Looking for a new place to eat at this month? Here are 10 places worth checking out in Singapore this January.
Myo Restobar sounds more like a place to go for cocktails and tapas than dimsum and claypot chicken. It looks like one too, with its spare, industrial-looking grey interiors and a wall installation of turning cogwheels.
Still, it serves Cantonese food and its signature dish is a whole chicken wrapped in cabbage leaves and braised in a claypot.
If that sounds like the dish made famous by Kia Hiang, that is because Myo is opened by the same Ng family behind that restaurant. It started in International Plaza more than 30 years ago and had outlets in Kim Tian Road, Sun Plaza and UE Square at various times.
The new restaurant is the family’s attempt to reach out to younger customers and the name is a variation of the Chinese word miao, which means exquisite and wonderful.
It is an apt description for the Kia Hiang Claypot Spring Chicken ($18), a dish I first tried more than a decade ago at the UE Square outlet. With the chicken wrapped in cabbage and halfsubmerged in a dark brown gravy, the dish is a challenge to photograph but tastes wonderful.
The gravy, from a recipe that the Ngs keep secret, has a deep and robust flavour from a blend of sauces. The chicken is simmered in it till the meat is soft and comes off the bone easily.
The dish calls for a bowl of rice so that you can ladle spoonfuls of the gravy over it. Just eating the meat does not do it justice.
A good gravy is also what makes the dimsum item, Braised Chicken Feet In Abalone Sauce ($4.80), a standout. Unlike the mildly sweet-spicy gravy used in other restaurants, the one here is darker, sticky with collagen and more savoury, with no hint of sugar. And the chicken feet are stewed without having been deep-fried first.
Dimsum is served at both lunch and dinner, though the selection at night may be more limited as some items could run out.
The Myo Chilli Crabmeat With Buns ($14 for small) is created for diners who do not want to get their hands messy dealing with crab shells. But using frozen crabmeat in place of live crabs means the shellfish is dry, with no juices to flavour the piquant chilli sauce. So until the restaurant figures out how to fix it, I would give the dish a miss for now.
Chinese restaurants seldom boast interesting desserts, but the Young Coconut Stewed With Peach Resin ($8) here is something I will order again. The combination of egg white, coconut water and sugar steamed in a coconut shell produces a fragrance that is hard to resist. Little orange pellets of peach resin, which are like agar-agar, float on the surface. It is a little too sweet for me, but no one else at my table is complaining.
Myo is located in an office block in the Central Business District (CBD), so expect crowds during lunch on weekdays. If you are not working in the vicinity, the best time to go is in the evenings and on Sundays. That’s also when parking in the CBD is cheap and plentiful.
#19-01, Lobby 1, Oxley Tower, 138 Robinson Road
The popularity of tendon this year is something that I am glad about. Tempura on Japanese rice, what’s not to love?
And while many of the brands sell fairly affordable options priced around $15, it is not surprising that someone has started a cheaper version – and it is pretty good too.
Natsu is by the Pezzo Group, best known for its chain of pizza kiosks. Its month-old kiosk specialising in Japanese tempura is a takeaway concept located at The Clementi Mall. Prices start at $5.90 for the veggie tendon with onsen egg. It may not be plated as beautifully as versions served in restaurants, but for the price and the portion size, I’m not complaining.
I get a slice of pumpkin, baby French beans and a large piece of kakiage on warm Japanese rice and a runny onsen egg. It pays to get the freshly fried items, as my kakiage is crisp and features an assortment of red and green capsicum, kang kong, pumpkin, onions and carrots. I also like that I get pickled cucumber and seaweed on the side, perfect to balance out the fried stuff.
I try the chicken tendon ($7.90) as well, which comes with two big chunks of chicken, along with capsicum, pumpkin and whole shiitake mushroom tempura. With it, there is pickled cucumber and cherry tomatoes in a yuzu dressing – again, a good way to refresh the palate.
While not all the items are hot when I eat them, the batter for the vegetables is light, not too thick and has not hardened. The batter for the chicken I have, however, is on the thicker side, although the meat remains juicy. It is best to consume the fried food within 30 minutes.
More importantly, any excess oil has been drained properly from the tempura, so they are not soggy.
For $1.50 more, you can swop the Japanese rice for matcha soba. Or go for the salad and tempura set ($7.90), which includes prawn, pumpkin, chicken tempura and Japanese pickles over a bed of fresh mixed greens. You can also add on extra ingredients, priced from 80 cents.
Finally, choose a sauce to complement your meal – original, spicy, wasabi mayonnaise, or truffle cream (add $1). My pick is the spicy sauce, which has just a light kick of heat to go with the fried items.
Now, I’m just hoping that Natsu expands with more outlets to satisfy my tendon cravings.
#B1-K17, The Clementi Mall, 3155 Commonwealth Avenue West
Teppanyaki is known for being a dramatic style of cooking, almost a performance in fact.
The chef cooks on a flat metal griddle in front of diners at a counter, slicing the food on the pan with acrobatic deftness and then setting it aflame – more for effect than enhancing the taste of the offerings.
So it is no surprise that Teppan by Chef Yonemura, the two-week-old teppanyaki restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa, is all about show.
This includes plating every dish, including the amuse bouche and starters, in front of the diner.
The chef brings out the ingredients on a tray, introduces them and then puts them together.
It’s a unique serving style and a very good idea because you get to see exactly what goes into the dish. Interested cooks with a good memory – or a handy video-filming function on their smartphone – can even try their hand at the dish later.
Chef Masayasu Yonemura owns a one-Michelin-starred eponymous restaurant in Kyoto serving fusion cuisine.
For Teppan, he keeps to the same style of mixing French and Japanese techniques and ingredients.
The restaurant offers only a five-course set menu at $168 and another eight-course one with more appetisers and desserts at $198.
Both start with a duo of amuse bouche – a Japanese-inspired spring roll of konbu seaweed-flavoured flounder and a piece of persimmon with pesto sauce, and a French-style warm toast topped with mushroom and mussels.
Packed with flavour, both dishes are promising starts to the meal.
They are followed by an equally tasty appetiser of mushroom croquette sitting in a beef stew sauce and topped by a tender piece of A4 wagyu.
It would have been even better if the croquette had a crisp coat of breadcrumbs. Instead, it feels limp and wasted.
I also have mixed reactions to another appetiser comprising two tomatoes, one stuffed with a prawn and the other with abalone. The prawn, chilled and sweet, goes well with the fresh tomato, but the abalone is too tough and the herbal green sauce on it overpowers the delicate flavour of the tomato.
Then there are the fused dishes that are probably intended to be creative, but turn out unnecessarily odd.
One is the clam and lobster bouillabaisse, that is made with a dashi stock, but also has Gruyere cheese and croutons added to it.
The result of bouillabaisse-meets-French onion soup is palatable, but nowhere as good as either of the classic soups.
The teppan fried rice, which ends the savoury part of the meal, is even more bizarre – it includes fusilli pasta.
It’s the first time I’ve eaten the cockscrew-shaped pasta fried, let alone with rice.
And it does not work because the al dente pasta and the soft rice have absolutely no chemistry together and the fusion feels forced.
The cubed pieces of house-cured bacon in the dish are good though.
As for the star of the meal, the teppanyaki beef, I would have liked the A4 grade Tajima wagyu more if the chef had picked a sirloin or ribeye instead of tenderloin.
Tenderloin not only has a monotonous, tender texture that is boring, but it is also bland in taste.
What diners will enjoy though are the dramatic flames that accompany the cooking.
With lights dimmed and the entire griddle set aflame, it is quite a spectacle – for which the smartphone can be whipped out again.
This is also where I have to warn prospective diners against wearing anything flammable on their body. Like hairspray.
Level 1, The Forum at Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway
Casa Poncho is a new Latin destination restaurant and bar in the former Keow Siong Club in Bukit Pasoh.
It has a sharing menu with flavours taking inspiration from Latin American countries.
Dishes include La Pluma ($12++), grilled Iberico pork from the end of the loin, with caramelised pineapple; Dedos de Poncho ($8++), chilli cheese churros with jalapeno and cheddar; Pulpo Ranchero ($18++), grilled octopus, salsa ranchera, pumpkin seed and scallion oil; Lomito al Carbon ($30++), charbroiled Argentinian beef tenderloin with zucchini, grilled onions and roasted capsicum salsa; and Crispy Chili con Carne ($11++), chilli spring roll with minced beef, avocado, sour-cream foam, chilli, lime, coriander and garlic.
Some of the desserts include Poncho’s Flan ($14++), made with horchata, mango, mint and fresh berries; Tentacion de Chocolate ($14++), chilli chocolate, egg custard, and paprika sour cream; and Churros ($8++) with chilli chocolate and cinnamon cream.
The bar serves a diverse selection of beverages with signature Mezcal-based cocktails at its heart. Guests can find cocktails such as Gregorio Negrito ($18++), made with Mezcal Reposado, antica formula, Campari and bitters; La Margarita del Poncho ($18++), concocted with Mezcal Alipus blanco, Grand Marnier, yuzu and agave syrup; and Poncho’s Favorito ($18), comprising tequila reposado, dry curacao, Aperol, cranberry and lime juice. A selection of beers and wines are also available.
14 Bukit Pasoh Road
Korean pizza chain Pizza Maru, which has more than 650 outlets in South Korea, the United States, Hong Kong and China, has made its way to Singapore at the new Northpoint City (South Wing) megamall.
Its Premium Pizzas are available in seven options and made with patented green-tea well-being pizza dough, which has been fermented for more than 48 hours with chlorella alongside natural grains such as flaxseed and barley.
Highlights in the Premium Pizza range include the Korean Surf ‘n’ Turf (from $19.80++), a blend of East-meets-West flavours boasting Korean-style beef and shrimps atop a bed of greens lined with sweet ranch sauce accompanied by sour cream and Mozzarella cheese.
The Mango Ocean (from $19.80++) comprises chunks of mango, with shrimps and scallops on the crispy bread base. The fruity seafood combination is matched by fiery hot spicy buldak and a spread of mozzarella cheese and pilaf sauce.
Other pizza offerings include the Chicago Pizza, prepared with Black Rice Dough, in six flavours. The Real BBQ Chicago ($26.80++) is studded with almond flakes and icing sugar sprinkles, with the chewy and fluffy pizza topped with chicken leg pieces, potato, roasted onions and tomato.
Keeping to its Korean origins, Pizza Maru Singapore also has Korean Fried Chicken (from $15.80++ for six pieces).
#B1-192/193, Northpoint City (South Wing), 1 Northpoint Drive
Blue Lotus Chinese Grill House at Novotel Singapore on Stevens is Blue Lotus Concepts International’s fifth restaurant.
The 66-seater serves traditional Chinese and local favourites with modern culinary twists – a trait of the Blue Lotus brand.
Remixed presentations of classic comfort foods include Hot Stone Pork Lard Truffle Flavoured Fried Rice ($22++), Hickory Smoked Honey-Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly ($16++) and Claypot Mapo Tofu Rice with onsen egg ($20++).
A quintessential part of the Blue Lotus dining experience is the famous pomelo chilli sauce, which comes with the Crab Balls ($22++) and the Chilli Pomelo La Mian Soup with crabmeat ($24++).
For seafood lovers, there are dishes such as the Australian Blue Lip Mussels with garlic and Hua Tiao wine ($26++); Barramundi in Claypot assam curry sauce ($26++); Pickled Chilli Atlantic Octopus fermented tofu barley risotto ($34++) and Giant Tiger Prawns in assam butter sauce ($48++).
Must-try meat items, which are cooked in a Josper oven, include the classic lamb rack ($30++), wagyu beef ($48++) and Iberico suckling pig ($38++).
#01-03, Novotel Singapore On Stevens, 30 Stevens Road
Blue Willow Bar & Bistro is the latest venture by the owners of restaurants Fresh Fruits Lab and Platform 1094, a group of young entrepreneurs.
The idea for the blue theme of the cafe, which serves Western/fusion cuisine, comes from a tree in the cafe’s backyard, reminiscent of the Tree of Souls in the 2009 science-fiction movie Avatar. A salad ($14+ to $15+) on the menu is named The Tree of Souls.
Blue dishes and desserts include the grilled Blue Willow’s Barramundi in a light blue mustard cream sauce ($20+); the Eywa Natural Blue Carbonara ($14+); the Neytiri’s Blue Pancake Stack ($14+) and Tea by Lupicia Infused Cake ($7.50+), a turquoise dome cake with a hint of tea flavour.
Among the mains are Chicken Fricassee – roasted chicken with sauteed vegetables, garden greens, served with carrot puree and mushroom cream sauce ($14+); and Grilled Pork Loin with green zucchini, eggplant pesto mashed potatoes, served with pesto mayo sauce and apple chutney ($16+).
28 Clementi Road
Social enterprise My NoNNa’s, which trains and employs people with special needs to prepare, cook and serve Italian food at schools, has opened My NoNNa’s Wheelchair Workplace Friendly Cafe – or just My NoNNa’s Cafe – at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
The Brekki Set ($3 to $3.50) comes with a Toastie or WaffleWich and UCC White Coffee, Hot Chocolate or UCC Macha Latte, while Cheesy Q ($4) comes with toppings such as chicken and celery or tuna and green apple.
Lunch sets ($6 each) are Pasta Al Forno Oven-Baked Pasta, Italian Rice of the Day (vegetarian or Italian roast chicken) and Pasta of the Day (spaghetti, fusilli or penne).
Choices for dinner sets ($8, $7.50 for SUTD students and staff) are Pasta of the Day and Italian Rice of the Day.
#01-203, Building 2, Singapore University of Technology and Design, 8 Somapah Road
First established in Waikiki, Hawaii, in 1974, popular eatery Eggs n’ Things has opened its first outlet here at Plaza Singapura.
The brand is best known for its fluffy pancakes topped with a choice of fruit, along with macadamia nuts and light housemade whipped cream.
They go best with the guava, coconut and maple syrups served at the table. Prices start at $19.90 (from $11.90 without whipped cream).
Other items on the all-day menu include Eggs Benedict (from $18.90).
For a taste of Hawaii, there is loco moco (rice with fried egg and hamburger patty, $18.90), and ahi poke bowl ($16.90).
A dinner menu (from 5pm onwards) includes grilled ahi steak ($19.90); Hawaiian grilled hormone-free chicken ($19.90) and shrimp jambalaya ($17.90).
#03-79/83, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road
Kushikatsu Tanaka – a famous chain from Japan specialising in kushikatsu (fried skewered meats and vegetables) – launched its first Singapore outpost at Clarke Quay last Wednesday.
The brand made the news earlier this year for its fairy-tale success story.
Rocked by the Lehman Brothers financial crisis in 2008, Ms Hiroe Tanaka and her business partner, Mr Keiji Nuki, had planned to end their business ventures in the Tokyo food scene.
While packing her bags to return to Osaka, she stumbled upon her late father’s kushikatsu recipe and convinced Mr Nuki to open a kushikatsu outlet by the end of 2008.
Fast-forward nine years and the business, which became a listed company last year, is valued at US$82 million (S$110.6 million). There are 167 outlets across Japan, with four more set to open this month. It also has a branch in Hawaii.
Ms Tanaka and Mr Nuki, both 46, were in town last week for the opening of Kushikatsu Tanaka.
It is a franchise outlet managed by Suntory Food & Beverage International, a subsidiary of the Suntory Group which runs eateries such as Japanese restaurant Sun with Moon at Wheelock Place and the Pepper Lunch chain.
Kushikatsu Tanaka adds to the recent trend of fried skewered foods, following brands such as Ginza Rokukakutei at Odeon Towers and Panko in Haji Lane.
Kushikatsu is a speciality street food from Osaka which has gained traction across Japan.
The duo plan to ramp up its popularity in other countries. Mr Nuki says in Japanese via an interpreter: “We are raising the recognition level in Tokyo. When people think of kushikatsu, they think of Tanaka. It has almost become a daily food.”
In the menu here, the skewered items – battered in fine panko crumbs and fried in a blend of oil which includes beef fat – are priced from $1 to $2.50 a stick.
Ingredients include beef, prawn, asparagus, oyster and even a dessert version of cookies and cream. Just dip the skewers into the “secret recipe” dipping sauce and add a dollop of mayonnaise.
No double-dipping is allowed and there is cabbage on the table which can be used to scoop up extra sauce.
There is a cover charge of $3 a person for the dipping sauce and cabbage.
There is no service charge.
Other dishes on the menu include chiritori hotpan ($18 for two for beef, $16 for two for pork), a sizzling hotpan dish of beef or pork slices served on a bed of beansprouts and topped with beef offal and chilli powder for a spicy and savoury flavour.
To finish the remaining soup, diners can cook curry cheese risotto (additional $7) on the pan with curry powder, cheese and rice.
Diners can also get hands-on with the D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) onigiri ($5) and D-I-Y potato salad ($8).
The kushikatsu goes well with Jim Beam highballs (from $6). The alcohol menu includes shochu, wine and sake.
Adding to the buzzy izakaya-style atmosphere is the Japanese drinking game of Chinchirorin, which diners can play.
Throw two dice in a bowl and say “Chinchirorin”. If you roll doubles, you get a free Jim Beam highball.
An even number gets you a half-priced highball while an odd number means you pay double the price, but for a double-sized highball.
Ms Tanaka still fondly recalls her late father making kushikatsu for her at home. She had spent years trying to perfect it before she found the recipe.
She says: “My version was not very different from my father’s recipe. But it just didn’t taste the same. When I found the recipe, I decided it’s my last chance to just do it.”
Text: Eunice Quek and Wong Ah Yoke/The Straits Times