Now into its 9th year, the annual G Restaurant Awards continues to celebrate the vibrancy of Singapore’s culinary landscape by recognising stellar dining experiences delivered by top restaurants in Singapore.
Over the last 12 months, Singapore’s dining landscape has continued to evolve and welcome new restaurants, despite challenges faced particularly in the service sector. The establishments have upped their game, and injected much creativity into their concepts and edible masterpieces. Several world-renowned chefs have even invested their time and expertise in our tiny city.
Meanwhile, stalwarts like Gunther’s, Li Bai, Rang Mahal and Hua Ting are not resting on their laurels. Having spruced up their interiors or updated their menus, they continue to impress with consistent offerings.
New places such as Ishi and Nouri charm with their fine creations woven with exclusive ingredients. Adding even more buzz to the scene is a bevy of independent outfits that offer casual chic dining experiences.
After months of tastings done incognito, our panel of experienced food writers and editors, together with an external jury comprising ambassadors, business leaders and wine experts, has carefully selected 48 noteworthy restaurants. In the following pages, we present to you this year’s Awards of Excellence winners.
Restaurant of the Year
Odette is an ode to a grandmother’s legacy of delivering joy and excitement through food. With this theme in mind, chef Julien Royer and his team turn commonplace and exotic ingredients into a multi-dimensional experience. He said it plainly when he told The Peak: “I’d rather put the action first and let it tell the story.” At Odette, the “action” is in the details – heavy, glass-panelled doors shield the calm, cream-, pink- and grey-toned space; to the left of the entrance, an almost-subtle oak, polyfoam, brass and paper aerial installation by local artist (and Odette’s creative director) Dawn Ng. On the table, vessels like the specially crafted wooden box to showcase the Brittany pigeon in smoked hay, made by Greg Swyny of The General Co, and selected pastel-coloured ceramics show the deliberate effort that goes into supporting artists, local where possible.
Like the art gallery it is housed in, this contemporary French restaurant has a story-telling style that is more visual and textural than narrative, qualities which ring even clearer on the plates: bright green watercress and parsley butter; a Breton-like scallop “mille-feuille” (scallops stuffed horizontally with black truffles), handpicked from Normandy; sea urchin, langoustine tartare and mussel foam in a delicate urchin-shaped glass vessel; and the asymmetry of the arresting reds, yellows and pinks of the signature salt-baked heirloom beet variation on a plain, white plate. Sight outmanoeuvres smell and taste.
It isn’t until the “messenger pigeon” is served that we hear from the chef himself: “I have been working on this dish for many years and I am delighted to share it with you,” he conveys, via a note tied to the pigeon drumstick, as if to take a bow before his finale.
The best shows invite their audience to be a part of their story. Royer’s team waltze us into this seamlessly, especially as Royer himself is away, tending to a festival. Like adept art gallerists, the waitstaff approach, introduce a course or component, and swiftly but not hurriedly take leave for us to make our own interpretations. When we need them, they are simply a hover away. And, when engaged, they can easily convince you to invest in an entire bottle of dessert wine, to have with the entire selection of the cheese trolley. At the end of the meal, they make sure you get a bottle of Odette’s versatile juniper berry jam.
There is plenty going on in and with Odette, yet the experience isn’t overwhelming. Instead, it beckons you to come back for more, to participate again, in different ways. Isn’t that what every (gallery) restaurant aspires to offer?
(facing page) Hand-dived scallop livened up with dill and horseradish; Odette’s elegant setting with a creative aerial installation by artist Dawn Ng.
(this page) Seared foie gras with Japanese abalone, smoked eel dashi, and a touch of yuzu; kegani hairy crab with green apple and celery sorbet, green apple jelly, diced nashi pear, and kaffir lime oil.
TEXT CELINE ASRIL PHOTOGRAPHY ZAPHS ZHANG ART DIRECTION DENISE REI LOW
Award of Excellence
29 Scotts Road, S(228224). T 6733-0209
Housed in an extension of a charming black-and-white colonial bungalow along Scotts Road, Buona Terra offers an elegant and quiet space, ideal for business lunches or dinner celebrations.
While perusing the menu, we hope to see newer creations, as some of the dishes have been around for some time. We however don’t fault the kitchen team in producing dishes with finesse and consistency. Chef Denis Lucchi, who hails from Northern Italy, combines classic techniques with modern plating and luxe ingredients.
The lunch and dinner menus include the “create your own menu” options (from three to five courses) and degustation menus (five for lunch and six for dinner).
Our dishes are injected with fine ingredients, many from Japan, starting from the amuse bouche of cured ocean trout sharpened with some feta and salmon roe, to the starter of smooth cauliflower panna cotta crowned with sweet slivers of Hokkaido sea urchin and Italian caviar.
The chef’s superb version of carbonara pasta is loaded with richlyflavoured cured Japanese organic egg and chunks of fragrant bacon. The al dente pasta is further heightened with shavings of Perigord truffle . Equally satisfying is the supple, slurp-worthy squid ink tonnarelli brimming with Alaskan king crab.
The main course of Iberico pork is beautifully plated with a solo scallop and partnered with dollops of pumpkin puree and apple. Though the meat can be juicier, the sprinkling of pork crumble and accompanying rich port wine sauce elevates the dish. Our herb-crusted lamb loin fares better in its succulence; the meat is Award of Excellence served with jerusalem artichoke, and artichoke chips and puree.
Finally, desserts come in the form of classic homemade tiramisu or the more inventive Sigaro Esotico – the cigar-shaped cocoa wafer is filled with white chocolate passion fruit mousse and mango sauce, and rested on a scattering of coconut “ash”.
To complete your meal, request for the experienced waitstaff to recommend a bottle from the Italian-centric wine list, which comprises excellent Super Tuscans and Barolos.
TEXT AMY VAN
(below) Feast on modern Italian creations such as this cured Petuna Ocean Trout with torched orange, ricotta cheese and capers.
(bottom) Buona Terra’s elegant dining room is perfect for a quiet meal.
Award of Excellence
17A Dempsey Road, S(249676). T 1800-304-2288
Singapore chef Malcolm Lee might be only 33, but his Peranakan restaurant Candlenut is already eight years old. Considering the rate at which restaurants come and go in Singapore’s fickle dining scene, Candlenut’s eight-year reign is no mean feat – especially as it’s crowned with a Michelin star.
While other Peranakan restaurants doggedly adhere to timehonoured recipes, Lee isn’t afraid to take the occasional departure from tradition. Buah keluak appears thrice on his a la carte menu: first in its classic role as a rich curry base for ayam buah keluak; then as an earthy hit of umami in rice that is fried until it’s gloriously imbued with wok hei; and most unexpectedly, a buah keluak ice cream with Valrhona chocolate and a hint of chilli. It’s a combination that works and successfully teases out the nutty cocoa notes of the versatile nut.
The food is also a reflection of Lee’s deft use of ingredients from the South-east Asian pantry. Our wing bean salad is a refreshing crunch of red radish, prawns, cashews, lemongrass and crisp anchovies, all tossed in a zesty calamansi lime dressing. The sweet flesh of perfectly grilled king tiger prawns is complemented by a coconut sauce that is given extra depth with the addition of caramel-edged gula melaka.
Given the small portion sizes, couples dining here can comfortably share four to five dishes. But larger groups will find the bill adding up quickly.
As this restaurant is under The Como Group, it isn’t surprising that little touches reflect the group’s wellness DNA. Home-brewed teas like lemongrass and ginger are served with sugar syrup on the side. White rice can also be swopped for brown.
When our server arrives with our order for two different glasses of white wine, she asks: “Who’s having the premium white and the normal white?” For a Michelin-starred establishment, the service needs to keep pace with Lee’s hard-wrought fight for his well-deserved star.
TEXT DENISE KOK
(above) Candlenut’s tasting menu of grilled fish, grilled tiger prawns with coconut sauce, chap chye, and other boldly flavoured dishes.
(right) The light filled space at Dempsey has a dramatic cascade of hanging lights.
Award of Excellence
Capella Singapore, Sentosa Island, S(098297). T 6591-5045
It seems like a far trek over to Capella at Sentosa, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you have time to spare on weekends. If you want to get away from crowded city restaurants, Cassia is a great option. Housed in a colonial heritage building surrounded by lush greenery, the plush restaurant serves Cantonese cuisine consistently executed with finesse.
Dim sum here is sublime. Fine quality ingredients are used in the steamed bites. The char siew pau is one of the best we’ve had; encased in the fluffy white bun is sweet-savoury barbecued US kurobuta pork scented with black truffle. The soft morsels of fried carrot cake are spiked with an addictive spicy-savoury XO sauce, and elevated with the addition of whole prawns and scallops. We easily polish off the delicate crystal dumplings whose translucent skin is wrapped around fresh mushrooms, vegetables and black truffle Dining in a Cantonese restaurant is not complete without the quintessential Hong Kong-style barbecued meats platter. Cassia’s team has upped its game with premium ingredients such as five-spice roasted Yorkshire pork belly, honey-glazed barbecued Iberico pork char siew, and roasted duck with the crispiest skin. Though the char siew may not be fatty enough for some, the pork belly and roast duck are exemplary.
Moving on to mains, the signature wok-fried Australian wagyu beef cubes with black pepper sauce are superbly tender and balanced in flavour. We can’t decide on which carbs to order, so the friendly waiter recommends two types of noodles for us to share: fish paste noodles with springy texture partnering pan-fried Japanese scallops and a deeply flavoured sauce, and stewed ee-fu noodles in superior stock crowned with succulent lobster meat. Both are excellent.
If you’re in no hurry to head back to town, linger over a nourishing double-boiled Tianjin pear dessert infused with tangerine peels, paired with premium tea or chilled bubbly (the list of non-vintage and vintage champagnes is pretty extensive).
TEXT AMY VAN
Savour a fortifying double-boiled chicken broth with fish maw, scallops and mushrooms in the elegant setting of Cassia.
Award of Excellence
CHEEK BY JOWL
21 Boon Tat Street, S(069620), T 6221-1911
Lunch at Rishi Naleendra’s oneMichelin-star modern Australian joint is a boisterous affair. On workdays, the 40-seater fills up by half-past noon with primarily white collars indigenous to the Telok Ayer area, and the conversant crowd does not abate till well past 2pm.
And for good reason: Indulging in Cheek by Jowl’s inventive fare is to hop on a seesaw of comfort and adventure. Familiar textures and aromas go handinhand with unconventional sauces and accompaniments, satiating the two minds of curious gourmands and making the prospect of return visits alluring. Take the fork-tender arctic char couched in buttermilk – standard issue freshwater fi sh executed deliciously. The spanner in the works is the dressing of fermented pear juice – a titillating and refreshing alternative to citrus, tweaked to the right intensity, and a defining foil that gives the pliant flesh a memorable edge.
That same dynamism extends to the booze offerings. You’ll get the usual Margaret Rivers and Saint-Emilions, and while the list is only inch-deep, it’s got representation that’s remarkable for such a small outfit, from South African Shiraz to Italian amarone. Adventurous, too, are the smatterings of organic and biodynamic wine.
It would be remiss to not mention the immense value of the sets. For under $100, two can have a quick two-course lunch. Want a protracted rendezvous with a bit of quiet at the tail end? Take the five-course for less than $150 (for two, after taxes). Never mind the serviceable seating or bistro-league proximity – Naleendra is plating up some highquality nosh, and passing on only his fastidious ethic to his diners.
TEXT LIAO XIANGJUN
(left) Artful plating is a feature of every dish. Here, millet is dressed meticulously with zucchini flower, mung beans and sunflower seed.
(below) It gets a little lively in the cosy space, but the fare is always worth the squeeze.
Award of Excellence
Level 5, Mandarin Oriental Singapore, S(039797). T 6885-3500
Entering the seemingly antique walkway to Cherry Garden is like stepping into an elegant and graceful world, one where a gentle repast can be had in a rarefied atmosphere akin to that of a traditional Chinese residence. Make a request to not be seated at the elevated area near the entrance, as the noise from the conversations is distracting when all four tables are occupied.
The recent refurbishment has added charcoal teak panels and slate floors, and a huge private room that can seat 24. Big windows look out onto a garden of sorts and let in lots of natural light in the day. It’s a perfect setting for executive Chinese chef Cheng Hon Chau’s Cantonese cuisine.
Begin with a charcoal-roasted barbecue meat platter of roast duck, roast pork belly, and honey-glazed Kurobuta char siew – juicy and succulent, it’s one of the best in town. The signature thick superior lobster soup with conpoy and seaweed as well as the golden pumpkin soup with morel mushroom and diced chicken both come highly recommended. Any Cantonese restaurant worth its salt would have a beef dish, and chef Cheng’s version uses A4 Miyazaki wagyu sirloin, pan-fried and served with a garlic barbecue sauce – every bite is tender and tasty.
A recommendation from the waitstaff that turns out better than expected is the braised homemade tofu with monkey head mushroom and green vegetable. The tofu, crispy-skinned and spinach-topped, is surprisingly delicious. Do leave room for the fragrant five grain fried rice – jasmine rice, glutinous rice, wild rice, barley, corn – toothsome and nutritious with Cantonese pork sausage adding an umami kick. End on a refreshing note with the cherries in nu er hong and aged osmanthus wine cocktail jelly with lychee sorbet.
Service is attentive, knowledgeable and warm. Even in the recommendation and serving of wine by the glass, the staff make a whole hearted effort to ensure that it suits our tastes perfectly.
TEXT ANNE LOH
(below) Pan-fried A4 Miyazaki wagyu sirloin with garlic barbecue sauce.
(bottom) Cherry Garden recently updated its interiors.
Award of Excellence
1 Cluny Road, EJH Corner House, Singapore Botanic Gardens, (Nassim Gate Entrance), S(259569) T 6469-1000
At Corner House, chef Jason Tan lets the dishes do the talking, for the house the restaurant is in speaks for itself.
This conservation-status blackandwhite bungalow was where Edred J.H. Corner – a colonial-era Singapore Botanic Gardens assistant director – “greened up” Singapore, planning our much-loved nature reserves. It’s also where he refined his drawing skills, which can be seen in the paintings that still hang on the walls today. It seems fitting, therefore, that this place is where Tan dreams up his “Gastro-Botanica” courses, using the plate as his canvas.
Chef Tan and his team pluck selectively from the vast plant landscape for the striking (visually and flavour-wise) six-way showcase of the season’s tomatoes, as well as the cevennes onions served in four painstaking variations; and the well-pruned display of riso with earthy maitake and Plantin black truffle. Though the five-course vegetarian Menu Botanica did show the restaurant’s appreciation of flora, this year, we feel Tan and his team are more adept with the regular (meat) Menu Degustation.
The Hokkaido scallop is a beautiful picture of shellfish and petals, its flavours brought together by the refreshing yuzu kosho jelly. We’re also pleased to find the innovative use of Shaoxing as an emulsion for the New Zealand blue cod and its crisped-up scales – the dish would be lesser without the notes of umami. As this is ultimately a French restaurant, it is no surprise that Tan and his team display their classical chops with a consistently done Japanese A4 Toriyama beef.
Despite the accessible wine options – Corner House’s list is the size of an encyclopaedia, and the mainly French selection ranges from the early hundreds to $22,900 for a bottle of Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 – the wine and beverage service this year is a little haphazard. Perhaps next year, the team’s canvas could expand further from the plate.
TEXT CELINE ASRIL
(above) Corner House’s lush Singapore Botanic Gardens setting.
(left) Hokkaido scallop, royale oyster with yuzu kosho, shiso and mint, crowned wtih Kristal de Chine Caviar.
Award of Excellence
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, S(039799) Tel: 6434-5288
It’s grand what The Ritz-Carlton has done with the space for Colony – where natural light hits, tables are set up for its (mostly) dress-to-be-seen guests to bask. “We’d prefer if they didn’t [wear slippers],” confesses a member of the service staff when we enquire about the dress code. The shrug at the end signals how times have changed.
Still, there is glamour. The space is set up like it’s perpetually ready to be a Paris Fashion Week runway, with some ladies-who-dine dressing to fit this imaginary theme. Even the entrance mimics a fashion retail shop – but instead of accessories, the pull-out display counters are filled with dainty macarons (the lime espelette pepper is a must) and chocolates, while the shelves are laden with mousses and cakes. The selection is anything but ordinary – you’ll see once you reach the entranceway.
At the beautifully arranged cold-cuts counter, four varieties of fresh oysters (responsibly displayed alongside their packaging dates) are shucked on the spot, adding to the decadence that few buffet places in Singapore continue to offer. Next to the 10 types of cold seafood, Colony has shrewdly positioned the eggs station, just so it can bling up its eggs Benedict with lobster. You can request one without the lobster claw, but why would you?
Just as you think you’ve seen the best of it, tucked away in what could pass off as a secret room is an entire selection of breads, and Western and Asian dishes. An Indian spread fit for a Mughal king, a slow-baked beef tomahawk to rival your regular Sunday roasts, and a well-curated selection of six innovative dim sum dishes is available at any time. This goes to show Colony is able to do both grandeur and restraint equally well.
To that, and more, we clink our glasses of unlimited Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Blanc, and Rosé, both 2009 – an exceptional year, fitting for this exclusive place.
TEXT CELINE ASRIL
(above) Lofty glass ceilings allow natural light to flood into the dining area.
(left) Colony has one of the best seafood spreads in town, as well as an excellent variety of oysters.
Award of Excellence
CUT BY WOLFGANG PUCK
#B1-71, Galleria Level, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, S(018972) T 6688-8517
Into its eighth year, Cut was launched by the celebrity chef to celebrities (Wolfgang Puck feeds the entire Tinseltown at the post Oscars Governors Ball each year). The restaurant’s walls are decked with larger-than-life portraits of Hollywood greats, yet a single meal is all it takes to understand that food is the star of the show here.
As we enter, past the cocktail bar, a smartly-suited maitre d’ and a lieutenant attend to the seating ritual of this top-notch restaurant. Chairs are tucked in promptly, the napkins go on, fragrant breadsticks appear while specials are introduced. As with restaurants of the highest pedigree, service is a performance here; at full capacity the joint is busy but never (left) The attractions range from eye-catching tomahawks to luscious lobster segments, hurried, a masterfully-orchestrated play with many acts and wellrehearsed players plying the stage.
This strong supporting cast lets the lead performers stand even taller in the competitive steakhouse landscape. Enter the steak – for me, a 280g US ribeye from Snake River Farms, Idaho, done rare, of course. I indulge in sublime mouthfuls of the thick cut laden with intoxicating juice, rivulets of moreish fat coursing from the sinewy grain, the chiming tang of the perfectly-executed sear, and the sheer delight of worrying the yielding meat with as many teeth (and gums) as I can bring to bear. No sauce required – the steak is that good. Only minutes later do I ponder, for my next visit, the premium sauces, going at $5 per dollop.
On the side, a tuna tartare, a masterclass in the blending of flavours and textures. Subtle dashes of wasabi aioli broaden the flavour profile. Togarashi crisps and garlic add crunch to the smooth tuna chunks. The wines, expertly paired, are drawn from the extensive and visually impressive “cellars”: The bottles line the walls of the massive private room and the rear area. We’re told the room, which can seat 20 easily, is often booked out by titans of industry who know how to have a good time. We certainly did.
TEXT LIAO XIANGJUN
(left) The attractions range from eye-catching tomahawks to luscious lobster segments.
(below left) Cut may be a shrine to the wines of the world, but do peruse its impressive cocktail menu.
(below right) The wide berth between the swanky tables facilitates faultless service.
Award of Excellence
Level 3, Pan Pacific Singapore, S(039595) T 6826-8240
There has been no real need to reinvent the wheel at the Edge’s Sunday champagne brunch. Multiple visits a year, on a personal basis, have yielded consistently high standards in the food and service department.
Still here is the faultless “stick queueing” system where you hand numbered chopsticks to live stations and continue to fill your plates elsewhere, instead of having to tough out a queue. Waitstaff will dispatch the requested dish straight to your table in a matter of minutes. Reigning in popularity, as always, are the backbone free flow of succulent Ohmi wagyu steak, sweet Boston lobster and the multitude of freshly shucked oysters. You could turn aside to chat with a friend and have your flute fill itself with Veuve Clicquot, so subtle the beverage service can be. The well-heated dishes of a dozen cuisines clamour for attention at their respective stations, and deliver faithful and hearty versions that can pass for staple items in a dedicated restaurant.
Yet the management of the restaurant isn’t resting on the formula they appear to have down to a T. Fresh initiatives like a pop-up gin cocktail bar – generous with the likes of Tanqueray and Monkey Shoulder – look to be kept as permanent features. There’s a heavenly lava cake with a gooey core of Godiva, topped with in-house vanilla ice cream, that was introduced just months ago. Bold changes aren’t shied away from, either: The entire Korean section has been replaced with herbaceous Turkish nosh.
Between the live band, unhurried pace (there’s only one brunch sitting, and it’s four hours long), tableside service (gratis) and balloon sculptor, it’s clear the customer is king within the 300-odd seater. Don’t be shy to ask for a balloon crown to match – the sculptor, in fact, spends most of her time on the adults.
TEXT LIAO XIANGJUN
(right) Immaculate service – which eludes most buffet-style restaurants – is Edge’s strongest suit.
(below) A smorgasbord of cuisines (local delights included) ensures that diners are always spoilt for choice.
Award of Excellence
FOC PIM PAM
#01-29, Claymore Connect, 442 Orchard Road, S(238879) (next to Orchard Hotel) T 6100-4242
It’s a Friday night. The recently refurbished tapas joint FOC Pim Pam at one end of Orchard Road is teeming with couples and groups of friends having a fun night out. There are diners seated in the main dining area, at the tapas bar and on the outdoor terrace. Despite the crowd, it isn’t hard to get the staff ’s attention. The confident service team give good recommendations and thoughtfully explain the dishes in detail.
To begin, you can munch on crusty bread topped with tomato, or croquetas with ham and mushroom, but we suggest saving room for other more substantial dishes. Everything we order impresses, from the wellcooked paella with Iberico secreto and mushrooms to the deeply flavoured prawns laced with light potato foam.
The patatas bravas is a fixture here. Pim Pam’s unique version comprises multi-layers of crispy potato slices (like a mille-feuille) topped with dollops of creamy aioli and spicy tomato sauce. Before taking a bite, we slather the rich sauces over the stacked slices of spud.
Next up, succulent barramundi with crispy skin is served with Idiazabal cream cheese and morsels of “gnocchi” filled with light pumpkin puree. Just when we think we are too full to stomach more dishes, the lamb chop arrives, partnering a punchy eggplant tartare anointed with a welcome smokiness from the josper. We finish everything on the table.
There’s the typical churros to savour as your sweet finale. But for something light and refreshing, we recommend the lemon lemoncello – comprising limoncello sorbet and meringue shaped into a lemon. The dessert is a blend of sweet tartness and voluptuousness.
Pim Pam’s wine list features over 150 labels of red, white and sparkling wines spanning the Spanish regions. The highlight is the collection of sherries, said to be the most extensive range in Southeast Asia. With faultless food, wine and service, we recommend this place for a casual, unpretentious and delicious night out.
(clockwise from top)
FOC Pim Pam’s version of prawns alajillo – panfried prawns with garlic and potato foam.
Enjoy your meal with refreshing cocktails and Spanish sherries.
The restaurant’s dedicated team dishing out tapas.
Award of Excellence
Level 2, Destination Singapore
Beach Road, 700 Beach Road, S(199598). T 6679-2900
Folklore, positioned next to the lobby of Destination Singapore Beach Road, is often teeming with hotel guests checking in/out, or lounging around. But we’re not here for the ambience. It’s all about the boldly flavoured food by Eurasian-Peranakan chef Damian D’Silva. His background means that you’ll get to sample painstakingly prepared heritage dishes, many based on his own family recipes. His grandmother is Peranakan, and his grandfather is Eurasian.
Grab one of the tables surrounded by kopitiam-style chairs or request a comfortable booth seat if it’s not too crowded. Soon the pleasant waitstaff will flit over to take your orders.
We visit on a Friday night, and the place is relatively full with local families and tourists. Thankfully, the dishes don’t take too long to arrive. What stands out for us is the signature sambal buah keluak fried rice, which has a good dose of spiciness and punchy flavours. Just as delicious is the beef cheek rendang – the large pieces of meat are braised for hours until fork-tender and infused with layers of warm spices.
So far so good. We had the chap chye before on previous visits, but this time, it falls short of the usual robust flavour. Other dishes, however, are on point, including the golden brown ngoh hiang filled with chunks of prawns, water chestnuts and minced pork, as well as the piquant garang assam comprising fresh succulent red snapper and soft brinjal, steeped in a gravy with the perfect balance of spiciness and sharpness. If you like, there are also Eurasian classics such as oxtail stew with potatoes and carrots, and singgang (non-spicy dish of wolf herring) to be had.
To round off the meal, a must is the pillow-soft kueh kosui coated with freshly grated coconut, and the classic sago gula melaka laced with thick coconut cream. This is a good place to bring overseas guests for a taste of Singapore’s heritage food, if you don’t mind the nofrills and functional setting.
TEXT AMY VAN
Chef Damian D’Silva is known for his Eurasian and Peranakan creations, which include this piquant assam fish with brinjal and okra.
Award of Excellence
#01-04 Odeon Towers, 331 North Bridge Road, S(188720). T 6266-1077
It’s easy to dismiss Ginza Rokukakutei due to its location and unassertive facade at the back of Odeon Towers; the entrance and visible front room give the impression that this is a whisky bar that serves food. But it’s much more.
Behind the heavy metal door are a bar, and two separate counter dining areas where guests can watch their kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered meats and vegetables) being prepared by chefs.
Ginza Rokukakutei in Singapore is not only the sister restaurant of a highly awarded kushikatsu specialist in Osaka, Rokukakutei, it is also its first overseas venture. Named after the Tokyo outpost in Ginza, the Odeon Towers branch likely has the same cosmopolitan sensibilities.
As specialists of deep-fried skewered foods, you can expect the omakase sets of nine, 12 or 15 skewers to be executed beautifully – each is almost bite-sized, light and hardly greasy. The setup comes replete with a range of sauces and salt for dipping and sprinkling. On our visit, the seasonal skewers ran the gamut from mashed green peas (a refined version) to scallops, fish topped with pickled chrysanthemum, and chicken tonburi (tonburi being plant-based “mountain caviar”, a delicacy of the Akita prefecture).
There was variety in the menu too, with uni and tofu, and a chazuke dish (rice with dashi) making appearances in the middle and at the end of the meal.
What was most impressive was the bold choices taken by the sommelier, Ludovik Petrow. The Frenchman paired mostly bold Italian wines with the various skewers. The juicy berries of the Sicilian Feudi del Pisciotto Carolina 2011 matched well with the meat skewers. The sweet notes of the fish and chrysanthemum were brought out with the Loire Valley’s golden straw-coloured Cour Cheverny 2014.
Who would expect a meal of deepfried skewers to carry so much depth and variety? We certainly didn’t.
TEXT CELINE ASRIL
(above, left) Salmon topped with pickled chrysanthemum.
(above) Pair a variety of deep-fried skewers with wines.
(left) Rokukakutei’s setting features two counter dining areas.