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Eating out is serious business in Singapore. According to Mastercard’s 2014 survey on dining habits, Singaporeans spent an average of US$198 per month eating out, second only to Hong Kong’s US$218.
New restaurants are constantly opening in Singapore.
British concepts have dominated local food headlines in 2015, including London burger institution MEATliquor, Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay and a second Jamie’s Italian.
Shop houses in Chinatown continue to be popular among many indie operators but the city’s most hotly anticipated newcomer located on the grounds of the old Supreme Court and City Hall.
Opening in October, Odette is a 40-seat French fine diner by Julien Royer, the former head chef of Jaan (No. 11 on Asia’s 50 Best 2015). Till then, the city has no lack of great new restaurants to appease voracious diners.
Here are 11 of them:
1. Corner House
Housed in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the French-inspired haute cuisine at this year-old restaurant by Jason Tan, former executive chef of Sky on 57, is labeled “gastro botanica.”
The star dish from the eloquent tasting menu showcases Tan’s toothsome interpretations of his favorite vegetable, Cevennes onion, in four ways (onion puree, tart, chip and tea). Far from being vegetarian, the degustation also features other non-botanical options like the carabinero prawn with textures of tomato and Kristal caviar.
2. Kakure (Ki-sho)
Kakure is technically a sake bar, offering about 50 labels of artisan Japanese sakes by small production houses. But the menu of Japanese comfort food by kaiseki master chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto of stablemate Ki-sho (located downstairs) provides more than enough reasons to make a reservation.
Both the omakase menu and a la carte offer tasty options like the charcoal grilled otoro with grated daikon or tempura of gizzard shad. Sake sommeliers are in the house to provide pairing suggestions. With only 16 seats, reservations are highly recommended.
Kakure, Level 2, 29 Scotts Road; +65 6733 5251
3. Restaurant Labyrinth
At 18 months old, Restaurant Labyrinth is the “oldest” restaurant on the list but it’s arguably the most inventive. Self-taught chef-owner Han Li Guang takes familiar local flavors and gives them an avant-garde spin.
A highlight is “chili crab,” which arrives as deep-fried soft shell crab with sweet and spicy chili crab ice cream, ethereal crab bisque foam and gritty man tou (Chinese bun) crumbs intended to resemble a beach. Diners must choose from one of two tasting menus – “discovery” and “experience” – that explore Han’s take on modern Singapore cuisine.
The Keong Saik Road newbie Lollapalooza is a sibling restaurant of Singapore’s award-winning Lolla. It serves non country-specific cuisine headlined by fresh, seasonal produce smoked in the oven with minimalist dressings.
Oven-grilled Australian scampi, for instance, arrives with nothing but the umami of chives-flecked seaweed butter while paperbark-wrapped Mediterranean sea bass is roasted and served simply with basil and a squeeze of burnt lemon. To keep things exciting, the daily-changing menu also features a clutch of gutsy offerings like tuna eyeball, veal’s tongue and lamb’s heart – paired with a wine list that even other restaurants talk about.
Singapore foodie KF Seetoh: My top places to eat
Named for the chef-owner’s favorite ingredient, rhubarb, this fine diner fields exquisite French cuisines in an elegant shop house. The restaurant’s open kitchen is presided by British chef Paul Longworth.
The seven-course prix fixe menu offers excellent bang for the buck compared with the a la carte. One of the many standouts during our visit was the pigeon done two ways – a la plancha breast and its leg confit, served with rhubarb and rose puree, salsify and candied grapes in a savory pigeon jus.
Bistronomy may have taken Europe by storm but in Singapore, it’s just beginning to show its might.
One of the examples is Sorrel, a restaurant under the reign of 24-year-old chef-patron Johnston Teo. Before you dismiss his apparent youth, be informed that Teo cut his teeth at fine dining Singapore institutions like Tippling Club and Jaan.
A reflection of his haute culinary upbringing, the monthly-changing tasting menus feature dishes like the almond crumble-crowned langoustine with foie gras and heirloom carrots in a sublime broth of reduced carrot and almond.
7. Chef Kang
The recently opened Cantonese eatery Chef Kang by chef/owner Ang Song Kang guarantees a positively boutique Chinese dining experience.
Despite its garish interior and offbeat location at the fringe of Little India, the restaurant draws a largely regular clientele of wine and whisky-toting fans.
They all come for Kang’s rustic Cantonese cooking – dishes like heart-warming deep-fried marbled goby fish broth and wok-fried kai lan (Chinese kale) with pork lard in a piquant shrimp paste – honed over the decades since the Hong Kong chef landed in Singapore.
Prices aren’t cheap but the 50 seats fill-up fast. We recommend asking Kang for his omakase set.
8. Pince & Pints
At Pince & Pints, fresh-faced owner Frederick Yap gives new meaning to menu simplification with his one-item-only offering – live whole lobsters from the Atlantic Coast. Diners can either have them grilled or steamed, with sides of shoestring fries, herbed butter sauce and Parmesan-topped mesclun leaves.
The lobsters can also be prepared New England style as mayonnaise-tossed whole lobster shreds wrapped in warm, butter-seared rolls. Those who like it saucy can order the chili lobster, which arrives basking in a sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce alongside deep-fried man tou.
If you’re lucky, you may even catch the latest limited-time-only offering of lobster truffle roll with truffled “caviar” sauce.
Formerly head chef of Jason Atheron’s Singapore tapas bar Esquina, Andrew Walsh has washed his hands of small plates to carve a niche in bistronomy.
In an elegant but minimally embellished space at Cure along Keong Saik Road, the chef taps his British/Irish heritage to distill dishes like beetroot cured salmon in a Scottish-inspired almond soup flecked with cucumber, parsley oil and vanilla snow.
His affordable prix fixe menu, which changes monthly, also showcases Irish ingredients like Galway oysters and John Stone beef. Be warned that the bread, which comes with house-whipped bacon butter, is highly addictive.
In Singapore, an entire street dedicated to satay
10. Maggie Joan’s
Located in a back alley off Gemmill Lane at Club Street, this eatery by the Ballis father-and-son team behind Moosehead Kitchen Bar reinvents the wheel on Mediterranean cuisine.
In a cozy windowless space with exposed brick walls, dark wood banquettes and potted plants, head chef Oliver Hyde serves inspiring dishes like dukkah dusted slow poached egg with saffron aioli and roasted Jerusalem artichoke, studded with toasted nuts, in a cream-based manchego cheese sauce.
Hunting down the address will take some effort but the underground vibes and the freshness of cuisine make it worth the schlep.
Maggie Joan’s, 110 Amoy St.; +65 6221 5564
11. The Disgruntled Chef @ Ann Siang Road
To appeal to the Central Business District crowd, the established Dempsey Road standout has birthed an offspring at the recently re-launched The Club Hotel in Ann Siang Road.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find any copies from the menu of the Disgruntled Chef’s flagship in the new branch.
The modern European menu boasts distinct dishes like burnt leek stuffed with its own mashed tender insides alongside bone marrow and sauce gribiche; or the deep-fried short ribs matched with mayonnaise-infused kimchi. If our dinner were anything to go by, chef-owner Daniel Sia has no reasons to be disgruntled.
The Disgruntled Chef, 28 Ann Siang Road; +65 6808 2184
Evelyn Chen is a former Time Out food critic and current editor of Zagat Guide. Her food and travel features have been published in Destin Asian, Travel+Leisure SEA and Conde Nast Traveler.