The latest place for a romantic, wow-worthy view is at the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott Singapore Novena.
From its all-day dining restaurant Sky 22, you will get an unobstructed view of the district. In the distance, there is the former Mediacorp compound at Caldecott Hill. Squint a little and try to spot Singapore Press Holdings’ News Centre in Toa Payoh North.
There are rows and rows of roofs, giving you a sense of how the district is structured.
But you cannot sell a restaurant based on view alone and Sky 22 offers a healthy slant to its food.
It has a Build-Your-Own-Bowl concept ($16) – basically a buffet in a bowl. This is good for light eaters or if you are there just for the view.
But do take a look at its a la carte menu because there are some winners there.
While healthy is the theme here, the Sky 22 Tiger Prawn Laksa Lemak ($24) seems determined not to be and it is one of the best dishes. The gravy is like a blanket of spicy coconut milk – you do not even need the noodles to feel full.
Much lighter but equally tasty is the Oven-Baked Camembert Cheese ($18). This vegetarian option impresses with beautifully cooked portobello mushrooms and walnut pesto.
The Iberico Pork ($36) is well seasoned, tender and juicy, with a lovely side of Chinese spinach.
Less winning is the “Nasi Ulam” Wild Rice Salad ($22). The name prepared me for a bowl of herbal scents and flavours, but this version is oddly bland in spite of strong flavoured ingredients such as ginger flower and toasted coconut. Perhaps, among the sea of flavourful dishes, the subtlety of it stands out for the wrong reason.
The Sky 22 Bubur Cha-Cha Cup ($12) delivers what it promises – a dessert that tastes like bubur cha cha, just deconstructed. The bits of yam and pandan jelly with a rich coconut ice cream makes this a delightful treat.
Overall, this is a nice place to chill out with good enough food to make the trip to the area worthwhile.
Call ahead to book a table with a view if you are on a date. If conversation falls short, at least you can gaze out the window to buy time as you think of topics to talk about.
Level 22, Courtyard By Marriott Singapore Novena
Although we are told there is one local and one Spanish chef in the kitchen, we are almost certain they are lying because constant peeking into the kitchen did not give any hint of anyone with a foreign passport.
We are expecting a roll call of pseudo-tapas when the Mushroom Croquetas (S$8) arrived – three panko-crusted croquettes filled with a mushroom-and-bechamel mixture that is firm, creamy and studded with minced mushroom such that you get more flavour from the mushrooms than the cream. It is like eating undiluted cream of mushroom soup deep fried in a crust made crunchier with panko. It is Spanish tapas made by a chef well-informed of the Singaporean taste profile – knowing full well we like crunch over soft crumb.
We found out later that the chef is local but used to work at FOC. What he has done is push out a recogniseable menu straight out of Tapas 101, but it is stuff he has obviously mastered.
So we got totally credible Pan con Tomate (S$10) – light-as-air baguette slices toasted till light and crisp all the way through. You get this satisfying shattering of crumbs infused with olive oil and crushed tomatoes. For an extra S$10, you get to pick a topping of Iberico bellota or smoked sardines. It is not as good as Gaig’s version, but it is pretty good.
The Spanish Tortilla (S$8) is a perfect disc of golden yellow that looks like a pancake waylaid by a bicycle pump. It is an omelette by any other nationality, pretty and puffy, designed to be slashed to reveal its creamy filling of barely-cooked egg, onions and potatoes. It is well-executed, although we have never really been fans of onions in eggs.
We hope it is not a fluke, but La Pepa does that Spanish basic of grilled octopus (Pulpo a la Gallega, S$20) with a simple flair that can put complacent Spanish-born chefs to shame. Texture-wise, it’s in that happy space between rubbery and mushy – pliable and tender with just enough resilience, generously dusted with paprika, on a bed of chunky potato. It seems like such a no-brainer, yet so few chefs here can get it right.
We are not swooning over its paella (S$26 to S$36), of which we picked the meat version over the seafood one. It could have been a mistake. Ours was served in a little black paella pan that’s badly burned around the edges. There’s charred and there’s burnt – the next step for this would be a fire alarm.
It did not really affect the rice itself, which was infused in broth and studded with bits of meat and bone, but it just lacked kick.
We also found out later that the dessert chef is from Argentina. Not quite Spain but never mind. She makes this dreamy, must-have dessert of homemade fresh milk curd served with honey and berries (Cuajada con Miel y Fruitas, S$12). It is the only dessert worth having, because the churros (S$10) were a pale version of what they should be – blonde and crisp on the outside, pale and pasty inside.
While one should not have too high expectations of La Pepa – its repertoire is too limited and not exactly challenging – cheers to the little place that sticks to what it does well and is totally free of pretence. We could use more of them.
10 Gemmill Lane
Crushed up, crispy fish skin is the donburi ingredient I never knew I needed, until I had Doco’s two donburi (rice bowl) options.
The unassuming, five-seat food kiosk in International Plaza is called Doco after Donburi Coconut, a name that reflects the donburi bowls and the two coconut dishes that are on the limited menu here.
The space is also a collaboration between fish-skin snack company Fish Sh-nack and Soicoco, which makes raw coconut-based shakes and desserts.
While rice bowls and coconut might seem an odd pairing, it works better than you think.
There are two protein options that come atop Japanese rice. Sh-nack Don ($8.90) comes with grilled beef, an onsen egg and Cajun fish “sprinkles” (or Cajun-flavoured crushed-up fish skin), while Sh-ken Don comes with honey miso chicken, an onsen egg and regular fish-skin sprinkles.
The beef bowl is far more successful, with the generous serving of fish sprinkles adding great texture and a slightly spicy hit to the creamy egg and rice combination. The beef is tender, but what it lacks in flavour is made up for by the fish sprinkles.
While tender, the honey miso chicken, on the other hand, is a tad sweet and throws the dish out of balance. It probably would have worked better with a more savoury teriyaki sauce.
The surprises are the coconut desserts – a coconut “shake” that is essentially coconut water and flesh ($4.90) instead of a typical milkshake, and a coconut soft serve ($4.90) that comes with a sprinkling of grated gula melaka that melts into the ice cream slowly.
Both options are refreshing additions that help to wash down the heavy rice bowls. They are also vegan-friendly and dairy-free.
As part of an ongoing promotion, lunch sets – comprising one of the rice bowls with a choice of one of the coconut desserts – are priced at $11.90 instead of the regular $13.90.
The rice bowls were filling, thanks to the protein, but I honestly would not have minded just having fish sprinkles and an onsen egg on rice.
#01-16, International Plaza, 10 Anson Road
Wine Bonanza is set in the pre-war colonial heritage building at Albert Court and it has been restored and refurnished into a modern European, yet rustic style.
The wine and gourmet restaurant seats 60 people indoors and there is a private room for 10 people seated or 20 standing. An alfresco dining area with 30 seats can accommodate 60 people standing.
Signature dishes include Seared Half Lobster with watermelon cloud and Sauvignon Blanc jelly ($42++, above), Beef Stew ($26++), Cherry Duck Rilette ($19++), confit of duck with sangria reduction and crushed Sichuan peppercorn ($27++), Foie Gras with Mango Salsa Crepe ($26++), Grilled Halibut ($26++) and Fish & Chips ($21++).
Those looking for pasta can order the Lobster Aglio Olio with caviar ($39++), Octopus Squid Ink Pasta ($27++) and Truffle Mushroom Cream Pasta ($24++).
Soup and appetiser choices include Three Hours Lobster Bisque ($18++); Pumpkin Soup ($12++); Aged Italian Bean Puree Beignet with truffle mayo ($15+); Cheese Platter (normal, comprising Brie, Camembert, Saint Paulin and Blue Cheese, serves three to four: $28++; Petit Platter: $18++) and the Trio – 64 Degrees Birth Egg, Parmesan Cheese Cracker, 5J Iberico & Melon ($21++).
For a sweet-tooth fix, go for Moscato Strawberries with Water Melon Cream Cheese ($19++), Bread & Butter Pudding ($9++) and Crepe with Chocolate Mousse and Berries ($13++).
Wine Bonanza serves a wide variety of wines and cocktails, from classic to premium, with prices from $45++ to a few thousand dollars.
Nude Grill and Nude Chill
Nude Grill and Nude Chill are two adjacent concepts at the new Marina One, overlooking a lush garden with waterfalls, an oasis in the middle of the city.
The group imports meat and vegetables from Japan, New Zealand and the northern Thai highlands. The cooking style has a Western foundation, but is Asian in heritage.
Nude Grill’s sharing starters include a foie gras parfait with longan, passionfruit and Sarawak black pepper ($14++), while mains include a whole poussin with a glutinous rice-scallop stuffing, emerald greens and shiitake-onion tempura ($29++).
Lunch focuses on one-dish meals such as bavette steak with sunny-side-up egg, steak fries, French beans and red wine shallot jus ($23++) and a whole chicken leg roulade with mushroom duxelles, black truffle jus, corn and potato foam ($25++).
The star at night is an A4 Kagoshima wagyu zabuton with rojak flower jus, served beside a bowl of handmade kway chap with buah keluak kneaded in ($69++).
Nude Chill is a watering hole at night, with bartenders making farm-to-table cocktails alongside the classics. It is also the home of Brewlander, an up-and-coming Singapore craft brewery.
Its chefs will, in due course, be launching a food menu inspired by Asian night markets.
By day, Nude Chill is a speciality coffeehouse and bakery in collaboration with speciality coffee roaster Papa Palheta and Tiong Bahru Bakery.
It will also be launching a lunch burger bar with housemade burgers.
#01-22/23, Marina One, 5 Straits View
Classic American burgers with a Japanese twist is how B Burger, a restaurant by The Benjamin Barker Group, describes itself.
The menu of the 62-seater eatery at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard is one part The Burgers ($6.60 to $11.90) and the other part, The Sides and The Sweets ($3 to $8).
The B Burger is its signature cheeseburger featuring a single or double portion of beef patties with daikon pickles, tomato, lettuce, cheese and a generous dollop of its secret B Sauce.
Bomchika Wow Wow is a buttermilk fried chicken burger with Sriracha honey, wafu slaw and truffle mayo, topped with a fried egg.
With the B Supreme, you get truffle mayo on the beef patty, paired with sauteed mushrooms and vintage cheese.
Other items in the burger section include Curry Cheese Burger, Osaka Corn Dog and Karate, so named for the power, kick and punch it is meant to deliver with its buttermilk fried chicken slathered with Sriracha honey, wafu slaw, daikon pickles and B Sauce.
For Sides and Sweets, choices are Nacho Soup, Curry Cheese Fries, Chicken Wings With Sriracha Mayo, Milkshakes and Concretes – frozen custards in vanilla, chocolate or matcha, blended with Nutella, toasted marshmallows, sprinkles, brownies, crushed Oreos and nata de coco.
#01-01, Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, 8 Grange Road
The Green Oven's
Andaz Singapore hotel has finally opened its doors.
And with that, we now have Alley on 25, a collection of food and beverage outlets (five restaurants, one lounge and one bar) on the same floor as the hotel lobby.
The restaurants are themed according to cooking methods, and the idea is that you can get any sort of cuisine on the menu,
So while Andaz Singapore does not have a Chinese restaurant, Auntie’s Wok & Steam seems to fulfil that role.
The name Plancha’Lah tells you it is a grill restaurant (the “lah” is to localise it) and it serves mostly Japanese-inspired food.
My favourite concept there is the most straightforward. The Green Oven is literally named after a green Beech oven that is the centrepiece of the restaurant. The dishes are served family-style, all cooked inside the oven.
The star is the Half Spring Chicken ($25), with its irresistible combination of fragrant and tender chicken and flavourful sauce. The dish is basic but full of charm.
Another winner is the Braised Lamb Shank ($35).
A lamb-loving friend declared it the best lamb dish he has ever tasted.
Some may not find the calories in the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($35) worth it. This felt like an oil slick. Thankfully, the lobster meat was chunky and sweet.
The Violet Eggplant ($20) was pleasant but forgettable.Order this for that meal companion who always insists on a vegetable dish.
You will have to leave the Green Oven and move to its neighbour Icehaus for one of the best desserts available.
The Andaz Chendol Pop ($10) – created in collaboration with local ice cream popsicle maker Neh Neh Pop – comprises gula melaka coconut ice cream, red bean caramel and pandan white chocolate.
This is too delicious to pass up. It is rich, just sweet enough and utterly mesmerising.
And if eating just one dessert doesn’t do it for you, order the light and airy pandan chiffon cake ($14).
With the restaurants being based on cooking methods, what would have made it better would be if you could order dishes from the different concepts to have a varied feast in one location.
So go with a like-minded eating partner, unless you are happy eating steamed food at one end while your friend is having something cool at the other.
5 Fraser Street, Andaz Singapore
Hospitality brand Montigo Resorts has launched its maiden cafe at The Star Vista in Buona Vista.
The 43-seat Cafe Montigo offers an extensive international menu ranging from local favourites to Western staples.
Notable Western fusion items include Pandan Pancakes ($8) topped with coconut ice cream and gula melaka shavings.
Its menu – designed by Montigo Resorts’ award-winning head chef Ali – also showcases Indonesian cuisine. This includes Ayam Panggang Berempah ($13.50), a grilled spiced chicken dish, and Martabak Manis ($6, above), traditional Indonesian sweet thick pancakes with choices of toppings such as chocolate, cheese, red velvet and pandan.
Also go for handcrafted beverages such as the Elderflower Lychee and Honey Lemon Yuzu summer coolers ($7 each), Cafe Montigo’s signature Avocado Espresso ($9.50), the Salted Caramel Speculoos Shake ($9), as well as the Sea Salt Caramel ($9) and Cocoa 76 Ice Blended ($9.50) drinks.
The cafe also serves all-day breakfast on Sundays.
#01-50, The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green
Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine
The tallest building in Singapore, the 290m Tanjong Pagar Centre, is home to the latest Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine outlet. The 148-seat restaurant has seven private rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 24 people.
Among its signature dishes are Three Kinds of Marinated (meat) Combination in Teochew Style (from $32++); Diced Abalone & Chicken Wrapped with Egg White ($28++ each, above); and Chilled Flower Crab in Teochew Style (seasonal price), a classic Teochew dish using imported flower crabs from the coast of Guangdong, seasoned with black vinegar and ginger, and lightly steamed before being chilled.
Other dishes include Stewed Pomfret Fillet With Salted Vegetables & Tomatoes, Braised Wagyu Veal Cheek With Brown Sauce ($18++), Baked Live Boston Lobster With Dried Fish In gravy ($15++/100g) and Pan-Fried Intestine Stuffed With Glutinous Rice ($16++).
Set menus, from $98++ to $178++ a person, are also available.
#02-01/03-01, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street
Eat to your heart’s content and then burn away all those calories at the 26,000 sq ft Orient Palace – a one-stop destination for dining, spa, wellness therapy and live entertainment at Furama Riverfront hotel.
The restaurant section serves Nanyang-style cuisine and comprises a 180-seat main dining area and five VIP rooms with 10 seats each.
Each dish is cooked to order. For example, the Traditional Charcoal Roasted Crispy Suckling Pig ($258+ for a whole pig, $138+ for half a pig and $68+ for a quarter; one day’s advance order) is charcoal-roasted.
The Braised Whole 24-Head Middle Eastern Dried Abalone With Mushroom And Vegetables ($88) requires dried abalone to be first soaked in water for a day and then braised for at least 48 hours.
The Nanyang Steamed Crab With Chilli Dip ($8.80/100g, above) features whole Sri Lankan mud crabs and deep-fried mantou.
Crab aficionados can also go with the Black Pepper Crab (same price).
Other highlights include the Premium Dragon Rib Bak Kut Teh ($48) and the Giant Grouper Porridge (from $16.80).