Looking for a new place to eat at this month? Here are 15 places worth checking out in Singapore this September.
Chef-owner Carles Gaig was a consultant for La Ventana, another Spanish restaurant in Dempsey Hill, until earlier this year. So, if you have dined there, you may find some of the dishes here familiar.
One of them is the must-try Gaig’s Traditional Cannelloni ($15.50), based on a recipe that has been with the Gaig (pronounced “Garche”) family since 1869. The chef is the fourth-generation owner of the Barcelona restaurant and his daughter Nuria runs the Singapore outlet.
The cannelloni comprises shredded roast pork and beef rolled in a smooth and soft pasta sheet drenched in a thick, truffled cream sauce. It is a small serving, but is so rich and worth sharing with others.
The rest of the menu is made up mainly of tapas, paellas, roasts and stews – many of which are typical of the Catalunya region where Barcelona is located.
16 Stanley Street
If you have dined at any Como resort or hotel, you would have noticed a common principle behind the cooking. The food feels light, but it is never short on flavour. It’s not health food, just healthier.
That describes the cooking at Como Cuisine, the latest restaurant under the group started by hotelier and fashion retailer Christina Ong to open in Dempsey Road.
Its menu is a collection of dishes from the various Como properties that span Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States, and encompasses Western and Asian flavours, tied together by the slant towards clean eating.
A dish such as Scallop ($28), where the shellfish is tossed in a mild coconut chilli dressing with pomelo, wing bean and beansprout, is a good example.
The natural sweetness of the barely cooked scallop comes through clearly, with the other ingredients playing a supporting role by adding textures and flavours to rescue the dish from monotony. The tart pomelo also provides acidity to make the dish even lighter.
The same idea is used in another dish, Linguine ($32). Besides more than expected toppings of crabmeat and pine nuts, the pasta also comes with zucchini, peas, lemon and mint.
It tastes delicious, with the nutty richness balanced by the refreshing flavours of the vegetables.
Even a deep-fried dish of Pork Cutlet ($32) comes across lighter because it is topped with rocket leaves, pomelo, capers and olives. But the cutlet itself is uncompromisingly sinful, with the thin slice of pork covered in a parmesan herb crumb and fried till fragrant. The coat of crumbs is nicely crisped while the meat is moist.
The heaviest, as well as the most expensive, dish on the menu is Wellington ($48). Unlike traditional Beef Wellington, where a piece of fillet steak is encased completely in pastry, here, the meat is shrouded in a pastry net instead. There is also a slice of pan-fried foie gras under the beef and the Wellington is topped with shavings of black truffle. A nod to healthy eating comes from the spinach puree in the dish, but this is otherwise unabashedly sinful.
The Sumatra Honey Flan ($12) is a smooth custard with a light but distinctive honey sweetness. It comes with juicy chunks of pineapple topped with almonds.
Lemon Verbena Jelly ($12) is even lighter, with lots of acidity from slices of citrus fruit and marinated cucumber circling the jelly.
It is a pretty dessert too, with its cheery palette of yellow and orange that include bright yellow edible flowers.
Block 18A, Dempsey Road
Run by the same folks behind Cantonese tapas bar Sum Yi Tai in Boon Tat Street, Chikin specialises in Japanese-style skewers with a Sichuan twist of spicy mala. The skewered items are basted with a tasty and aromatic marinade for extra kick and flavour.
Like other yakitori bars, expect all parts of the chicken, from hatsu (heart) to charred and juicy bonjiri or chicken tail. Prices range from $3 to $4.50 a stick. A platter of 10 yakitori costs $30, while a platter of 15 is $40.
Also tuck into other kushiyaki items such as quail eggs with gooey yolk centres ($3), blistered shishito peppers ($3) and beef tongue ($6).
Other must-order items include an unagi garlic fried rice with fish roe ($12), a dish with plenty of smoky wok hei; cold raw octopus in wasabi and marinated egg yolk ($9); and chilled Japanese sea snails in a slurp-worthy Sichuan sauce ($14).
There is also a long list of cocktails to complement the meal ($19 nett each). Try the whisky and sherry-based Sumoki Raisin that has been smoked with apple wood chips.
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
Japanese restaurant group RE&S opened a Shokutsu Ten Japanese Food Street at Great World City about three months ago.
It comprises four Japanese restaurants – Shimbashi Soba, Men-ichi Sapporo Ramen, Ami Ami and a revamped Ichiban Boshi – and Kuriya Japanese Market retail shop.
A kaisen don with assorted sashimi is priced at $21.80, while tendon or tempura atop rice costs $18.80.
The restaurant also has Hokkaido scallops that can be grilled over the robataya (from $7.80 each), and seasonal fresh fish (market price) from Japan – have it grilled with sea salt or fried in tempura batter.
#B1-03, Great World City, 1 Kim Seng Promenade
Ambeng Cafe By Ummi Abdullah
For a communal sharing platter that is a feast for the eyes and the stomach, tuck into one of the Indonesian-style nasi ambeng sets at the Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah at East Village in Tanah Merah.
They are a stunning alternative to a fuss-free dinner party. A mound of rice, surrounded by about 10 appetising padang-style dishes, is presented on a banana leaf. Prices start at $25.80 for a two-person platter, which is good for three people unless you are ravenous.
There are three choices: the Nasi Ambeng Sahan Set (from $25.80), which comes with a serving of ayam kalio or chicken in spicy coconut gravy; the Nasi Rawon Sahan Set (from $37.50) with a side of kuah rawon tetel, a meat dish with savoury black gravy; and the Nasi Jenganan Sahan set ($37.50), which has fried fish.
The dishes in the set range from delicious sambal sotong and soft, crisp paru (beef lungs) to beef rendang and eggs topped with piquant belado sauce.
#01-65. East Village, 430 Upper Changi Road
Chef Damian D’Silva moves from eatery to eatery so fast, you’d better keep up.
The good thing, though, is that with each move, you get to see more of what this talented chef has up his sleeve.
His current stop is at Folklore, a family-style restaurant in the new Destination Singapore Beach Road hotel next to Golden Mile Complex. This is his biggest showcase of what he calls Singapore heritage cuisine, which is what he ate growing up – Eurasian on his father’s side and Peranakan on his mother’s.
Previously, he had served both Western and Singapore dishes at Soul Kitchen, gastrobar-style Eurasian food at Immigrants and a small menu of heritage dishes at D’s Joint in Timbre+. All have closed down.
But the menu at Folklore is bigger than at any of those places. You find some dishes that he had served before, but also many that he has not. Some are based on recipes from his family, others are created by him in a mix of old and new ideas.
One of my favourite dishes from Immigrants was Sambal Buah Keluak Fried Rice, which allowed you to savour the rich flavour of the inky-black buah keluak without having to dig into the nuts.
The dish is available in Folklore and not in the tiny bar-sized serving, but in a generous family portion. Even better, it is priced at $22, just $2 more than at Immigrants.
One exception is the Ayam Pelencheng ($15), a grilled boneless chicken leg that is marinated in seven kinds of spices though none of them come through distinctly.
Oxtail Stew ($26) is one of the great dishes, with fork-tender meat full of the flavour of the rich gravy sweetened with carrots.
Among dishes that benefit from long, slow cooking is Masak Lemak ($14), where three vegetables – spinach, sweet potato leaves and kangkong – are simmered in a coconut milk gravy with prawns. The softened vegetables soak up the delicious gravy so well.
Level 2, Destination Singapore Beach Road, 700 Beach Road
Gong Yuan Mala Tang
At Gong Yuan Mala Tang in Heartland Mall, you get the best of both worlds. It is a soup version of mala xiang guo – think yong tau foo with a mala soup you can drink without losing your tastebuds or voice the next day.
This is unlike the soup at steamboat restaurants, which generally has a layer of chilli oil and plenty of chilli and peppercorns floating on top.
The soup does not numb your senses, but is no less flavourful. Like with yong tau foo and mala xiang guo, you pick from a variety of meats, seafood and vegetables. Pricing is by weight – $2.28 for 100g of ingredients. Add $1 for a bowl of rice.
#02-15, Heartland Mall, 205 Houngang Street
Over the year, hotdog joints have come and gone. With veteran Swiss-born chef Otto Weibel creating the new menu for Hotdogs Inc, hopefully this one stays.
The kurobuta pork sausage is thick, juicy and goes well with all three toppings, though my favourite is the traditional sauerkraut.
Go the whole hog with the Man’s Jumbo Special ($14.80), a 30cm-long weiner. Choose from beef, chicken or pork.
There is also a beer garden menu with offerings such as slow-roasted pork knuckle ($12), traditional German curry sausage ($8.50) and housemade potato salad ($3).
All the sausages are from Swiss Butchery and tucked into freshly baked buns.
#01-23, PoMo Mall, 1 Selegie Road
Soba So Good
Soba – ramen’s less popular relative – finally gets to be in the limelight at soba specialist Nadai Fujisoba Ni-Hachi.
The soba chain has 119 outlets in Tokyo and makes its noodles in-house with wheat flour (20 per cent) and buckwheat flour (80 per cent). The 82-seat restaurant here offers a wide variety of soba served four ways: warm, cold, maze (mixed) and mori (dipping).
One of the favourites is the dry kamo maze soba ($16), with sliced duck meat, half-boiled egg, duck meat balls, snap peas, yuzu and soya sauce. It is best eaten with all the ingredients mixed together.
Another interesting item is the deep-fried soba with savoury spicy seafood sauce ($18.50). The sauce is poured over the crispy fried noodles and the dish reminds me of local zi char favourite sang meen (Chinese fried egg noodles). It is a sizzling spectacle and comes in a generous portion.
Save space for some sides – a fragrant truffle dashi maki tamago with Japanese sauce ($15) and sauteed sobagaki and foie gras with kaeshi sauce ($17). Sobagaki is made with the same buckwheat flour used for the soba, but the flour is usually mixed with hot water or broth and served like mashed potatoes. The kaeshi sauce (concentrated soup base) flavours the sobagaki and is certainly a different way to eat buckwheat flour.
#03-14, 100AM, 100 Tras Street
The Dragon Chamber
f you are bored of traditional banquet-style Chinese restaurants, head to the secret speakeasy concept by the TungLok Group – The Dragon Chamber.
You enter via a secret entrance in Chinese-American restaurant Lokkee in Plaza Singapura and am immediately transported into a new space. It is dimly lit and has graffiti-painted walls. Very hipster indeed.
While you can still order food from Lokkee, there is a special menu just for The Dragon Chamber, with more exotic fare
Don’t be alarmed by the appearance of the Dragon’s Claw ($60), which is crocodile foot braised in herbal sauce and served on kale. It is tasty and reminds me of herbal chicken.
There is also Josper-grilled pig’s tail ($26), where the meat is shredded and served with lettuce wraps and chilli fish sauce. Probably the smartest way to get me to eat pig’s tail.
And of course, you will not get the usual hor fun here. The wagyu truffle hor fun ($50) includes crispy fried hor fun strips, poached egg and truffle gravy. Very decadent and pricey, but certainly delicious.
#03-01, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road
Located in the unlikely hipster enclave of Jalan Besar, just steps from the football stadium where fans scream and police patrol, Southpaw is a sushi bar in need of a concept and it has chosen whisky pairing as its key USP.
A long list of whisky varieties are lost on us but if you fancy alcohol with your sashimi, a very pleasant evening awaits you. But most people are there for the S$68 omakase – one of three dinner sets that make up the entire menu. The other two cost S$98 and S$138, which include sushi instead of a petit bara chirashi, prepared by a Singaporean chef who cut his teeth at the likes of Nogawa and Tatsuya.
The food is straightforward to the point of predictable, hardly varying from a set pattern of appetiser, sashimi and sushi or bara chirashi.
The century egg and tofu appetiser that comes with the S$68 set is fun to eat – a homey combination of egg tofu smothered in a slightly spicy pei tan yolk sauce and chopped jellied egg “white”. In turn, the S$138 set matches the oyster with a bowl of salmon roe, fresh and clean on the palate.
The petit bara chirashi is just that – a smallish bowl of chopped seafood layered over overcooked rice that’s soft and on the cusp of mushiness. A heavy hand with the seasoning limits you to just nibbling the edges and the mound of seafood on top of it.
For the S$138 set, it’s a bit of a chore to get past the stodgy rice that’s squished below layers of seafood including aji, botan ebi, “white” tuna and salmon both done aburi style, a very acceptable bafun uni and the localised hybrid of scallop and foie gras.
Located at Serene Centre, Sugarhaus is a dessert parlour serving up delicious homemade ice cream inspired by European and Asian flavours.
Some of the interesting flavours we love are the Sea Salt Toffee — a play on the much loved salted caramel — and the Dutch Chocolate made with a host of different types of chocolate, resulting in a rich and flavourful treat. A single scoop starts at $3.50 for regular flavours while premium flavours are priced a $4.30 a scoop.
Besides ice cream, Sugarhaus also has interesting dessert dishes like the Galaxy Tart ($8++, above) and the Lemon Popsicle Tart ($8++).
#01-03A, Serene Centre, 10 Jalan Serene
Tucked behind Sugarhaus is Fat Belly, a steak house specialising in two less known cuts of steaks: The Flat Iron ($22++) and the Short Rib ($25++).
Owner Stanley Seow explains that Fat Belly focuses more on lesser known cuts of steaks primarily because it’s more flavourful. Each steak comes with a side of pink Himalayan salt, salad and chimichurri sauce.
We highly recommend getting the Short Rib cut because it’s a lot fattier and when paired with the salt and chimichurri sauce, gives a flavour kick like no other.
Be sure to save some space for dessert though because you’re definitely going to want to try the foie gras ice cream that’s served with brulee bananas, speculoos and roasted nuts. If you’re not a fan of the strong taste that pan-seared foie gras tends to have, you’ll be pleased to know that the foie gras ice cream only has hints of foie gras which can actually go unnoticeable if eaten with all the nuts and speculoos it’s served with.
#01-03A, Serene Centre, 10 Jalan Serene
The newest venture by Chef-owner Andrew Walsh, Butcher Boy is an Asian-inspired grill and bar situated in Keong Saik.
The food is mainly inspired by Chef Andrew’s travels around Asia and includes dishes like, Bao Bun, Banh Mi, Aubergine Satay and Korean Steak Tartare. All of which are reminiscent of food we already know so much about. Still, each dish has a personality of their own and are absolutely delicious.
Ambiance-wise, the combination of chill lounge music and dim lights is romantic.
31 Keong Saik Road
Sumo Bar Happy
Sumo Bar Happy in Waterloo Street is the latest food and beverage outlet by the team behind establishments such as Standing Sushi Bar and cocktail bar The Secret Mermaid.
The new joint is a ramen bar with other offerings, including donburi bowls and Japanese-style sliders. It also specialises in one-cup sakes or single servings of sake that come in glass jars – perfect if you want variety and can’t finish a big bottle.
The lights are a little bright, but other than that, the vibe is fabulous – fun, buzzy and unpretentious.
The food is good too. Try the ramen (from $17 a bowl) – robust tonkotsu broth with everything from short rib to oxtail (above). It also makes its own juicy beef gyoza ($11), which are wrapped in a house-made roasted capsicum dumpling skin. Its yuzu noodles are made from scratch and are served with the tempura mazemen ($20) and the char siew and short-rib tsukemen ($19).
Be sure to order the Loco Moco Don ($18) too. Delicious house-made luncheon meat made with minced fresh Nagano pork belly is served with a piece of pan-seared foie gras and a fried quail’s egg.
The luncheon meat is cured for 24 hours before it is slow-roasted for four hours and then left to compress for another four hours. If only all types of luncheon meat could be made with such love, I would eat it all the time.
Block 261 Waterloo Street