01, 02 A JAPANESE TURN
Premium ingredients take pride of place at modern Italian restaurant Terra.
03 OLD SCHOOL
The Frenchie Wine Bar sticks to traditional, well-liked tipples.
CEO, GOLDBELL FINANCIAL SERVICES
As the CEO of a business with operations in Singapore and Malaysia, Alex Chua travels frequently for work. To make his trips more enjoyable, he tries to squeeze in a good meal or two, though, in his personal time, he will travel anywhere for good food. He observes that in Singapore, diners are trenddriven. “Restaurants open to much fanfare but close a year later once the fad dies. Chefs have to constantly innovate to bring back customers.” Service, too, is an issue because a waiter’s job is never considered a career but a pit stop before a “real job”. He says: “We get no training and no commitment and motivation in service, which makes the dining scene in Singapore pale in comparison to the best gourmet cities in the world.”
IN SINGAPORE, BEST SPOT FOR:
French food (to celebrate a special occasion, or a business meal) Nicolas Le Restaurant in Teck Lim Road. Chef Nicolas Joanny is a wizard in the kitchen and, interestingly, I have never had to peruse the menu. He always decides what to serve me.
Terra in Tras Street. Chef Seita Nakahara serves a mean Japanese-inﬂuenced Italian degustation course that will leave you hungry for more. His use of the best Japanese ingredients makes this one of my favourite places to go to, for modern Italian food.
Although it has recently closed, my all-time fave is still Wild Rocket by Willin Low. He did not have official training in the culinary arts, but he is a master at understanding the nuances of local ﬂavours. He enhances them with top-notch ingredients to recreate dishes that wow. I hear he is snowboarding every morning to get to work at his new restaurant, Roketto, in Niseko.
The Frenchie Wine Bar in Teck Lim Road. Owner and sommelier Michael is a colourful character who will never turn down a drink with you. It serves an amazing selection of quality wines, none of those organic, super oxidised tipples by newer wine bars. Did I mention it serves very good French fare, too?
01 FARMHOUSE DINING
Etxebarri is worth a stop in the Basque countryside.
02, 03 TASTE BY FIRE
All food at the restaurant is cooked over a grill, even dessert.
DIRECTOR, PARALLAX CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
Kevin Cheng’s passion for food and beverage extends beyond his work with hotel investments. The passionate gourmet who moved here from Hong Kong 16 years ago has stakes in restaurants and bars, as well as wine businesses, in Singapore, Hong Kong and most recently Japan. “I travel to my favourite restaurants in Copenhagen, Spain and Japan several times a year and am always keen to ﬁ nd new and interesting places to eat at – whether it is having a hearty home-style meal at a farmhouse in the countryside, or a ﬁne-dining establishment that lives up to its reputation.” In Singapore, there are outstanding restaurants that cut across all cuisines, which one can reliably go back to, time and time again, he says, but it is a difficult business. “The labour costs and economics make it difficult for chefs and restaurants to really shine. So many restaurants don’t make it, even when they’ve the potential to do so.”
IN SINGAPORE, BEST SPOT FOR:
Jaan or Les Amis. Consistent food and service, and the ambience is just right for business lunches.
For shorter lunches, the sushi set at Shinji is fantastic. Otherwise, I like my dim sum (as I’m from Hong Kong), so Jade Palace or Imperial Treasure Teochew at Ion Orchard are my usual places. Quick and delicious.
The Knolls at Capella for Sunday brunch. It’s not your typical brunch as there’s a Mediterranean touch to the fare, but the food is really good. It’s a little out of the way on Sentosa, so you feel like you are having a relaxing meal away from the bustle. Afterwards, a walk around on the Capella grounds helps to ensure that you get a bit of exercise after stuffing your face.
Manhattan at Regent Singapore. The drinks are consistently good. The menu changes from time to time, so you often get to try new inventions. The bites that go with the drinks are great. Best of all, the vibe is perfect. No other cocktail bar really gets it right.
Iggy’s, because the food and wine list are fantastic. It has private rooms that are great for groups of four to six. If you prefer to sit in the main dining hall, the view of the kitchen is a bonus. Another spot is Corner House, because of its nice setting in Botanic Gardens. Or Jaan for its views of the city, precise execution of food and great service.
A friend’s recommendation a couple of years ago, Sungei Road Laksa hits the spot. Make sure you order three bowls, as you won’t want to queue again. One bowl is deﬁnitely not enough.
Japanese – Omakase
Shinji. One of the best sushi-yas anywhere. Beats most of the top establishments I’ve visited, even in Tokyo.
Japanese – Ramen
I love duck, so Ginza Kamo Soba Kyudaime Keisuke in Holland Village – it’s a little different from the norm and the soup has this nice the norm and the soup has this nice intensity, combined with a bit of kick, which is really comforting. And I’ve been going to Sapporo Ramen Miharu at Millenia Walk for years. I don’t normally like miso-based ramen but, for some reason, the one here really satisﬁes every time.
Japanese – Izakaya
There are a few decent spots in the Cuppage area, but Kazu is one that my friends and I have gone back to over the years, even after it was renovated. Good mix of fresh ingredients, yakitori and seasonal dishes.
Spanish – Tapas
Binomio at Craig Place. About as good as any eatery you will ﬁnd anywhere outside of Spain.
Chinese – Dim Sum
Jade Palace at Forum mall or Lei Garden at Chijmes. Both of them remind me a lot of Hong Kong.
Chinese – Zi Char
Long Ji in Outram or Keng Eng Kee Seafood in Bukit Merah. No frills, not the healthiest (but that’s how zi char places should be), and just really tasty (also how all zi char food should be).
I dined there a couple of years ago, and I’ve been back four or ﬁve times since. Each time, I am blown away by how perfect every dish is. How relentlessly precise the service is too, but still friendly and comforting. The staff remember my preferences from my previous visits and some of the signature dishes just take cuisine to the ultimate level. Wine list is also pretty unbeatable.
I ﬁrst visited this restaurant about seven years ago. The simplicity of just grilling everything to highlight the true essence of the top ingredients just blew me away. It’s simple, unpretentious, yet the taste of every dish is just so good. It’s also situated in an old farmhouse in the middle of the Basque countryside, so the view is almost magical.
THE HARDEST RESTAURANT TO GET INTO AND WHETHER IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT:
I’m still not sure how to get a reservation here, as I am lucky enough to have friends who are able to do so and invite me along. The chefs really do a great job of showing different interpretations of food. Also showcased are the top ingredients from various regions around Japan, and it was deﬁnitely worth the wait when I was able to eat there for the ﬁrst time.
CHEF TO WATCH:
Michihiro Haruta at Crony, Tokyo. One of the best chefs on my list right now. Dishes are so so simple-looking, but so, so tasty. The various inﬂuences he gained from working at some of the top restaurants in the world are really reﬂected here.
MOST UNFORGETTABLE MEAL:
Tough call between my ﬁrst time at Geranium and Sushi Sawada in Tokyo.
AWE-INSPIRING IN COPENHAGEN
Geranium rolls out stellar cuisine and service.
01 LOW, POST WILD ROCKET
Chef Willin Low has opened his second Relish, located at Frasers Tower.
02 SOMETHING FAMILIAR
Relish offers Low’s signature dishes.
03 THE OTHER ROOM
The bar at Marriott Tang Plaza has an enticing vibe.
04 BLACK ANGUS ZI CHAR
New Ubin Seafood puts a Western spin on zi char dishes.
STEFANIE YUEN THIO
JOINT MANAGING PARTNER AND HEAD OF CORPORATE, TSMP LAW CORPORATION
For Stefanie Yuen Thio, who’s at the top of her game in comanaging TSMP Law Corporation while serving on the board at various listed companies, dining is both a passion and a professional hazard, as she meets clients over meals daily. While she acknowledges the growing sophistication of the dining scene here – “I challenge anyone to name another country in which you can get such a wide range of cuisines at consistently high quality” – she has grown nostalgic for the comfort food of her youth. “While an innovative entrant to the scene may have interesting creations, it doesn’t usually leave a taste that evokes a childhood memory, and I’m unlikely to go back.”But a recent trip to Croatia blew her away. “They combine the best fresh catch from the Adriatic with Italian cooking styles. Like Anthony Bourdain said, ‘If you’ve not been to Croatia, you’re an idiot!’”
IN SINGAPORE, BEST SPOT FOR:
Courtyard at The Fullerton Hotel; it serves a simple Japanese buffet lunch. It’s a beautiful venue, and provides a great deal of privacy to kick the tyres on a new deal.
Power Lunch (1.5 hour or less)
Willin Low’s new Relish at Frasers Tower. The menu encompasses all of Low’s signature dishes and the food is always a hit.
Dim sum at Paradise Teochew in Scott’s Square. Or, if I’m with my three labradors, we terrorise sunseekers and toddlers at Tanjong Beach Club.
I love the vibe at The Other Room at Marriott Tang Plaza.
Shinji by Kanesaka at St Regis, or Yoshi Restaurant at the Forum mall.
New Ubin Seafood.
For bak chor mee, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Crawford Lane. For chicken rice, Ah Tai Chicken Rice at Maxwell Hawker Centre.
Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn
I love this throwback. It’s in an atmospheric part of Brooklyn nestled under a bridge connected to Manhattan. The waiters appear to have been transplanted from a time long past, with their baggy white shirts, braces and bow ties, and thick “New Yawk” accents. If you look past the squealing Japanese tourist Instagrammers, you will see men in rat pack period suits and fedoras, cutting into deep fried bacon, at their usual corner table. It’s almost like you’ve stepped into the gangster era.
The Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
One section of this palace is still used as the private residence for the royal family. The restaurant is situated on a marble-tiled verandah overlooking beautifully laid out gardens. The food is exemplary – when I bit into ﬂaky pastry dipped in a mint and yogurt sauce, it was like I was tasting Indian spices and textures for the ﬁrst time. But the service was even more standout. The waitstaf are knowledgeable and accommodating, sending for dishes from a separate restaurant when I expressed a desire to try them. The comfort of diners is such a priority that there are two dedicated porters standing to attention, holding 7 ft long poles with ﬂags at the end, to chase away pigeons who ﬂy too close to the food.
Restaurant El Passadis del Pep, Barcelona
Hard to ﬁnd. I literally had to do a Google image search for “main entrance of Restaurant El Passadis del Pep”, then walk around buildings holding my smartphone up to ﬁnd the matching doorway. (Thank goodness for Japanese oversharing tourists.) The food was divine. Freshest seafood. We sat down and told them to bring us the best dishes of the day. Some – like the clams in aglio olio – were so good we asked them to do an encore. I don’t remember all the dishes, just the post-cuisinal bliss.
CHEF TO WATCH:
Shigeru Koizumi from Esora.
01 SEA CUCUMBER AND ABALONE
Restaurant Huat Kee serves Teochew cuisine that can be paired with wines from its cellar.
02 DESTINATION FOR A DELICACY
28@Wilkie offers up to five grades of caviar.
GROUP CEO, APOLLO AQUACULTURE GROUP
Eric Ng is in the business of producing seafood via vertical farms in Singapore, but his palate is wide-ranging. “I enjoy exploring places for good food,” he says. “It is always a pleasure to meet up with restaurateurs to understand how they create their menu.” For him, eating is no mere satiation of appetite. “I have forged many valuable friendships over the years from my dining experiences.”
IN SINGAPORE, BEST SPOT FOR:
Contemporary Italian restaurant 28@Wilkie is an undiscovered gem in the Orchard Road area that serves outstanding caviar. It serves up to ﬁve grades – Amur caviar, Kaluga hybrid, Russian hybrid, Russian caviar and Kaluga caviar – under the label Caviar Colony. The lounge can ﬁt up to 20 guests, which is perfect for cocktails. The restaurant can seat up to 60, and there are two large function rooms for greater privacy. My favourite dish from chef Kenny Huang is the cold somen pasta topped with Hokkaido scallops, uni, and house caviar. When I crave meat, I go for the Hokkaido A4 Wagyu, served with truffl e and delicious with a barolo from Italy.
Chinese – Teochew
Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee opened in 1969 and is one of the pioneer restaurants in Singapore that specialises in Teochew cuisine. As a Teochew, I love Huat Kee’s cold crabs, steamed ﬁsh and, of course, its premium abalone. Not forgetting tradition, Huat Kee also serves jellied pork trotter, liver roll, crispy fried ﬂat noodles with radish and spinach, and desserts such as orh-nee (yam paste with ginkgo nuts and pumpkin). The restaurant also has a wine cellar, making it a place for a sumptuous meal with friends and family.
Chinese – Healthy Fare
Big & Small Restaurant (formally known as Jim Garden) was founded in 1988 in China by Zhao Zhongli, the former senior nutritionist of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, and a branch opened in Singapore two years ago. The dishes have no MSG or additives, and only natural ingredients are used. The meat and seafood are certiﬁed by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore for being hormone-free. I like the chicken ﬁllet with salted ﬁsh and yellow chives, and sauted wild red mushroom, which I understand they bring in themselves. I have brought many friends and overseas clients here – all were impressed by the dishes.
01, 02 INNOVATIVE CUISINE
Chef Ivan Brehm of Nouri pushes culinary boundaries with his use of local produce.
03 CHECKS ALL THE BOXES
Binomio combines delicious food and wines with personalised service in a cosy setting.
CO-FOUNDER, EQUIDIUS SERVICES
The opportunity to pair his wines with food is what motivates this healthcare-sector strategist and self-confessed creature of habit to explore new places to eat. In that, Paul Ling is helped by the ready ﬂow of information this day and age. He says: “Foodies are able to compare and contrast their dining experiences, while being introduced to a cornucopia of culinary delights, and chefs are able to look beyond their markets to improve, as well as challenge their peers at a whole new level.”
IN SINGAPORE, BEST SPOT FOR:
Binomio in Craig Road is a good reﬂection of Spanish fare from Rioja. Its wines are simple, wide-ranging and delicious. The waitstaff are always friendly and on hand. They remember what I like and pair my wines well with the dishes, especially its classic cuttleﬁsh, steaks as well as ﬁdeua and paella. The seating is comfortable and well-spaced, along with having warm lighting for cosy conversation.
Japanese – Izakaya
Shinjuku. Good place to gather with friends. The number of Japanese expatriates eating here is a good reﬂection of how good the service, and food and beverage are.
Japanese – Ramen
No-frills Chiyume in Koek Road has satisﬁed many a late-night ramen craving for me. The broth is richly seasoned, and the noodles are served to perfection with the right texture and ﬁrmness. Die-hard ramen lovers should try the claypot version.
Japanese – Sushi
Monzushi, tucked away in Tanjong Pagar, is a recent discovery. Helmed by a third generation chef, this Edo-styled sushi restaurant serves wonderful ingredients from Japan.
Nouri in Amoy Street is helmed by former Bacchanalia chef Ivan Brehm, whom I have followed over the years. His use of local produce and perpetual push of culinary boundaries are admirable.
A three-star Michelin restaurant in a quiet neighbourhood in MotoAzabu. The dishes are beautifully presented. The counter seating is cosy and you can engage with the English-speaking staff.