompard.com
Singapore’s finest dining room and the most wholesome, classic French cuisine you will find in Asia along with the cities most conducive restaurant setting with sweeping views of the Singapore River and Marina Bay that add to the ambience both day and night. It’s a great location too, in the heart of the CDB across from the Fullerton Hotel and an easy walk from the Quays. This is fine dining for sure, although I would not classify it as formal, for it has that rare congenial atmosphere that only comes with an owner-operated restaurant – and I mean the owners are ever-present both front and back of house – with a genuine friendliness and assiduousness of service that is touchstone in Singapore. Chef Julien Bompard is larger than life and frame (never trust a skinny chef I say); jovial, charismatic and obviously very talented. He has been cooking since he was 15 – I will spare you the bio as its way too impressive yet he describes his food as “classic home cooking” to which I say, if only we ate at home like this. It is always busy at Le Saint Julien partly because it is a relatively small restaurant seating about 60, with a private dining room that seats up to 16, but more so simply because it has a well-established, loyal following, so make sure you book.
Recommended Classic French Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
The French Kitchen http://www.thefrenchkitchen.com.sg/
Chef Jean-Charles Dubois cooks classic French cuisine in a congenial, cosy atmosphere, just a notch up from bistro level so user-friendly. I like the place, more so at lunch when it’s not so busy and you can take advantage of his excellent value set menus.
Best Modern French Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Excellent, modern French cuisine that is not froth and foam; Chef Francois Mermilliod knows his ingredients and I have enjoyed many excellent meals here. It’s formal in a way although you can be pretty relaxed and the service is very good under manager Vincent Jaureguiberry. You could say a special occasion restaurant and also good for corporate entertaining.
Recommended Modern French Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
I have to be honest, I have never had to pay for a meal here, as always part of a corporate lunch or dinner, but I have heard the bill can be a bit eye watering. All I know is the produce is top notch and cooked to perfection; certainly fine dining.
Favourite European Cuisine Wine Diner Venue in Singapore
Saint Pierre www.saintpierre.com.sg
This is a very slick place, as you would expect of Chef Emmanuel Stroobant and his partner Edina Hong, very much the drivers of the Singapore dining scene. I have dined here many times, always good and the staff very professional. And for some reason I am here for wine dinner more than any other venue in town and Stroobant is a master at wine and food pairing; had some amazing combinations here and memories of some fabulous wines. Fine dining at its best and you need to book.
Best French Bistro in Singapore
I like dining here, its relaxed, quirky, contemporary and reasonably affordable. My daughter says the Pomme Frites here are the best in town, and she would know. The menu here is semi-classic French bistro although with a little local flair and there some excellent dishes that can be shared like whole roast chicken or shoulder of lamb. The wine list is good, plenty of bistro-level drinking and the staff keen and friendly. Kind of warming to the place as my local.
Recommended French Bistro in Singapore
Les Bouchons – Club Street http://lesbouchons.com
We don’t get here as much as used to, but it’s a reliable place for a classic Steak Frites and the house terrine to start.
Best Italian Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
I don’t know why I have done a full review on this place as it’s one of my very favourite restaurants. I would say it’s classically, highly authentic Italian, rather it’s a bit like Iggy’s where they do their own thing and do it very well. It’s a tiny restaurant seating about 20 or so at a guess and impossible to get a table, so make sure you plan this one well in advance.
Recommended Modern Italian Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
Chef Roberto is a busy man these days, building an empire but this is still the flagship and very slick, fine dining with modern Italian repertoire and polished service. Good for the corporate disco and if you looking to impress.
Recommended Modern Italian Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
This is one of Singapore’s slickest restaurants managed by Stephane Colleoni, the complete restaurant industry pro with charisma to match. Set in a colonial shop house, it’s a multi-purpose restaurant that can meet the demands of a corporate lunch or event with private rooms yet user-friendly with suitable ambience for a relaxed meal. It is modern Italian cuisine that is consistently good with Chef Diego Chiarini a perfectionist and very focused on good produce.
Favourite Spanish Cuisine and Tapas Bar in Singapore
My Little Spanish Place www.mylittlespanishplace.com.sg
This is a local for use, walking distance so a little bit of local favourite. It’s simple Spanish food with some good tapas and an excellent selection of wines that they import direct. Very relaxed and friendly place, so treat accordingly.
Recommended Spanish Tapas Bar in Singapore
Bodega Y Tapas http://www.esmirada.com
I seem to end up here late at night with visitors when there’s no where civilised to have a glass of wine; that is avoiding the rowdy bars. It’s reliable and the wine select always good.
Best Australian Cuisine Restaurant in Singapore
This is one is a bit under the radar and I reckon somewhat underappreciated, for the food is always good here; simple modern Australian cooking with top produce and a good front of house team, helmed by the brothers Kum. That said its very bust at lunch, perfectly situated in the CBD, so I guess it might be the suits don’t migrate back here in the evening.
Best Japanese Restaurant in Singapore
Favourite Japanese Sushi Bar in Singapore
Akashi – Orchard Parade Hotel www.orchardparade.com.sg
Recommended Japanese Casual Sushi in Singapore
Sushi Tei www.sushitei.com
Favourite Japanese Ramen in Singapore
Favourite Indian Restaurant in Singapore
Chat Masala Too!
Recommended Indian Restaurant in Singapore
Rang Mahal – Pan Pacific Hotel www.rangmahal.com.sg
Favourite Peranakan Restaurant in Singapore
True Blue Cuisine www.truebluecuisine.com
Favourite Beef Rendang in Singapore
Nasi Padang River Valley
Favourite Malaysian Cuisine in Singapore
Best Café Style in Singapore
Favourite German Bistro & Wine Merchant in Singapore
Magma German www.magmatc.com
Best Wine Bar in Singapore
Recommended Wine Bar in Singapore
Favourite Eateries at Changi Airport Singapore
Saboten Tonkatsu http://www.saboten.hk/en.aspx
Crystal Jade Restaurant, T2 and Crystal Jade Shanghai Restaurant T3 http://www.crystaljade.com/our_restaurant.htm
Favourite Wet Markets
Best Fishmonger and Fish & Chips in Singapore
Greenwood Fish market and Bistro www.fishshop.sg
Best Sandwich Shop
Moomba Tuck Shop http://themoomba.com/