Here’s our take on what happened last year in Singapore’s dining scene and thus, your guide on where to eat and drink in Singapore in 2016.
Happy New Year!
P.S Please excuse the Star Wars puns. Resist, we could not.
The Fun-Times Menace
These days, it’s not the food that brings you back to the restaurant. Fun dining with good vibes are just as much as of an attraction that lures diners back. Case in point: Keong Saik newbie Neon Pigeon, the Singaporean version of UK-based MEATliquor, and local chef Bjorn Shen’s new palace of Thai chicken at Ann Siang, Bird Bird.
All three are vibrant (you can make as much noise as you like), have sharing plates for communal dinners (making them great for mid-sized group gatherings), and feature neon pink lighting. And then there’s The Wagon at Tras Street, which brings the novelty of picking your food off a touting trolley/wagon and semi-fine dining together in one place.
Welcome to the Intergalactic Republic of Singapore
Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant
From Hong Kong’s Jenny Bakery in the humble heartlands to Marina Bay Sands’ shiny crown jewel Spago (by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck); 2015 has seen many prominent overseas restaurants and chain eateries setting up their outposts in Singapore. Other noteworthy openings include Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen, Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant from the Big Apple, and elegant Parisian tearoom Angelina, and Taiwan’s Dazzling Café.
The trend of importing restaurants (like we do with everything else here) is set to continue in 2016 with Bali’s Naughty Nuri’s opening at Capitol Piazza this month, as well as the famous Hong Kong restaurant Kam’s Roast Goose. Two more HK bakeries – Tai Cheong and A La Bakery – will also be joining its countrymen Mak’s Noodle, The Coffee Academics, and The Butcher’s Club Burger, all of which opened last year.
Speaking of food imports, we can’t not mention …
The Attack of the Koreans
Truth be told, this started years ago with the Korean BBQ joints. 2015 saw more Korean fried chicken joints – for instance casual restaurant chain Chir Chir – as well as dessert establishments serving up soft serve ice cream (Milkcow), bingsu, and more recently, churros (Churro101 and Mr. Churro). Korea’s largest coffee chain Caffebene and dessert café Banana Tree have also joined the ranks of hipster cafes in Singapore last year.
Don’t Tell Mama
That’s not all; we foresee diners welcoming Korean-fusion with open arms in the coming year. It’s already started with Massive Collective bringing in Korean-Mexican restaurant Vatos Urban Tacos (hello kimchi fries and galbi tacos). And then there’s Australia-Korean brunch spot The dabang along Tanjong Pagar Road, which transforms into Korean-Mexican Don’t Tell Mama at night.
The Empire Strikes Back
2015 was also an excellent year for empire building and expansion; a few of our local F&B collectives and groups have led the way with shiny new concepts. Personally, the noteworthy include Spa Esprit Group’s (mostly) farm-to-table restaurant Open Farm Community in Dempsey, as well as Unlisted Collection’s meaty additions, 5th Quarter and Meat Smith.
The Jigger & Pony Group have expanded in the city with their Bukit Pasoh complex’s holy trinity of Humpback (oysters & coastal cuisine), The Flagship (whisky dive bar), and Gibson (vintage-y cocktail parlour). Is that your entire night sorted, or what? It’s also been a good year for Lo & Behold; the group has added a second OverEasy (along Orchard Road, no less), The Daily Roundup at The Working Capitol, and its first fine dining venture Odette to the collection. Plus, watch out for Lo & Behold’s first hotel they’re opening their very first boutique hotel by the end of next year.
Revenge of the Dego
Degustation and tasting menus have long been associated with fine dining, high prices, and special occasions. While eating at Lo & Behold and award-winning Chef Julien Royer’s Odette does mean blowing our entire food budget for the month, more than a few restaurants that opened last year feature more affordable tasting menus.
For instance, Meta, one of the newest members in the Keong Saik neighbourhood, offers a five-course menu at $88++ and an eight-course menu for $128++. Its neighbour, Cure – by ex-Esquina alumnus Chef Andrew Walsh – presents three, four, and five course dinners starting at $75++. Looking for Japanese? Head west to DSTLLRY, where 10-course omakase dinners start at $99++.
A Clean Hope
The momentum of the eat clean movement continues with the opening of Grain Traders by Series of Intentions (aka the people behind Kilo) and YOLO, a casual takeaway joint that deals in meals that help you reach your health goals, regardless of whether you’re looking to bulk up at the gym or trying to lose those extra pounds. Hawaiian inspired Aloha Poké joins the fray with more clean protein in the form of Ahi tuna, salmon, and tofu in their Poké bowls.
Return of The Classics
…we’re referring to cocktails, of course. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts launched a global cocktail menu called The Revivals late last year. And Tom Hogan, Head Craftsman of Anti:dote at Fairmont Singapore, was one of the bartenders behind the cocktails in this particular programme starring refined classic cocktails like the Sparkling Collins Royale and the Fairmont Old-Fashioned.
The Powder Room
Other bars returning to the classics include The Powder Room, The Rabbit Hole (now focusing heavily on the Gin & Tonic), and Gibson, which is named after a classic cocktail in itself. With the cocktails scene in Singapore expanding exponentially, it’s not surprising that many new restaurants, including Red Eye Smokehouse, have classic cocktails on the menu to complement the food.
The Dragon Awakens
Sum Yi Tai
Chinese food is trendy again, thanks in part to places like Sum Yi Tai and Lokkee. Located in a shophouse along Boon Tat Street, the former (meaning ‘Third Wife’ in Cantonese) transports you to the decadent days of 1980s Hong Kong where triad and gambling dens still proliferated. The latter (pronounced as ‘Lucky’), by the Tung Lok Group, offers traditional Chinese dishes with a dash of Western influence…aka what we know as bastardised Chinese food.
The folks at Privé are hopping onto this bandwagon with recently opened newest concept, EMPRESS, at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Think Chinese fare by the Singapore River, amidst wicker-backed chairs and colonial architecture.
Top Image: Odette