Looking for a new place to eat at this month? Here are 10 places worth checking out in Singapore this November.
A small piece of well-marbled Japanese wagyu is wonderful as part of a teppanyaki or shabu shabu meal. And I can understand the need to exercise my jaws to enjoy the robust flavour of grass-fed South American beef.
But if it is a hunky 300g slab of steak I’m hankering for, my choice will certainly be an USDA ribeye – tender and with just the right balance of fat and muscle.
And it seems many diners here agree with me, because yet another American steak restaurant has made its way here – Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, which opened at the new InterContinental hotel in Robertson Quay two weeks ago. It adds to other chains such as Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and Cut that already have Singapore outlets.
There has been some confusion that the Wolfgang behind the restaurant is Wolfgang Puck, who is behind Cut in Marina Bay Sands. But it is actually Mr Wolfgang Zwiener, who started his chain of restaurants in New York with his son Peter and other partners more than 13 years ago.
Unlike Cut, which offers premium beef from various parts of the world, Wolfgang’s focuses on USDA Prime beef. It also distinguishes itself from the competition by dry-ageing the beef for 28 days – a process that allows enzymes in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, resulting in more tender and flavourful beef.
The New York Sirloin ($99) comes on a sizzling plate, which is good if your group consists of people who like their beef cooked to different levels of doneness.
Those who like it rare can help themselves first, while the others who prefer it well-done can let it sizzle longer on the plate.
The Rib Eye Steak ($118) comes on a regular plate and, with a typical lump of fat embedded in the meat, is more juicy and tasty than the sirloin. Compared with steaks in other restaurants, the meat here also has a deeper, more complex flavour because of the dry-ageing.
The menu does not indicate the weight of the steaks, but both cuts – which come with bone in – are huge and could easily weigh more than 400g each.
That is a lot of meat, so do not feel shy about doggy-bagging what you cannot finish. That way, you can check out the menu’s other offerings too.
#02-01, Intercontinental Singapore, Robertson Quay, 1 Nanson Road
Text: Wong Ah Yoke/The Straits Times
Blackwattle – the latest under restaurateur Loh Lik Peng’s Unlisted Collection group and which opened in Amoy Street about two weeks ago – is one restaurant that does it well.
Australian chef and co-owner Clayton Wells, who also co-owns Automata in Sydney with Mr Loh’s company, brings his brand of Australian cuisine here.
Often, odd combinations of ingredients and flavours take centre stage. The results may not appeal at first bite, but judging from my dinner last week, they often grow on you.
Blackwattle offers a five-course dinner at $115 a person, as well as a la carte choices.
The dishes in the set – most of which are not found on the a la carte menu and change according to what is in season – look more appealing to me, so that is what I go for. Besides, with meat main dishes on the a la carte menu going for about $50, the set offers much better value too. But the restaurant is still tweaking the menus and moving dishes around.
At my dinner, each course brings a pleasant surprise, except for one.
That would be the first course, described as “king crab, braised pumpkin seeds, egg yolk, white pepper broth”. While the king crab is delicately sweet, the bitterness of the pumpkin seeds undermines it, so I can’t figure out the pairing. The mildly spiced broth is a neutral element that attempts to bind the other ingredients together, but is not altogether successful.
The other dishes, however, either make a favourable impression immediately or slowly win me over.
The dish that gets my unhesitating vote is “grilled octopus, fennel and ink, XO and red vinegar”. I have been starting to find the ubiquitous grilled octopus a cliche, but chef Wells presents it with a flavour profile that makes it fresh again for me.
The octopus from Fremantle in Australia is tender and smoky from the grill. It is the sauce, however, that makes the dish.
The moreish squid ink gets an edgy tinge of acidity from the vinegar and, together with the hint of spice from XO chilli, acquires a unique flavour profile that I fall in love with the moment it hits my palate. And for some strange reason, when it settles, I get a hint of orange, even though the fruit is not part of the listed ingredients.
But I may have missed it in the server’s introduction to the dish because the restaurant is so noisy, I can’t hear half of what he says.
The sauce for the next dish, “steamed greenbone, roasted lettuce, green sauce, lardo and herbs”, is another inspired creation. It is a blend of herbs and vegetables, with a touch of tartness from capers. It doesn’t look very appealing, but goes really well with the greenbone, a smooth-fleshed white fish found around New Zealand.
The main course of “grilled beef tri-tip, burnt carrot, wood ear mushroom, tamari sauce” is the most conventional, even with the tamari sauce, a soya-based product more often used in Japanese cooking. The wood ear mushrooms are a nice touch though, their crunchy texture relieving the monotony of the tender and reasonably flavourful beef.
The dessert – “yogurt sorbet, shiso, oxalis, black grapes, roasted kelp oil” – sounds more exotic than it tastes.
It is much like the yogurt I eat for breakfast, with honey drizzled over it, except when you bite into a spicy shiso leaf. There is yuzu in the mix too, to make things a little more exciting, but if you hate yogurt, that is not going to help. I love it.
97 Amoy Street
Text: Wong Ah Yoke/The Straits Times
After watching Jon Favreau’s movie Chef (2014), you are going to want to eat a Cubano sandwich. That was what happened to me.
You can get a halal version in the heart of Singapore, one that is made with pulled beef brisket instead of the usual roast pork and ham.
Head to El Cubanos at the old Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) building in Short Street.
The tiny restaurant is a Little Cuba in Singapore, complete with a large Cuban flag mural and vibrant, framed images of the island showing the bustling city centre, among other scenes.
My dining companions and I order the signature pulled beef brisket Cubano ($8.80), one with mushrooms added for an extra $1.50, and a ribeye cheesesteak Cubano ($9.90).
Ours is the first order of the day, so perhaps the sandwich press is not fired up yet, but the food takes more than 30 minutes to arrive.
The Cubanos look legitimate enough, with panini press char marks on the crusty bread and the sandwiches sliced diagonally.
But while I am expecting tender, juicy meat, the pulled beef in the signature Cubano, unfortunately, is dry and chewy. The version with fried mushrooms fares much better, with the fungi adding much-needed moisture to the mix. I am also missing the vinegary hit from the dill pickles and oozy Swiss cheese that typically come in Cubanos.
However, the Philly cheesesteak version of the sandwich, with its melted nacho cheese and chilli hit from jalapeno peppers, is a winner. The meat, cooked with onions and bell peppers, is moreish and delicious.
The side of Cajun fries that comes with all the sandwiches is a rather sparse serving. The fries are crisp but dry, like they were fried in an air-fryer instead of a deep-fryer.
But that does not stop the crowd of mostly students and staff from the nearby Nafa and Kaplan campuses from thronging the place at lunchtime. It is full by 12.30pm on a Monday.
The establishment has been around since October 2015, having relocated from Jalan Kayu in June this year.
Since moving, the menu has expanded to include new items such as pasta and pizza (both from $10.90). There is also a thoughtful vegetarian Cubano filled with mushrooms for $8.50.
But perhaps the restaurant should focus on perfecting its Cubanos instead of adding too many dishes. Either way, I would much rather have a Cubano than a burger from a fast-food joint any day.
#01-01, 1A Short Street
Text: Anjali Raguman/The Straits Times
The Club Street area gets a dose of Spanish gastronomy with the opening of La Pepa, a tapas restaurant and bar, in Gemmill Lane.
Inspired by the traditions of family friends based in Alicante, Spain, the 44-seat restaurant-bar focuses on bites suitable for any group size. Diners can order individual portions or get sharing platters of paella for up to four people.
Start with a light dish such as Ensalada Pepa ($22++), a garden salad with heirloom tomatoes, manchego cheese, fresh mandarins and Spanish Marcona almonds.
The Roast Baby Chicken ($22++) is steamed, then roasted, accompanied by a special mojo sauce from the Canary Islands comprising Palmera peppers, garlic, paprika and spices.
The restaurant also serves Spanish staples such as paella. The Squid Ink version ($28++ to $38++, above) comes with tiger prawns and mussels from Chile, while the meat paella ($26++ to $34++) contains chorizo, bone-in pork ribs and judiones, a kind of bean.
Besides Spanish beer, cider, wine and digestifs, the buzzy bar also stirs up white or red Seasonal Sangrias ($14++ a glass, $60++ a pitcher).
La Pepa is also home to a mercado – a Spanish-style gourmet grocer – where guests can buy ready-to-eat products and drinks to replicate the restaurant’s offerings.
10 Gemmill Lane
Text: Ronald Kow/The Straits Times
Seoul Yummy, owned by Singaporean Frank Lau and his Korean-born wife Laura Kim, has just opened a new outlet at the redeveloped SingPost Centre, next to Paya Lebar MRT station – with a large-scale menu revamp of 30 new dishes, updated interiors and a new logo.
Fans of all things Korean will appreciate the fun pop art-style pictures depicting popular artists and the dish names inspired by K-drama shows and bands.
For a start, Spam Rice Balls ($7.90++) get a makeover with a choice of white or brown rice mixed with seaweed flakes and tobiko before it is crowned with crisp-fried luncheon meat. A kimchi and tuna version is also available.
The Mini Budae Jjigae comes in a gilded ramyun pot with variations such as My Love from the Pork Ribs ($25.90++), Descendants of the Beef Ribs ($39.90++) and The Return of Wagyu ($22.90++).
Hyeong Cheese Pot ($69.90++, above) is a bubbling pot featuring two tender hunks of soya garlic or sweet and spicy sauce-marinated barbecued beef ribs in a pool of mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
Other new dishes include the Oppa Cheese Pot (from $42.90++) which consists of a full rack of soya garlic or sweet and spicy pork ribs, and So Galbi Kimchi Jjigae ($36.90++), spicy kimchi soup with slow-cooked beef ribs.
Specially for the littles one are Omma’s Car (stir fried udon) and Appa’s Car (egg fried rice with spam). Each of these costs $9.90++.
Other Seoul Yummy outlets will have the new menu and also adopt selected design features of the revamp.
#01-139, SingPost Centre, 10 Eunos Road 8
Text: Ronald Kow/The Straits Times
Pince & Pints Restaurant and Bar has just opened its second outlet in Singapore, bringing to Katong its signature lobster dishes.
The 60-seat Pince & Pints Restaurant and Bar Katong marks its opening with two additions to its menu.
The lobster burger ($42++) has the lobster meat seasoned with various spices, breaded, then deep fried and enveloped in a potato bun. This hearty burger is accompanied with sweet potato fries, coleslaw and three different house-made dipping sauces.
Lobster noodles ($58++) comprises shell-on whole lobster with egg noodles stir-fried with ginger and scallions.
Owner Frederick Yap established the first Pince & Pints in Duxton Road in 2014 and has since taken the home-grown seafood brand overseas to Kuala Lumpur.
Pince & Pints serves wild caught lobsters air-flown direct weekly from the Atlantic Coast.
At the new outlet, customers can continue to enjoy Pince & Pints’ menu comprising the Lobster Roll ($58++) stuffed with chunks of sweet lobster; and the Live Whole Lobster ($58++), grilled (above) or steamed, accompanied with butter sauce, chef’s salad and fries.
Other dishes include lobster thermidor ($68++), lobster mac and cheese pasta ($29++), lobster chowder ($38++) and non-lobster items such as fried calamari ($12++) and garlic butter mussels ($18++).
95 East Coast Road
Text: Ronald Kow/The Straits Times
Night owls will be pleased to find seafood congee dishes and noodle soups in the wee hours at Long Jiang Classic Noodle & Congee House in Clarke Quay, which is open till 4am.
Spanning more than 2,530 sq ft, the 116-seat restaurant is headed and co-founded by chef Francis Chong, president of the Society of Chinese Cuisine Chefs (Singapore) and gold medallist in the individual and team categories at The World Golden Chef Competition 2010. He has also won awards in Hong Kong and Taiwan, among other places.
The restaurant boasts dishes of fine-dining standards, including fresh seafood specialities such as Braised Cheesy Lobster Bee Hoon, Lobster with Conpoy Porridge (right, both $98++ a pot, for three to four people) and Signature Ocean Treasures Porridge ($48++ a pot, for three to four people).
For vegetarians, there is the Cereal & Multigrain Porridge ($10.80++ individual, $20++ a pot for three to four people), a colourful medley of diced pumpkin, purple potato, black eyed peas, peanuts and vegetables on a bed of creamy congee.
#01-16, The Foundry, Clarke Quay, 3B River Valley Road
Text: Ronald Kow/The Straits Times
Ramen Nagi is being brought to Singapore by Mr Engelbert Farillas, director of Ramen Nagi Singapore. His family has run the Ramen Nagi franchise in the Philippines since 2013.
In Singapore, the menu features the brand’s four “king” signature tonkotsu-based flavours: traditional Butao King (tonkotsu pork broth, $13.90); Spicy Red King (blend of garlic, chilli oil and cayenne, $15.90); Black King (blackened garlic and squid ink, $15.90); and Green King (basil and olive oil in tonkotsu broth topped with grated parmesan, $15.90).
Diners can customise their bowl by selecting the richness of the broth, the amount of garlic, the texture of the ramen and whether they want pork shoulder or pork belly chashu. Each bowl comes with a dollop of housemade “fire sauce” – made with a blend of chillies, shoyu and sake – and diners can pick from spice level one to 10.
However, Nagi in Singapore will not offer its popular niboshi ramen, which is served in broth made with more than 20 types of dried sardines. That version of the noodles is not available outside of Japan, says chef Ikuta, because it is difficult to replicate the stock.
After getting a sense of the local palate, he will also customise a “Limited King” ramen for Singapore.
The creative chef does the same for his various overseas shops. For example, outlets in the Philippines offer a limited-edition tom yam ramen as well as oyster ramen.
Ramen Nagi, which was started in 2006, has 22 outlets in Japan and 28 overseas franchise branches.
There are plans to open four more outlets in Singapore within the next year.
Over the years, Ikuta has also become known for featuring ramen with exotic flavours and ingredients. He has used whale and bear meat, along with dried lizard. Other interesting flavours include clam chowder and Japanese tea.
A recent one-day offer was for “insect tsukemen”, which was topped with deep-fried worms and crickets, and dipped into soups flavoured with crickets, grasshoppers or silkworm powder.
He has also embraced technology – with a “flying ramen” concept called Omiya Soratobu Ramen – where the ramen is ordered on an iPad and served on a conveyor belt. This new system will debut next month in Fukuoka.
But Ikuta loves more than ramen – he is fond of Singapore’s bak chor mee too. He says: “I find every country’s noodle culture very interesting. My ramen is a universal noodle. It is sexy ramen.”
#01-512/513, North Wing, Suntec City Tower 2
Text: Eunice Quek/The Straits Times
It’s Cake Time isn’t a restaurant but a new launch that nine bakeries in Singapore are collaborating on.
Part of Anchor Food Professional’s campaign, nine bakeries, including Swiss Bake, Rive Gauche and Swee Heng, have created nine cakes inspired by tea.
The campaign runs from now till December 31 2017. Each six-inch cake is priced between $30-$40.
For more information, visit Anchor Food Professional’s Facebook page.