Looking for a new place to eat at this month? Here are 10 places worth checking out in Singapore.
Looking for a new place to eat at this month? Here are 10 places worth checking out in Singapore.
Five-Ten is a modern Taiwanese restaurant with a small menu of street food. Everything, including drinks, is either $5 or $10. The pricing is gimmicky, but the kitchen has pedigree.
Chef Shawn Koh, previously from Pizzeria Mozza and Salted & Hung, has always thrilled and it is no exception here.
The Lu Rou ($10), or braised pork belly, cannot be missed. It is not so much the aromatic, sexy housemade dark soya sauce but the tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth pork belly.
The combination of meat and sauce is divine. Plus, Five-Ten offers free rice. Take advantage of this and use the rice to soak up every bit of the dish.
If you are used to the bright red version, the House Made Taiwanese Sausage ($10) will look anaemic. The taste is vaguely familiar but more refined and delicate than the usual, with a strong hint of five-spice. The accompanying pickled vegetable is delicious too.
The Braised Pig Intestines ($10) will remind you of kway chap. Is that good or bad? It depends on how much you like kway chap.
For value and visual impact, the Steak ($10) is unbeatable. It is simply prepared, but the effect is amazing.
The seared sirloin steak is tender yet juicy, the house-pickled cabbage (the same one served with the Taiwanese sausage) is great and the garlic crisps are addictive. This is a meal in itself.
For $5, the Sauteed Chicken Hearts sure feels like it cost much more.
The soya sauce-glazed hearts have a chew, which added more layers of flavours, while the ginger cuts the richness and adds a touch of heat. It is yet another great dish from this exciting restaurant.
237 South Bridge Road
VLV, the lounge and restaurant in Clarke Quay, has, from the start, been conceptualised as a multi-venue dining destination with both upmarket and casual options.
The second-level upmarket Chinese restaurant opened last year, but it was only early this month that the final part of the project was officially launched.
VLV Riverside is, as the name suggests, the outdoor area by the Singapore River where diners sit under pod-like shades. It serves zi char dishes, with a menu that is almost completely different from the restaurant’s.
The focus is on Singapore and Malaysian Chinese dishes usually served at roadside or coffee shop stalls, although there are some dishes that are unique to the eatery.
A few are taken from the restaurant menu – such as the Roasted Truffle London Duck ($24 a portion, $45 for half), which stands out for being a fine-dining dish among the more humble offerings.
It is pricey, though that can perhaps be justified by the shavings of black truffle over the duck. If you like truffles, you will love this dish. The meat is tender and moist and the skin is beautifully roasted, so the duck can easily stand on its own.
With the heatwave over and on a clear evening, dining outdoors is quite bearable these days. There are also fans installed on the roofs to keep temperatures down.
Dining by the river has its attractions, among them a chance to people-watch and to enjoy the view of river taxis plying the waters. Also, the restaurant has an alfresco courtyard area with a band playing pop songs in the evening.
The young singer, who performs in English and Mandarin, is good.
#01-02, Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road
There is a new casual Indonesian restaurant – it has outlets at 313@Somerset and Ann Siang Hill – that specialises in various types of soup.
Offerings include the more widely available soto ayam (chicken soup) and sop buntut (oxtail soup)as well as soto madura and soto betawi.
The soto betawi or Jakarta soup ($8.80) is a mildly spicy beef-based soup with a dash of coconut milk that is hearty and flavourful. The soto madura ($8.80) has a stronger flavour of spices and a hint of ginger. You can also have dishes such as Mie Ayam Bakso ($7.80), a staple street food in Indonesia.
#B3-10, 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road
The idea of updating Chinese cooking is not new. Many restaurants do it regularly when they introduce new dishes or new ingredients to their menus.
But few do it across the entire menu and among them, there are even fewer who have done it well.
Blue Lotus Chinese Eating House on Sentosa is one such restaurant. It gives traditional Chinese dishes an original spin without taking it down the fusion route.
An example is its version of chilli crab, which does away with the ketchup in the original recipe and replaces it with fiery chillies. And to balance the heat, bitter-sweet pomelo sacs are sprinkled on top.
The same modern Chinese concept is applied to Blue Lotus Chinese Grill House, the latest addition to the group. It opened in Tanjong Pagar Centre 11/2 weeks ago.
The menu is different from the Sentosa restaurant’s and the open kitchen, outfitted with a Josper oven and induction hobs, looks Western. Yet the food, with a few exceptions such as grilled vegetables, is recognisably Chinese.
There is no Chilli Pomelo Crab here, but the restaurant is so proud of the spicy sauce that it is used here in three dishes.
Try the Crab Balls, Chilli Pomelo Sauce ($22),
an excellent idea created for diners who want to eat crab without having to use their hands. The crab balls are made with lumps of fresh crabmeat compressed into ping pong-size spheres and deep fried. The crabmeat tastes sweet and the sauce layers it with the aromatics of herbs and spices.
Chilli Pomelo Australian Blue Mussels, Fried Mantou ($22) is similar to the chilli crab version, but the sauce matches slightly less well. The advantage is that mussels are easier to eat than crab. The third dish, Chilli Pomelo La Mian Soup, Crabmeat is available only in the set lunch menu, where it comes with a choice of starter and dessert for $22.
#01-13, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 5 Wallich Street
A series of restaurant and stall closures over the years has not deterred Singaporean chef Damian D’Silva from making yet another comeback in the local dining scene.
The 61-year-old known for turning out soulful and heritage Eurasian and Peranakan food is now the executive chef of Folklore at three-month-old hotel Destination Singapore Beach Road. The restaurant opens today.
Expect wholesome and hearty offerings from Singapore’s five dominant ethnic groups – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan.
Tuck into dishes such as sambal buah keluak fried rice ($22), masak nanas ($22), a prawn and pineapple curry; hati babi bungkus ($18), minced pork and liver wrapped in caul fat; and ayam pelencheng ($15), a Malay dish of grilled chicken marinated with seven spices.
In the next two months, there will be local favourites ($20 a serving) such as nasi lemak and Malaysian curry mee.
There is also a special Chineseinspired menu ($40, good for three to four people with a few other dishes from the main menu) which includes braised duck; seh bak – a Eurasian dish with pig offal and squid simmered in a soya sauce and spice broth; and loh kai yik, a heritage Cantonese dish of pork belly, pig offal and chicken wings cooked with fermented beancurd.
He plans to change about 30 per cent of the offerings on the main menu every six months, and will also retail various types of sambal, including chilli cuka and sambal tumis, from next month.
Level 2, Destination Singapore Beach Road, 700 Beach Road
There is nothing quite like ice cream and waffles on a 33 deg C day in Singapore.
The stretch in front of Sultan Mosque in Bussorah Street may be more famous for its Middle Eastern restaurants and shops selling flowing kaftans and accessories, but look a little closer and you will find a quaint, distinctly pastel-coloured ice-cream shop.
Muslim-owned Lickety serves Hong Kong- or Macau-style egglet waffles, alongside 16 flavours of ice cream and milkshakes.
Opened just last month by the folks behind Fika Swedish Cafe & Bistro, the tiny ice-cream parlour has a similar modern Scandinavian aesthetic, but with more pops of colour.
As for its offerings, there are decidedly Asian flavours such as Mao Shan Wang durian, yam and gula melaka, but there are also more international combinations like Earl Grey and fig, and sea-salt caramel with almonds. There were just enough fig bits in the Earl Grey ice cream to complement the tea flavour, while the sea-salt caramel had just the right level of sweetness. Neither flavour was cloying.
Mango sorbet and lime lemon ice cream are the more refreshing flavours on the menu, while cotton candy bubble gum seemed to be a hit with the many children who were attracted to the store. Flavours are rotated every week, depending on how popular they are.
While you can have the ice cream on its own (from $4.50 for one scoop to $12.90 for three scoops) or in a milkshake ($8.90), the Instagram-friendly egglet waffles are the real star of the show.
They are made to order and come in buttermilk, red velvet or a combination of both batters. With one scoop of ice cream, the waffles cost $8.90 and with two scoops, $11.90.
The waffle itself is light and fluffy, but spongy enough to maintain its texture even after the ice cream melts.
They are served in colourful paper cones that have a tearaway strip that makes it easier to access the waffle once you are halfway through it.
You can choose from a range of toppings, including chocolate and caramel sauces, crushed cones, marshmallows and Pocky biscuit sticks.
Either way, the ice cream and waffle combination is hard to beat and it helps that the service staff, led by owner Tasneem Noor, are delightful and always ready with recommendations.
34 Bussorah Street
The roast duck has a crisp skin and is also tender, juicy and lean, not fatty like many other versions. However, it is the sauce that truly sings.
It is distinctive, robust and slightly herbal in flavour. But this sauce is not to be confused with the thicker gravy that is ladled over roast meat rice, which is also very tasty.
The honeyed char siew is also a real winner. Not only does it have an appealing dark brown colour, but it also has deep flavour and blackened edges. A plate of char siew rice costs $3.50.
A must try is the wonton noodles ($3) with char siew. Add roast duck for an additional $3.
The springy Hong Kong-style noodles come with blanched leafy greens, slices of char siew, a savoury sambal and a good amount of that delicious sauce. Toss to enjoy.
A whole duck is priced at $40, and it costs $21 for half. The stall also sells dumplings at $11 for a box of 27.
Block 128 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh
Singaporeans have gone through a number of Taiwanese food crazes over the years – whether it is fried chicken steak, grass jelly desserts or, more recently, castella cake.
However, if there’s one thing you really should try, it’s lu rou fan.Sadly, the dish at the few eateries that serve it here is either overly salty or completely dried out.
It turns out that a pair of young Singaporeans have been on the same fruitless hunt for the dish here too.
Mr Lim Pei Tang and Mr Ng Jiewei, both 30, were insurance agents before they quit to set up a lu rou fan stall at Seah Im Food Centre last year.
Mr Lim says: “We spent many weekends in the kitchen experimenting and fine-tuning the recipe, and took several trips to Taiwan to ensure we got the taste right. It took us over a year to be happy with what we had created and the response has been very encouraging.”
Indeed, their yummy lu rou fan ($2.50) is the closest to what I have had in Taiwan and the positive comments on their Facebook page – many from Taiwanese people living in Singapore – can attest to its authenticity.
The serving is not very big, but it is heaped with minced pork that has just the right proportion of fat and lean meat.
Braised in a gravy of dark soya sauce, rice wine and vinegar with hints of orange peel, the mildly sweet and melt-in-your- mouth tender pork is delicious piled over the piping hot short-grain rice.
While the stall also sells other Taiwanese street food items such as intestine mee sua ($3.50), fried squid ($4.50) and salted crispy chicken ($4) – all of which are perfectly decent – the star of the show is still the lu rou fan.
#01-21, Seah Im Food Centre, 2 Seah Im Road
You have to say one thing about American food. It sure ain’t shy when it comes to flavour. It’s like getting into a lift (or elevator) with a party of Americans and knowing where they live, work, went to school and their weekend plans by the time you reach the ground floor – nothing is left to the imagination. So if you like food that’s amplified in portion, sweetness, saltiness, richness and exuberance, then welcome to The Bird, your fried chicken and grits paradise.
This bird – whose original name was Yardbird – brings the comfort food of the American South to Singapore via Las Vegas, where founder John Kunkel has a branch in the Venetian hotel. Singapore is the first overseas outpost for the Miami-based restaurateur whose claim to fame is his grandmother’s recipes for Southern- style fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits.
A thumbs up to the classic buttermilk biscuits (S$10) which are light, fluffy and scone-like, served fresh out of the oven and barely sweetened – easily fixed with a smear of honey butter and apple jam. There are four to each order and to finish a whole one is a temptation you may want to resist if you hope to survive the food orgy that follows.
We try to lighten things up with a crisp salad of butter lettuce and grilled mango (S$14), although the unblemished mango didn’t look or taste like it had been near a fire recently. Pecans add a nice touch to this otherwise ho-hum plate of greens.
It paves the way for the calorie onslaught – led by a little cast iron pot of macaroni and cheese (S$14). This cheese fix for the toothless features gum-friendly soft pasta whirls drowned in a volcanic eruption of four kinds of cheese melted into a jarring orange hue. It’s a grown-up version of the Kraft processed mac ‘n cheese snack, served with tongue in cheek.
The piece de resistance follows – a S$45 platter of half a chicken cut into four pieces, brined for 24 hours and then coated in a secret batter that delivers a decent, if unimpressive crunch. It could just be a function of the kind of chicken available here, but the meat is on the lean side and not dripping with natural juices as we would hope. That said, the breast meat on the bone is surprisingly plump and tender, even if not our favourite cut.
But texture aside, it is terribly salty. So it’s a good thing that you can alternate bites with the very good waffles – tender and fluffy, just like the buttermilk biscuits.
#B1-07, The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue
At a quiet corner under a Housing Board block next to West Coast Community Club is a bustling air-conditioned restaurant called Island Penang Kitchen, which specialises in food from the Malaysian island.
It serves everything from assam laksa and cuttlefish kangkong to rojak and lor bak or five-spice pork rolls.
The Penang-style prawn noodles ($5, $7 with pork ribs) is a must-try.
The broth is the highlight – a mildly spicy and robust red soup with a deep prawn flavour. The dish also comes with pieces.of slippery pork skin and crispy cubes of lard.
#01-126, Block 721, Clementi West Street 2
Text: Straits Times, The Business Times and The New Paper