GUZMAN Y GOMEZ MEXICAN TAQUERIA | The popular chain of taquerias (taco shops) from Australia (29 outlets) opens its first international outlet in Singapore. In true Guzman y Gomez (GYG) tradition, a 'party' is thrown for the opening of every new outlet: on 24 October, the Asia Square Tower 2 branch will be giving away free burritos – get in line for a free burrito or a burrito bowl (worth $10.90 each), both of which are customisable. Rock up to this second floor food court stall anytime from 11am to 4pm. There will also be a roaming mariachi band (they have been flown in to serenade the crowds), and GYG merchandise given out. We plan to be there early, come say hi if you spot us.
SUSHI BURRITO | Where to eat: In one corner of 100AM ("100 Tras Street" plus "Amara" for "Amara Holdings", we think) is this 26-seater with white tables, black wall seats, fuchsia ceiling and tiled wood walls. The logo artwork on the feature wall alludes to a concept straight out of a manga, though diners are brought back to the real, no-frills (fast food) world with the menu posters along the side walls. This concept was, indeed, inspired by a pushcart that sold sushi and burritos in LA. What to eat: Healthy makizushi (rolled sushi) the size of burritos ($10.90-$13.90) is the main draw here (calorie count included on the menu), made with an average of 120g of white Japanese rice (approx 3/4 of a rice bowl, per roll) each. The rolls are 50 per cent filled with vegetables, and of the nine set offerings, we like the Rainbow Shrimp (naruto maki and fried battered shrimp, 10.90) and the Flaming Dragon (fresh tuna and jellyfish with a slightly spicy wasabi sauce, $11.90). At the time of our visit, the rolls arrived a little soggy because of the warm rice and dressings, but the flavours in both were well-rounded, and present in every bite. Skip the small selection of sides ($3.50-$3.90 each), unless you’re really hungry. In which case, spring for the set (additional $1.90 to $5.90) that comes with all-you-can-drink beverages: the silky chawanmushi (a la carte, $3.50) looked like custard in soup, and the pitan tofu (tofu in century egg sauce with tobiko; a la carte, $3.50) measly in its portion. Nonetheless, we like the healthy roll concept, and will return, if only to have our sushi and burrito together.
BOOK A TABLE | OCHIN TAPAS BISTRO | Where to eat: This one is a little hard to find, we came upon this cosy eatery while on our way to TFS Bistrot. The chef at this family-run outfit runs the café at The British Council by day; come nighttime (they open 6pm onwards) he cooks up Peranakan-style small plates to diners at this September 2013-born eatery. What to eat: Ask for recommendations, and do mention your preferences; we enjoyed the marinated salmon cubes with ginger, chives and wasabi dill raita ($6) – refreshing, tart and a good accompaniment to crisp white wines. We also enjoyed their version of the buah keluak ($6) – milder than usual and wrapped in roti jala ("net bread"). Unlike most, new small-plate eateries, the prices here are affordable and justified with regards to the portions. Those still hungry after tapas can tuck into mains like the Ochin Agli Olio (spaghetti tossed with garlic and chilli and topped with cod roe, $12).
BREAD SOCIETY CAFÉ | Where to eat: More than just take-away breads available at this new café/bakery at Suntec City (Level 1, opposite H&M). Those who work in the Suntec area will be glad to know that this brightly-lit café serves lunch, brunch and early dinners too. The location (by the MRT exit) makes it convenient for diners to grab-and-go as well. Not working in Suntec? They are open on weekends, too. What to eat: We were pleasantly surprised at their well-portioned lunchtime-only (from noon to 2pm) katsu curry rice – a perfectly-fried tonkatsu pork loin and Japanese potato curry that is rightly spiced. The dish is chunk-ed up with rice, shredded cabbage and grilled vegetables ($13.80). More sinful, but just as good is The Society, a brunch plate of muffin-like pancakes, glazed with maple syrup with bacon and a thick, pork sausage ($15.80).
CAKES LITERALLY | Where to eat: A cosy bakery-slash-café on quiet Owen Road, Cakes Literally is family-run and a good spot to duck into if the neighbouring hipster cafes (Jewel Café + Bar, Liberty Coffee) are too crowded. They opened in July 2013. What to eat: They serve coffee, but do not expect cold-drip and complicated brews, what you come here for are the cakes, and that is all they serve. Spotted (and on our must-try list) an orange almond caked ($5.50 per slice) and a (health-ier) avocado pound loaf ($4 per slice). We did snag their flourless chocolate mousse cake made of pure Valhrona chocolate ($7.50) and couldn't get enough of how dense on the bottom and airy on top it was.
CERA | Where to eat: Opened in May 2013 at Upper Thomson Road is this cafe that's dishing up healthy, vegetarian and vegan eats. What to eat: The food is innovative, and the menu includes meatless renditions of popular local dishes like a bak chor mee (minced meat noodles, $10.50) – at Cera it is made with spaghetti, braised tofu, shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The warm century egg cappelini, sautéed with vegetables, salted egg yolk, chilli oil and century egg ($11.50) is made to imitate the flavours of a congee. Weird as they may sound, the menu is innovative.There are more Asian-fusion dishes, and you can specify if you need dairy or nut-free options.
MERCHANTS | Where to eat: Helmed by an Australian team, this 'cellar door' and cafe at Duxton (they have another outlet at PasarBella) is a wine bar that hopes to offer an authentic tasting room experience. The cellar stocks wines from 40 exclusive wineries and 23 regions in Australia most of which have more never been exported outside of the country before. What to eat and drink: For wines by the glass, prices begin at $9 for white, $10 for red and $11 for sparkling. Looking for nibbles to pair? Graze on the Vigneron’s tasting platters; you can opt for cheese ($18 for medium, $28 for large), charcuterie ($18 for medium, $28 for large), or a mix of both ($38). The platters' highlights includes cheeses like the New Zealand Kapiti artisanal cheeses and cold cuts like a 20-month aged Parma ham, Sopressa salami and tunnel-boned leg of ham.
BIBIGO | Where to eat: Suntec City's revamp worked in plenty of new dining options. Among them is Bibigo, the dependable, healthy Korean eatery. Opened late in September 2013, the casual, café-like spot hopes to attract Suntec’s office-lunch crowd. What to eat: It may be a branch, but it's a new, slightly expanded menu. During our visit, we started with the courgette pancake ($8), which is like a pajeon (seafood pancake) but with zucchini and sweet potato and topped with butternut squash. It is crisp on the edges, chewy within and pairs well with the soy-like dipping sauce. For the mains, we liked the chunky, BBQ spicy (pepper-heavy sauced) chicken that comes on a hotplate ($15.80). You'd do well to complement the spice with a serving of their riso nero ("black rice" in, hmm, Italian) ice-cream – a light, not-too-sweet dish that is served with crispy rice puffs for added texture ($4.50).
NARA THAI CUISINE | Where to eat: Burger King no longer, this basement level three space next to Bali Thai Cafe is now a full-fledged Thai restaurant that seats 112. Royal purple, golds and rattan-browns make up the colour palate of this Thai chain import that started in 2006 at the basement of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. After the opening of its ION branch – Nara Thai cuisine's first outlet outside of Bangkok – on 12 September 2013, this chain will be four outlets strong. What to eat: The concept is Thai street food brought indoors. Though we didn't get to try it, the kuay tiew rua (Ayuthaya boat noodles served dry or soup, with beef or pork, $14.90 or $12.90) has a large following. The menu is extensive – it'll take more than a few visits to work through the 100-plus dishes that is inspired by dishes all over Thailand. We like the nam prik long rua(shrimp paste with deep-fried battered catfish and vegetables, $13.90), the phunim phad pong karee(stir-fried soft shell crab in yellow curry, $18.90) is a fun one to have, and the kaeng som cha om kung sod (hot and spicy gravy with prawns and fried dill omelette patties, $17.90) to sop up with the rice. The price range for the rest of the menu follows: appetisers from $8.90 to $14.90, seafood and fish from $13.90 to $32.90, curries and soups from $13.90 to $19.90, and meats from $12.90 to $18.90. Make sure you order the refreshing Butterfly Pea cooler.
THE BLACK SWAN | Where to eat: It's set at the Quadrant at Cecil – the former Kwangtung Provincial Bank Building built in 1930s – so no it should come as no surprise that the private room (seats 12 to 15) is an actual bank vault. At the time of our visit (when it first opened in July 2013), this Art Deco-styled restaurant's (a Gatsby quote runs across the top of the bar) mezzanine wasn't ready, but all 130 seats on the ground floor were open and almost entirely booked up. The name 'Black Swan' referes to a financial term – comes with the territory – that describes an almost unpredictable event. What to eat: Happy hour oysters (30 per cent off usual price; Mondays to Fridays, 5 to 7.30pm) to start, and then the melt-in-your-mouth baked bone marrow with chilli and konbu crostini ($18), The Black Swan Burger (90 per cent chuck, 10 per cent fat , served with a sunny-side-up egg and bacon on the side, $26) and light, modern and fashionable coconut creme caramel ($14). The kitchen team is made up of a chefs from the kitchens of the Lo & Behold group (White Rabbit, Tanjong Beach Club), and the consulting chef is Sebastian Ng of Ember. What to drink: We like the strong, twist-on-Old-Fashioned Cecil Sour (15 year old single malt, vanilla, mandarin peel, and egg whites, served with salted dark chocolate, $19) – one of six signature cocktails done by beverage manager Kamil Foltan (formerly Zetter Townhouse, London) and team.
OXWELL & CO | Where to eat: This shophouse on Ann Siang Hill is buzzing with activity, for good reason: Oxwell & co is the latest public house-slash-dining room to open in Singapore. It borrows its name from the history of its surroundings - the lane behind No.5 Ann Siang Hill was once a track for ox-carts to make to daily trips to Chinatown's only source of fresh water. The refurbished interiors are whimsical and quirky, furnished with upcycled furniture that excude a Mad Hatter's workshop, if he was an engineer. The kitchen is helmed by chef Mark 'Sarge' Sargeant, Gordon Ramsay's former executive chef. What to eat/drink: We were told to expect Michelin-standard British public house fare. While the house-made gin and tonic (distilled, served on tap and garnished with half a calamansi lime and one nutmeg leaf, $12) isn't for those who like their G&Ts strong, the excellently-battered fried fish bits with garlic mayonnaise ($18) is well crisp. For dinner, move upstairs to the dining area and sample from a larger menu that includes dishes like a caprese salad with three kinds of tomatoes (heirloom, cherry and regular) and a 28-day aged porterhouse steak. Finish with the summery, strawberry Eton mess. Salads are from $15, meat dishes from $30 and puddings (desserts) start at $12.
NOX - DINE IN THE DARK | Where to eat: Our restaurant critic went to this new 'Dine in the Dark' concept in a Beach Road shophouse and came out "seeing" more than she thought she would. What to eat: Read her full review here
SOPRA CUCINA & BAR | Where to eat: Walking along the back of Orchard Towers, you'll come to this glitzy Moulin Rouge-esque sign at the bottom of the Pan Pacific Orchard. This one's no dancing bar: it's an Italian restaurant that channels some of the sunny vibes of Sardinia and it opened in early August 2013. The authenticity is in the food, but the vivid tiles, wall art, vintage-looking fittings, plush leather banquette seats, bar stocked with limoncello and greenery-surrounded al fresco area don't veer too far either. What to eat: Sardinian food is the draw, and can be found served, conveniently, as a four-course set (minimum two persons, $98++ per person) or weaved into the massive a la carte menu that also features general Italian dishes from across the shoe-shaped country. We like the biscotto di pecorino - goat's cheese in carasau (traditional Sardinian flatbread) starter ($22), served with honey to open the palates; the fregola (roasted semolina pasta pearls - similar to Israeli couscous) with fresh seafood ($29) is a good alternative to the risotto; and the porcheddu Sardo (Sardinian-style roast suckling pig, $48 per person) is very tender pork in Mediterranean spices and crisp skin served with roast potatoes. There are also pizzas (for one person, $18-$22; two to three persons, $18-$36; four to five persons, $32-$65), and a list of 12 aperitif-led cocktails ($14-$16) to try. Arrive really hungry, and thirsty.
BOOK A TABLE | LÈ RESTAURANT AND ASIAN TAPAS BAR | Where to eat: Chinese small plates and cocktails with Asian flavours – that is what you get at the new restaurant by the Paradise Group at the recently redone Suntec City. The restaurant and bar opened in July 2013 and occupies a massive 10,000 sqf of restaurant, lounge and private dining area. What to eat/drink: Don’t be intimidated by the opulent, oriental décor. Kick off with a Lè Special, a cocktail of ice kacang with curaçao, crème de menthe, pomegranate syrup and spiced rum ($22). Tapas here means dishes like the artfully plated foie gras braised with red wine and served with red cherry jus globules ($26) or the mantou burger with braised USDA prime beef ($16). Come in larger groups so you can try more of the menu.
REVOLUTION COFFEE | Where to eat: Nestled among black and white colonial houses in Wessex estate near Portsdown Road, Revolution Coffee has gained a bit of a reputation as being inaccessible. (It’s in such an ‘ulu’ spot, there’s even a step-by-step guide on how to get there). Between the graphic wall art by the Sticker Lady and the large communal tables made of wood recycled from the benches of the now-demolished Yishun, Tampines and National stadiums, the café exudes undeniable hipster cool. What to eat: While the café might be hard to get to, do visit for the mean brunch with all-day breakfast plates. The Mad Chef’s pancakes (gula Melaka and butterscotch-coated pancakes) are fluffy and topped with caramel and fresh bananas ($11.90). There are also plenty of baked goods on offer, including banana bread ($4.50) which tends to run out quickly. The coffee, however, is the star of the show: beans from Sydney coffee specialists Single Origin Roasters (their special blend is called Reservoir Road) are the headliners, but the café also stocks beans on rotation from local roasters Papa Palheta and Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar. A latte comes in at $5.50, and an affogato (vanilla ice-cream drenched in espresso, assembled tableside) at $6.
THE BRAVERY CAFE | Where to eat:The Plain on Craig Road is, in our humble opinion, the go-to place for an Aussie-style flat white. So imagine our delight when The Bravery - their new venture, and entry into the suddenly cool Jalan Besar industrial enclave - opened late August 2013. When you visit, look for a golden gate just a few doors down from Windowsill in the Woods. What to eat: Start with the coffee, the flat white ($4.50) is smooth with a velvety finish and the iced coffee delivers the desired kick in just one shot ($6.50, $0.50 for an additional shot). The food here is different from The Plain with more local flavour influences to brunch-style egg dishes. The waiter-recommended Raunchy Eggs (two fried eggs sit on a tortilla topped with spicy beans, parmesan and shredded cabbage, $14) had pleasant contrasting textures in this dish. Next time, we plan to try the Brave Begedil (poached eggs, turky bacon and avocado on corned beef and potatoes hash, $17). The flavour combinations sure are brave. Thank goodness they work, too.
ZSOFI KITCHEN MARSIQUERIA | Where to eat: This popular restaurant and tapas bar in the heart of Little India’s backpacker district is not really new, but their ground floor was given an upscale revamp in July 2013 into a marisquería (Spanish for 'seafood restaurant') and now serves authentic Spanish eats with a focus on - you guessed it - seafood. What to eat: There are tapas on the new menu, too. We recommend the tart, well-sized boquerones (Spanish anchovies marinated in a mixture of red and white wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil, $14) and the combinado mixta marisco a la plancha (pictured, $69) - a sharing platter of grilled lobster, prawns, razor clams, mussels, clams, scallops and a fish of the day. The platter is served with condiments like paprika, sea salt and pepper. If seafood isn't really your thing, fret not - we think the best dish on their revamped menu are the churros con chocolate ($12). The dough fritters are made fresh, in-house and served with a medium-thick warm chocolate dip.
ADDICTIONS CAFÉ & REMEDY BAR | Where to eat: This food bar with an outlet in Dempsey opened in July 2013 (soft opening) at Marina Square’s Dining Edition. The minimalist mall café has an with an open kitchen concept and monochromatic decor. What to eat: The potato pancake topped with earl grey cured salmon, avocado cream cheese and pickled onion ($15) is a must try; while most do not associate tea with fish, Vietnamese-Australian sous chef Chi Quang Trinh has cleverly fused the two to result in a dish with complementary flavours. The filling half spring chicken in pommery mustard with French beans and baby potato ($19) is a good choice as well. The chicken is pan fried with herbs and then oven baked to seal in the spices and tight, crisp skin.
COMMON MAN COFFEE ROASTERS | Where to eat: We’re all for a new brunch spot, and one that actually has a decent non-egg centric menu and perfectly brewed coffee? Hello! While it’s still early days yet (they opened in August 2013), the joint partnership with one of our favourite coffee nuts (Harry Grover of 40 Hands) and Australia’s Five Senses Coffee and The Spa Esprit group is already proving successful judging by the non-stop flow of diners all weekend long. While prices are a little on the high side – this is Robertson Quay, after all – what makes the prices easier to swallow are the quality of the ingredients and the unusual brunch combinations. Oh and really, really good coffee. What to eat: It’s brunch, so an order of eggs is de rigeur, especially when they’re organic and ooze freshness. We had ours softly poached over hearty green pea fritters with crisp pancetta and dressed with a drizzle of semi-sweet balsamic vinegar ($22), it was a winner and a failsafe way to get kids to eat their peas. We also ordered the delicious lemon-accented quinoa served on top of grilled to perfection courgettes and a side of yoghurt ($18). While some pomegranates would have not gone amiss, this combination proved more than satisfactory and refreshingly healthy. As for coffee, be daring and drink their brew of the day black. You’ll be pleased, we promised. We’ll be back soon, and this time, we’re going to try the Common Man Burger ($28) served on a fresh brioche and already touted as one of the city’s best.
ANTHESIS | Where to eat: We do love brunch, and although Robertson Quay has us spoilt for choice, we welcome the addition of this spacious bistro and boulangerie at Robertson Blue. They opened in early September 2013 with few al fresco seats, a large indoor area, high ceilings and a display of bakes, bread and cakes that will have you lingering. Grab a seat, and tuck in, like we did. What to eat: Anthesis is a tad more affordable that its neighbours, and the hearty breakfast (eggs any style, bread, grilled sausages, streaky bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms, $18) is big enough to share. Order an extra portion of breads though, that is what this boulangerie does best: choose from options like wholemeal, sourdough and ciabatta, or for an additional $2 opt from premium breads like the multigrain. Their weekend-only menu has some pretty plates: we enjoyed tucking into the honey-glazed boneless chicken leg, served with a side salad, baby carrots and a tomato salsa ($18).
THE MARSHMALLOW TREE | Where to eat: We like the idea of cafes and eateries tucked into HDB estates (think, Everton Park) and those living in the Telok Blangah area can stroll into new (they opened in June 2013) The Marshmallow Tree for a cup and a slice. What to eat: The café is tiny 20-seater, with one long, communal table, and the menu is simple: waffles, pies, muffins and cakes. We went for the most sinful of the lot – the Waffle Condenseé ($5), a waffle drizzled with condensed milk, sprinkled with milo powderand were happy with the familiar flavours done well. it was intense though, even for us sweet-toothed, and is a portion big enough to be shared. If you're here for its namesake, a cup of tea or cappuccino ($4.50) made with Highlander beans comes with a roasted marshmallow on a stick. There are also Oreo s’mores ($3 per pair) and marshmallow macaroons ($4 per pair) if that isn't cutesy enough.
BOOK A TABLE | BOCHINCHE | Where to eat: This modern Argentinian restaurant in a second-floor fold above Martin Road's got Singapore's tastebuds pinned, and boldly too: strong flavours resonate across the one-page menu that, we are told, increase every week (though it might keep to 15 to 20 items). A joint venture between Spa-Esprit (House, 40 Hands, Open Door Policy) and chef Diego Jacquet (Zoilo and Casa Malevo, both London restaurants), the newly-opened (August 2013) restaurant above Common Man Coffee Roasters (also a venture by Spa-Esprit) exudes a sultry vibe. What to eat: We like the Queso de chancho (braised pig's head meat croquettes with quince jam, $15 – though in tiny portions of three, are crisp discs packed with familiar spices. The higher-than-usual dish prices (for the meagre portions, that is) help to maintain the atmosphere: stay as long as you'd like in this roomy half-bar, and stand around picking on the food or find a crevice to kick back in. As long as you order the unforgettable vegetarian dish of provoleta studded with almonds, drizzled with honey ($16) and the grilled ribeye with celeriac and bone marrow ($55) – the latter because no Argentinian meal is complete without red meat. End your dinner with the dulce de leche ($17), a rich, creamy crème brulee made even more indulgent by the chunky banana split ice cream.
DONG PO COLONIAL CAFE | Where to eat: Quiet Kandahar street has a new café that has been attracting crowds since April 2013. Vintage furniture, retro décor, yellow-ing posters – everything about this kopi café is old-school – including the recipes used for their cakes and bakes. What to eat: Simple sliced cakes (chocolate and butter, $1) or scones served with house-made apple and aloe vera jam ($3.30 in a set with tea or kopi). The family-run café makes everything in-house, from scratch and they have been in the pastry business for ages so the recipes used are as authentically old-school as they come. The food is simple, affordable and we would pick them over a hipster café with latter art any day.
LOLA’S CAFE | Where to eat: While looking for a brunch spot in the heartlands of Kovan, we found the charming Lola’s Cafe and settled in for a coffee and some eggs. They opened in May 2013 (wish we had known sooner). What to eat: Poached eggs with avocado and honey baked ham ($13), check. Truffle fries with parmesan ($12), check. Do ask about the desserts of the day and hope that one of its freshly baked tarts is available. Tell them HungryGoWhere sent you.
EL ROCHOS | Where to eat: Yet another restaurant joins the current Mexican invasion into Singapore’s dining scene. El Rochos is a casual and cosy spot at bustling Boat Quay, helmed by a former chef from Au Jardin.The restaurant opened in late May 2013. What to eat: The menu is not extensive, but includes a few things, we think, that are worth sampling. Start with a basket of nachos topped with shrimp and melted cheese ($17) to share. For the mains, there are the usual tacos, burritos and quesadillas with fillings of chicken, beef and chorizo. Do give the classic chicken mole a try (chicken thigh baked in a sauce of chilli peppers, served with rice, $19).
CRAFT BAKERY & CAFE | Where to eat: New at Holland Village is a café by molten lava cake experts – 3 Inch Sin. The bakery-cafe opened in July 2013 with minimalist interiors and a cake display cabinet occupying pride of place. They also have al fresco seating, which is great for people watching. What to eat: The Craft ($11.50) is a waffle sandwich, with maple-candied bacon strips and green apple slaw, this one comes highly recommended. The tartness of the green apple complements the salt, rich bacon well. Also great are the gooey, lava cakes by 3 Inch Sin, served here with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cakes come in variety of flavours like original, hazelnut, peanut butter, mint, caramelized banana and red velvet (our personal favourite), ($9.50).
AH SAM'S COLD DRINK STALL | Where to drink: Finding the perfect bartender is as challenging as finding a hairdresser who understands your needs. In Sam Wong, we’ve found our perfect (bar) match. The affable bartender/owner who has done stints at everywhere from Le Noir to Orgo to most recently Jigger and Pony came out with his own in July 2013, and we couldn’t be happier. What to drink: While we find it hard to go a week without his signature Garderner (a subtle tangy-sweet gin, lemon, fresh basil cocktail with just a touch of syrup) served over crushed ice (the original way it was made), lately we’ve begun to find ourselves partial to his White Lady (a gin martini with Cointreau and lemon juice). For a night cap, the Negroni sums up any evening perfectly, especially when he presents it with the perfect twist-and-squeeze of orange zest. If you’re feeling bold, ask Sam to mix you up a Corpse Reviver #2, we won’t tell you more except that it’s generously laced with absinthe. Drinks from $10-$30.
CARNIVORE APPETITE | Where to eat: This is a Brazillian churrascaria with a difference, the all all-you-can-eat buffet at Marina Square’s Dining Edition opened in August 2013 and features a 13.5 metre long buffet line with a custom-made charcoal rotisserie. Here you walk along the buffet and select the meats to be carved on to your plate and load up on unlimited servings of hot dishes, sides, salads and dessert. What to eat: What stood out for us wasthe pork collar and lamb shoulder with garlic and mint. Top these with one of the six different sauces provided although we liked the mushroom sauce best. The sides include a sautéed mushroom with rosemary, fennel and cherry tomato and a polenta mash, with corn kernel and milk. Price: Lunch Mon-Fri $23.88; Sat & Sun $29.13; Dinner Mon-Thurs $34.90, Fri-Sun $40.83
BOOK A TABLE | NAPOLEON FOOD & WINE BAR| Where to eat: Buzzing on Telok Ayer Street is a new food and wine bar that has caught the fancy of the post-work-drinks crowd (and ours too). They opened in June 2013, and the decor makes it an inviting spot. Brick walls and dark wood make the interiors of this cosy bar resemble the insides of a wine barrel. What to eat/drink: Wine is the mainstay here, and don’t be shy to ask for recommendations. Be led to the enomatic wine dispensers and sample a sip each ($2 onwards) till you decide to commit to a full glass ($8 onwards) or bottle. Food here is meant to be shared and what goes best with wine is the the cheese platters ($16-$20) or pick at the foie gras terrine with balsamic reduction ($20).
SINPOPO BRAND | Where to eat: Named after an infamous 1950s nightclub by the same name, this Joo Chiat eatery (by the Awfully Chocolate group) is done up all old-school and is deliberately retro - in decor, ambience and food. They opened doors in May 2013, and plan to expand the menu gradually. What to eat: Forgotten foods like a technicolour ais bor (a ball of shaved ice topped with sweet syrups, $3.90) and a silky, smooth D24 durian pengat ($6.90). Although, the ambience is what you are really going here for.
THE TIPPLETOWN CAFE | Where to eat: There are several new places on Club street, although the most unpretentious of the lot (and possibly the newest - they opened in August 2013) is this one. They are online beer retailers turned ‘craft beer and cider bar’. Sitting right beside O’Batignolles, it is almost the first thing you see when you alight at the Club St road closure on Fri/Sat evenings. What to drink: Beer of course. From Potent Belgian ales like the Delirium Tremens ($18 a pint) to the fruity, Mystic cherry ($10). The bar bites are nothing to shout about, although we will be back to try the Jungle steak pie ($20) – this one has been cooked and infused with the locally brewed Jungle beer.
ZUI HONG LOU | Where to drink: Club Street needs another bar like it needs… well, like it or not, several new ones have popped up. Zui Hong Lou opened in June 2013; the cutesy concept dim sum bar channels an upmarket Cha Cha Tang vibe. We think it’s a kitsch concept that might just work on the overcrowded intersection of Club Street and Ang Siang Hill. What to eat/drink: We’ll be honest; we were more partial to the drinks than the food, as the dim sum didn’t exactly match up to our expectations. On the plus side, it was nice to have haw gaw to nibble on as we made our way through their signature concoctions: the Flower Song ($14) served in a Chinese teapot was a hit with sweet cocktail lovers as it melded in flavours of lychee, honey and chrysanthemum flowers. For a less cloying cocktail, order the the White Crane ($14), a gin-based drink with mashed soursop, egg white and lemon.
DRURY LANE | Where to eat: A (bright red) Tanjong Pagar shophouse is home to a new coffee, cakes and brunch spot that opened doors in July 2013. We didn’t get the reference to the London street when we walked in, but that did not deter us. What to eat: The coffee (a cappuccino goes for $4.50) is a smooth cuppa, and we are told they bring in beans from Toby’s Estate and Square Mile to create their own blends. The food offerings are a little all over the place – cakes and muffins ($3-$6), weekend brunch fare ( A big ‘local’ breakfast of kaya toast, coconut scrambled eggs, sambal mushroom, curry baked beans, bacon and sausages, $14) and weekly specials like a beef rendang with coconut infused pasta ($14). At least, there is something for everyone here.
CAD CAFÈ| Where to eat: For brunch and coffee on Haji Lane (right beside Blu Jaz and Piedra Negra), look no further than the shiny (but tiny) new CAD (that stands for coffee, art and design). Opened in June 2013, the place is small but the blue wall art is welcoming and you can’t help but go in for a cuppa. The stools outside make a good spot to watch the sights of Haji Lane. What to eat: They use Toby’s Estate coffee to brew up the espressos ($3.50), Americanos ($3.50) and cappuccinos ($5). The food menu has the usual sandwiches, salads and brunch-centered dishes. Although it is the coffee that needs to live up to the acid test, they are situated in hipster central, after all.
MENZO BUTAO | Where to eat: At the brand new food-wing of Marina Square, now called The Dining Edition, is the ramen-ya Menzo Butao. This is the brand’s first outlet in Singapore (it has more than 23 in Japan and overseas) What to eat: The specialty here is the Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen (from $12.90) and in particular, the kuroo, where the black broth gets its colour from an emulsion of fried shallots and vegetable oil.
THE PROVIDORE AT MANDARIN GALLERY | Where to eat: For gourmet food purveyors, The Providore has been the go-to place for a while now at the Tan Boon Liat building, with its warehouse full of fine foods and artisanal produce. It now has a new cafe-eatery at the Mandarin Gallery. What to eat: The dishes come in either small ($14.50), medium ($18.50) or large ($22.50) and are meant for sharing. What caught our eyes are the small tuna tartare with quail egg yolk, gaufrette potatoes (waffle-shaped chips) and capers, and the large lobster mac and cheese with shaved fennel and dill.
SUPREME TASTES JIANG NAN CUISINE | Where to eat: This traditional-looking, Chinese eatery opened in July 2013, and sits smack in the middle of the shiny new The Dining Edition at Marina Square. The walls are adorned with Chinese paintings done by students from schools all over, and a glass wall allows you to peek at the chefs hard at work in the kitchen. What to eat: The food is Northern Chinese from the Jiangnan province and the variety is good. The purple sweet potato dumplings (three for $4.50) and braised pork knuckle ($28) come highly recommended. We tried the pork; it was fork-tender and full of flavour. The eatery grinds its own soybeans, so don’t leave without getting a freshly-made drink ($2).
MUCHACHOS | Where to eat: If hip Club Street can have its own takeaway burrito bar then cool Keong Saik Road will follow suit. Muchachos (opened in June 2013) calls itself a "mission-style burrito bar" and serves only one thing – burritos. And it does them like they do in San Fransisco’s mission district. What to eat: Choose either a 12-inch burrito ($12) or a 10-inch ($10) burritino, and then walk down the assembly line to pick the fillings, which include pork, chicken, beef, fish, lamb, rice, sour cream, salsa cheese and more. It’s open till midnight - Chinatown cocktail crowd, take note.
SAIGON LOTUS | Where to eat: This one is slightly tucked away at Marina Square’s The Dining Edition, but it stands out for its bright orange walls and cheery decor. They opened in July 2013, and this is their first outlet in Singapore.What to eat: There is more than light-brothed, MSG-spiked pho available at this Vietnamese eatery (and frankly, we've had better). Try the canh chua tom, a delicate and cleansing soup of barramundi fish, pineapple, okra and beansprouts in tamarind broth ($25 serves two or three). It also serves the traditional Vietnamese drip coffee ($11 for a pot) for your post-weekday-lunch caffeine fix.
SAINT PIERRE | Where to eat : The dining options at Quayside Isle are plenty, but for fine fusion food, dine at Saint Pierre. The institution formerly at Central has relocated to Sentosa Cove (in May 2013), and sits as the flagship outlet for the Emmanuel Stroobant group. The interiors are minimalist and the kitchen, open-concept – you can watch the chefs in action and Stroobant himself can usually be spotted whipping up an order. What to eat: Regulars at the old Saint Pierre may look for familiar favourites on the menu. What stands out for us though is the prettily arranged hamachi la plancha (kingfish served with avocado, eggplant, seaweed and popped quinoa, $34) and the pan-fried foie gras with caramelised green apple and old port sauce ($48). If you are there just for the wine and views, order a chariot de fromages to share (five kinds of farmed cheese served with nuts, fruit and bread, $35) with your wine.
SUMIYA | Where to eat: Find your way to level 12 of the maze that is Orchard Central to get to this kitschy izakaya and charcoal grill. Sumiya opened in July 2013 and is an affordable rooftop bar – think all-day happy hours and Asahi Super Dry on tap for $4.90 – that features a quirky, vintage-style decor. What to eat: Grab a table outdoors to grill the meat over charcoal pots. We like the smoky flavours of the dried seafood (eel, shishamo and squid, $8), or play it safe with some sushi and sashimi. For $6, you can dip into a big bowl of edamame that is taken out from the kitchen and you grab all you can with gloved hands as your serving.
THE LATIN QUARTER | Where to eat: The people behind Colombian eatery La Barra now has a second outlet that opened in June 2013, offering a variety of Latin-American choices apart from Colombian food. Tucked away in the serene Science Park, this lunch-buffet-only eatery rejigs its menu once a week. What to eat: The all-you-can-eat spread costs $18.72 per head and includes soup, salads, appetisers, mains and desserts. Dishes that have made an appearance on current and past menus are the yucas fritas (cassava root) fries, vegetarian burritos, passionfruit parfait and arroz (white and yellow rice). Quite a bargain, we think.
OCEANS OF SEAFOOD | Billed as one of the top draws at the indoor multi-vendor gourmet market, Pasarbella, is this seafood market and eatery. Expect 5000 square feet of seafood (displayed on ice-beds) from Japan, North America, Canada, Europe and more. The space is split into two sections - Japanese (modeled as a mini-Tsukiji market) and International, and you can either buy back or dine-in-market. Pick a lobster to be boiled (at the 60-seat International section) and dip it in either butter, sambal (chili and spices), black pepper sauce or miso butter. Tip: Look for the plump Vancouver spot prawns and ask for them to be served raw. After you eat the spot prawn flesh you can have the heads deep fried to pair with a chilled beer or sake. Preparation cost is $5 to $20 (depending on the kind of seafood and its weight) over the market price.
BOOK A TABLE | DING DONG | Where to eat: Something is buzzing on Club Street (Ann Siang Road, to be exact) and it is an eatery-cum-bar by the Spa Esprit Group. Neon lights and a kitchen shielded by a glass panel greets you on the first floor, before you ascent the spiral staircase into cosy, dimly-lit nooks and spaces on the second and the third.What to eat: The menu, designed by chef Ryan Clift (previously from Tippling Club) features Asian-inspired share plates, and cocktails with Asian flavours. We weren't expecting much from this fusion concept, but this is fusion done well: the Kingfish sashimi with pickled daikon, wasabi and yuzu dressing starter ($21) is done with quality ingredients and perky flavours; main plate of five-spice lamb ribs with sweet green chilli sauce ($22) had tenderly-done lamb ribs and a very pleasant sauce with it; and the sambal fried rice with coriander and crispy shallots ($14) like Mother's fried rice with added crunch. Though marketed as small plates, these were substantial for sharing. The cocktails, for the most part, pull no punches, either.
Find out which other Hot New Restaurants opened in Singapore in the first half of 2013. Click here to read on.