TAQUERIA | Where to eat: Finally, affordable tacos! Give it up for this new halal Mexican stall on the third floor of Market Street (Golden Shoe) Food Centre. Set up by a West Coast American who missed good, affordable Mexican food, this taco stall is as authentic as it gets, and the prices are hard to beat. What to eat:Pollo (chicken, $2.50 each), pescado (fish, $3 each), camarones (prawns, $3.50 each), and carne asada (grilled [New Zealand] steak, $4 each) are placed on homemade flour tortillas, with handmade crema (cream) and pico de gallo (salad of raw chopped tomatoes, white onions and chillis). Our favourites are the flaky, battered fish and the smoky medium-rare strip loin steak cubes. We're also impressed by the tortillas that are made in-house every morning. Arrive early – they are only open on Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm, or when the food is sold out. Watch our short video of Tacqueria here.
PENANG STREET | Where to eat: In the unlikely location within the NUH Medical Centre at Lower Kent Ridge is a restaurant serving up delicacies from Penang. There is an exhaustive menu at this December 2013-opened bistro, featuring plates of the Malaysian coastal state's street fare. What to eat: Try their version of the assam laksa ($8.80) that is sweet, sour and spicy with fish, mint leaves and cucumber. Their signature dish, the nasi lemak ($9.80) is coconut rice served with turmeric-marinated chicken thigh, egg, peanuts and anchovies topped with sambal ikan bilis and sambal mak-mak. At these prices, we do hope that their portions are substantial.
CONCETTO BY SAVEUR | Where to eat: Occupying the spot that once housed Billy Bombers at The Cathay is a new venture by the team that brought affordable French cuisine to the masses via restaurants Saveur (Purvis Street and Far East Plaza). An all-day Italian restaurant with similar ethos : cooking-school-rooted Italian cuisine at affordable prices. The interiors of this February 2014 set-up are achingly industrial chic, with an in-house herb garden occupying pride of place. What to eat: The food is not run-of-the-mill, the funghi risotto ($9.90) is made with a mixed medley of mushrooms served with a spoonful of shallot relish that is tart enough to offset the risotto’s creaminess. The crab risotto ($12.90) is topped with baby cabbage leaves and rice krispies for added texture, while the crab itself is dressed with parsley and herbs and served on a spoon – ready to be mixed in. We only wish that the portions were bigger, but at these prices, order a couple of dishes and share.
ANTI:DOTE | Where to eat and drink: At the base of business hotel Fairmont, Singapore is this revamped bar that seats up to 120. Formerly Ink bar, it has been given a new stylish lease of life with vibrant colours, Peranakan glass tabletops, modern wall art, plush seats and a Spanish-rooted bar and kitchen team. The bar was opened in Januray 2014, and has its own herb garden. What to eat and drink: Unfortunately for this bar, our preferences are skewed: we like the (tapas-style) food ($8 to $24 per dish) more than the Chinese-herb-tinged cocktails ($19 to $24 each) made with house-made bitters. The scrambled eggs with uni and caviar ($24) is a luscious choice - rich, served with a pearl spoon to ensure the taste of Avruga caviar is kept intact. The braised veal cheeks and foie gras with caramelised shallots in bao form, topped with a slice of Perigord black truffle ($20) is also a top dish. If we could have only one bao, we'd take this light, fluffy, sweet and salty and rich offering anytime.
63 CELSIUS | Where to eat: Opened since November 2013, this is not just another bar catering to the post- work crowd at Asia Square Tower 2 (although their location, opposite The Exchange does attract a fair share of those), 63 Celsius is a coffee spot, bar (spirits, wine and cocktails) and restaurant; their bar bites are much more than wings and fries. What to eat: The baby squid ($12) comes highly recommended and is topped with a nest of fried enoki mushrooms, and then topped with a 63- degree egg. Mix it all up and tuck in, we liked the crisp, crunchy and chewy textures of this one. With a Josper grill in the kitchen, we were inclined to try the grilled asparagus topped with goat cheese . It was simple and well-matched with a glass of their house wine (Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2011, $13 per glass ). We will be back for the friendly service and to try the coffee, which is its third wave and served at the recommended temperature of 63 Celsius. Now do you get the name?
SHIROKIYA | Where to eat: Taking up residence in a wire-fronted shophouse with an alfresco area on Cuppage Terrace is this health-touting Japanese chain. It's been a little late in reaching our shores, having already set up 2,000 outlets worldwide (in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and Taiwan). Run by Japanese kitchen staff, this indoor and outdoor restaurant has private, rice-paper-doored rooms on the second floor, and smoking (and non-smoking) seats outside. The first floor seats few, and resembles a typical cosy Japanese restaurant. What to eat: The affordable nabe (hotpot) Bishoku ($38.80) with chicken collagen derived from the coxcomb. It comes with vegetables, mashed yam, prawns, leeks, mushrooms and tofu, and can be cooked thoroughly in less than 15 minutes on the portable burner – good for two to three persons. The broth might be a little too salty for local tastebuds so you might want to opt for the freeflow green tea despite its shocking $6.80 per person charge. Other "healthy" ingredients used here are salted rice malt for reducing fatigue and stress, hyaluronic acid for water retaining, capsaicin to burn body fat, and soy milk for boosting good cholesterol. The desserts are variations of soy milk products and ice.
GYOZA YA | Where to eat: Opened in December 2013, this Japanese eatery at the newly revamped Robinsons (formerly, The Heeren) specialises in, of course, Japanese dumplings. What to eat: The gyoza comes with either pork ($4.80 for six pieces) or vegetable ($4.80 for six pieces) fillings, and you can have them pan-fried or boiled, with a side sauceplate of ‘special ' miso dipping sauce. Have that as an appetiser and then order a bowl of jyajya men ($6.50).This dry ramen makes its Singapore debut at Gyoza Ya: thick noodles topped with pork , miso sauce , cucumber, scallions and ginger. For dessert, there is ice-cream in flavours like matcha, red bean, sesame and yuzu ($6 per serving).
ISCREAM | Where to eat: Nestled in the aged estate of Bedok North is a new mover and shaker to the scene, IScream. This December 2013 venture was set up by the same people behind Arteastiq Boutique Tea House in Mandarin Gallery. Located right next to KNS Restaurant ( no, that's not a typo), the hipster ice cream parlour is a breath of fresh air to the otherwise old-school Bedok. What to eat: Instead of a predetermined size and price, they have a pay-as-you-weigh concept where diners pay based on the weight of the ice cream. Try their Singaporean flavours like kaya, for which our tasters said tasted like kueh bangkit, Milo and kaya all mixed up together. You can enjoy the ice cream as it is, or on a waffle ($9.90). We also enjoyed their Soogle ($11.90), which are four macarons shells each stuffed with a different flavour of ice cream.
ONE MAN COFFEE | Where to eat: Upper Thomson Road is becoming quite the spot to café hop. Joining the ranks is One Man Coffee, that occupies the same spot as Crust Pizza in the day - they are open 9am to 5pm, while Crust opens for business 5pm onwards. Well, dual-use spaces are the 'in' thing in 2014. What to eat and drink: The coffee of course. Get a cappuccino ($4.50) or a flat white ($4.50), the coffee is made with beans from Strangers Reunion and Melbourne’s Axil Roasters. Day bites include breads, cakes and pasty ($3.50 to $6.50). Popular choices are the almond croissant ($4.50) and salted caramel danish ($4.50). Expect a larger food menu to roll out soon.
GATTOPARDO RISTORANTE DI MARE | Where to eat: Moving away from its tucked away location at Hotel Fort Canning to a two-storey shophouse on trendy Tras Street that previously housed Talent Cafe is long-time favourite, Gattopardo. They reopened with a revamped menu and the Southern Italian restaurant will now focus more on seafood dishes replacing the previous grilled offerings. What to eat: Chef Lino Sauro uses sustainable seafood to create dishes like the capesante e ceci (Norwegian salmon served with chickpea puree and broccoli rabe, $34). Old favourites like the risone pasta with braised octopus and bone marrow ($34) and Gattopardo’s signature seafoood stew ($40) are still on the menu.
MEAN, BEAN & WICKED GRIND | Where to eat: MBWG is a weekday-only café at The Plaza on Beach Road. Providing hot (and cold) cuppas and sweet treats to office-goers in the area, this tiny eatery does cupcakes, sandwiches, light bites and dessert. What to eat: Coffee is brewed with the La Ristrettos blend, and a cappuccino or flat white is $4.50. There are cupcakes ($3.50) too – try the earl grey lavender, red velvet or salted caramel cupcakes. Light bites like sandwiches, salads and yoghurt pots are available for dine-in or takeaway.
&SONS BACARO | Where to eat: What this December 2013-opened outfit at China Square Central has going for it though are the affordable prices ($12 for a negroni? We will have two please) We had a satisfying meal for an average of $50 per person, with drinks. What to eat: The menus is split up into vegetables, home-baked breads, artisanal pasta, meats and seafood, all served in justifiably priced small plates. From tagliolini with crab meat and nduja (spreadable, spicy pork sausage, $9) to baccalá (salted cod) cakes with sea urchin sabayon ($13), the options are several and the best way to work through this menu is to order a lot, and share. We liked the lamb tenderloins with cannelini beans in garlicky sauce ($18), and the mini baba limoncello ($9) is a refreshing plate. They also have a decent selection of Italian cheeses ($9 each), homemade salami ($8 to $12 per serving) from their cold room, as well as homemade breads ($5 to $8). Wines are at $7 to $15 for a glass and cocktails are $9 to $15.
BOOK A TABLE HERE | THE BEAST | Where to eat: From the guys who won the space in a contest to run The Chupitos Bar, is this an American Southern restaurant in a corner of the Arab quarter. Replete with whiskey barrels for al fresco tables on the barn-inspired first floor (it's most characterful of three), this three-storey American-sports-screener launched in November 2013 with hype over a menu that serves a 750g-patty The Beast burger ($125). What to eat and drink: The Beast burger feeds four, and should be pre-ordered — its 750g beef patty, 450g of pulled pork and 450g of buttermilk fried chicken takes a while to prepare. We liked the messy (the way it should be) and sweet pulled pork sliders ($16), with one of at least 18 American craft beers (Magic Hat from Vermont, $14, or Arrogant Bastard ale from California, $18) or the over 30 types of bourbon whiskeys (Makers' Mark, Knob Creek, Red Stag, Elijah Craig and Highland Park, to name a few). The Southern fried chicken (half $18, full $32) and shrimp and grits ($28) are unfortunately not worth it.
SHINKANSEN | Where to eat: In a hurry for lunch and need something quick and healthy? Speed walk to Ocean Financial Centre at Raffles Place to the sushi and salad bar named after a Japanese bullet train. What to eat: You can choose to create your own salad bowl ($7 to $12 depending on the size and mix-ins) — choose a base from white or brown rice, greens or soba noodles and the toss-ins include broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, beans, egg and pasta. Top with sashimi, smoked duck, teriyaki chicken or other kinds of meat ($3 each) and finish with a choice of dressing that includes miso, yuzu mayo and sesame plum. There is a small selection of pre-made bowls like the california don (crab stick, tamago and avocado on sushi rice, $9.80) or sets of sushi and sashimi to grab and go. THE SECRET MERMAID: Tucked away in the back of this quick-service eatery, we hear, is a 16-seater bar and tasting room serving around 50 spirits (some directly imported) and a selection of cocktails. Not another secret bar? They open in a few weeks, so stay tuned.
MENCHIE’S | Where to eat: We love frozen yoghurt, even more so when it is self-serve. Why? Dispense your own flavours, mix and match, go crazy with the toppings. Weigh and pay. What is there not to love about this? Famed yoghurt shop from Los Angeles, Menchie’s has set up shop beside Max Brenner Chocolate Bar at VivoCity. What to eat: There are 12 daily flavours and over 40 toppings to choose from. The flavours range from the predicable (chocolate, cookies and cream) to the creative (green apple sorbet, fresh baked snickerdoodle). Toppings range from fresh fruit to nuts, candy, chocolate, marshmallows and syrups and sauces. Go easy or go insane, you pay for how much your bowl weighs. Price: $3.40 for 100gm
LADY M CONFECTIONS | Where to eat: Opened next to the Merlion (in January 2014) is the second Singapore-based branch of this cake boutique from New York. Like the first (which is nearby, in Marina Square), it's a clean, cool bright space with a long, open counter of cakes — the ideal respite for tourists and locals-playing-tourist on a hot sightseeing day. What to eat: The mille crepe ($80 for the whole, $8 for a slice), of course — this light, citrus-y million-layer crepe-and-cream cake is the signature of this boutique. The rest of the sweet line-up are equally light and fresh, all made fresh in-house. The green tea mille crepe cake ($85 for the whole, $8.50 for a slice) is a more serious cake with the intensity of powdered matcha. Also on the menu are salads and sandwiches for those looking for a fuller meal.
ONE-NINETY BAR BY JAVIER DE LAS MUELAS | Where to drink: This revamped bar of the Four Seasons Hotel has gone from 'hotel bar' to a three-space stunner; now outfitted with a Spanish vibe because Javier de las Muelas — renowned bar owner and martini god of Barcelona — had a say behind this collab bar that has a dessert area, indoor bar and lounge, and a terrace. What to drink: Martinis ($22) — be it the classic (and signature) dry martini (Bombay Sapphire, vermouth, olive) or the rest of the cocktail options; gin and tonic ($22) that is served in a goblet if you ask; and the Cinecitta ($23), served with the most easy-to-down olives ($8). We also love the bar bites — smoked almonds that taste like they have been sprinkled with bacon dust (they might have, $7), and sliders ($28) made with wagyu beef and topped with onion marmalade and horseradish mayo.
CROSSINGS CAFE | Where to eat: A cafe with a conscience on Waterloo Street (near the Singapore Art Museum) serving hearty dishes. We are intrigued, more so when we hear that Crossings was started as a social enterprise to provide employment opportunities for those who come with disadvantaged backgrounds. Profits will also be directed towards charitable causes. What to eat: Tuck in for a cause? We sure can, and their chilli crab pasta (fettuccine, chilli crab sauce and a deep-fried soft shell crab, $16), the honey mustard ribs (served with fries, $18), the chendol pannacotta ($5) and profiteroles ($6) sound like worthy options.
ASSEMBLY COFFEE | Where to eat: Another spot to nosh at in sleepy (and leafy) Evans Lodge is Assembly Coffee. If the brunch crowds at Hatched are a bit too much, this quieter spot will be a welcome respite. What to eat or drink: Expect, a smaller and simpler menu where coffee takes centrestage. They use coffee from local roasters, Liberty Coffee, and apart from the usual cappuccinos ($4.50) and flat whites ($4.50), try also their deconstructed coffee, in which the espresso shot, milk and foamed milk are served seperately so you can mix your ideal proportions ($7). Sandwiches, eggs and the usual brunch-plates make up the rest of the menu.
HATTER STREET BAKEHOUSE & CAFE | Where to eat: The hipster crowds have not trooped in to this heartland cafe yet, and the coffee and cakes make good companions to laze away the weekend with. This Alice in Wonderland-themed café sits beside popular Kovan eatery, Nakhon Kitchen. Walk in to whimsically cute decor and indulgent and sinful foods. What to eat: This is a bakery, so give their baked goods a go. Try the Whoaffles (these are waffles served with pandan ice cream and gula Melaka, $8.90) and a decadent hot chocolate with brûlée-d marshmallows ($5.60). For decadent cakes of the day, take a peek at what is on offer – the menu changes depending on what the chef feels like whipping up.
BOOK A TABLE HERE | NUVO | Where to eat: Tucked away in the recesses of Marina’s Square’s new Dining Edition is this Italian restaurant with Japanese influences. The décor is contemporary and there is an impressive al fresco terrace (come SingTel Formula One season, they boast of one of the best views). What to eat: Chef Mark Richards (formerly of Keystone Restaurant) flavours up his Italian plates with Japanese ingredients and condiments. We liked the angel hair pasta with tamago furikake (rice seasoning with egg), lobster essence and rayu (Japanese chilli) oil ($18 for half portion, $24 for the full portion). The crisp fried calamari, dressed with togarashi (dried Japanese capsicum strands) is served on a bed of rocket and sous-vide watermelon cubes ($18) — an interesting play of textures. Choose from among playful desserts, like the matcha sponge cake topped with banana jam and a crumble of Hello Panda biscuits ($12) or the ricotta cheesecake with a crust made of Pocky and Meiji dark chocolate ($15).
CAT CAFÉ NEKO NO NIWA | Where to eat or play: We did not venture to this café expecting to eat and drink. Singapore’s first kitty café is on the second floor of a Boat Quay shophouse and houses 13 furry felines. What to eat, drink or do: You pay $12 per person, per hour to hang with the cats (they call this "cuddle charge"). You can pet them, groom them and hope for one to crawl onto your lap. If you must, bear little hope and order the coffee or tea ($2.50 to $4.50) served from the dispenser, and for nibbles you have cakes, tarts and Ice Cream Cookie & Co. ice-cream sandwiches ($2 to $5.50). The draw here is the company of the cats; if they decide to befriend you, you get your money’s worth.
BAM! | Where to eat or drink: Before you say "not another tapas bar", head on over to trendy Tras Street and BAM!. This 25-seat tapas-sake-bar boasts of its own sake cellar and the décor hits all the right industrial chic notes – naked bulbs et al. What to eat or drink: The small plates here are Japanese-meets-Spanish, so expect dishes like a kampung egg with baby sotong (calamari) and chorizo ($12) and a Sakura ebi omelette with melon and ali i oli (Provencal sauce made of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and egg yolks; $18). The menu is regularly rotated, and do ask for recommendations for sake pairings.
MIAM MIAM | Where to eat: At Bugis Junction's newest wing is this wall-less spread out café that seats around 100. Opened in October 2013, the décor is cutesy-kitsch, dominated by memorabilia in the French country style – which makes sense with the menu. What to eat: Japanese-French fusion food, all made from scratch. Though the spaghetti is handmade, we weren't too impressed with the Miam Miam spaghetti (bacon, tomatoes, runny egg and baby spinach on spaghetti, $15.80), which was too wet and salty. If you must, we've heard pleasant rumblings about its Modern Yaki (aglio olio pasta sautéed with cabbage, shimeiji mushrooms, topped with an omelette and mayonnaise, $14.80). Desserts are a sure bet – thick, cut-into-bite-size French toast ($15.80) that soaks up the sweet syrup; light but creamy soufflés (we loved the chocolate molleaux, $9.80), and a simple but satisfying iced matcha latte with matcha softee ($8.80).
NOVEMBER 8 | Where to eat: A condominium complex (Thomson V Two) at Upper Thomson Road is home to a few new eateries, of which November 8 is one of them. A casual, cosy spot that serves coffee, cakes and all-day breakfast, they are open till midnight. Eggs at midnight and free Wi-Fi make this a great spot for students and those who need to work into the wee hours. What to eat: Plates of comfort fare like the eggs Benedict on focaccia bread with honey baked ham ($13) and a hearty potato rösti served with scrambled eggs and bratwurst sausage ($18).
TIPPLING CLUB | Where to eat: Tanjong Pagar is getting some serious clean-up, and Tippling Club has plenty to do with it. The move-in of this former Dempsey stalwart signals the herding in of a new crowd – those who will appreciate the slick, upmarket lines of this verdant-coloured bar and restaurant; those who will pay for quality cocktails and tasting menus that blows the traditional-centred mind. The concept has not changed: rules-subverting food (molecular gastronomy, mostly) in a modern space. Some of the original touches remain, like the jelly pillows the spoons rest on and the hanging bar, though chef-owner Ryan Clift has added more, including artisanal chandeliers. What to eat: Everything the eight-course classic tasting menu ($160++; $260++ with wine pairing) serves up. It's an experience – from the pillow-shaped "omelette" with smoked eel and caviar; the venison (shot from helicopters to ensure the deer does not tense up and produce sour-tasting acids) with stinging nettle puree, braised salsify, onion rings and burnt butter jus; to the cheesecake in the form of candy. You get more of a choice with the cocktails – some of the signatures have been ported over, as well as an entire page of eight new drinks. The new Jolly Green Giant (plymouth gin, luxardo maraschino, pea puree, citrus and agave, $18) was a little raw for us (pea-haters, stay away), but the Low Profile Fashion Choices (Tennesse whiskey, salt caramel, chocolate and Earl Grey, $18) sounds like it'd be a good nightcap.
OZ SPECIALTY COFFEE | Where to eat: For another brunch and coffee spot in the Upper Thomson area, stop by this café at Thomson V Two. Cozy and inviting and right on-trend with exposed brick walls and hanging bulb fixtures. What to eat: Coffee here is made with the house-blend called 'Roadster' by Pacamara – boutique coffee roasters from Thailand. There is food too: expect affordable bites like a smoked salmon scramble ($15) and for something sweet, the minty choco brioche ($5.50).
RONIN | Where to eat: Hong Kong Street is no stranger to hidden establishments. If you see lost souls, armed with DSLRs, desperately seeking the next "it" café in town, point them in the direction of 17 Hong Kong Street where the 17HKS building sits. Ronin is a cool, almost-dark spot they can duck into. What to eat: From the folk behind coffee spots, The Plain and The Bravery, you go in expecting good coffee, and the velvet-y smooth brew does not disappoint. There is no set food menu: a friendly waitress will rattle off the day's specials that might consist of sandwiches, eggs on toast with sausages and avocado, cakes and tarts. We tried a simple (but good) tomato, avocado and rocket sandwich ($9).
STIRLING HIGHWAY| Where to eat: Tucked away in Ridgewood Close in Holland is this delightful brunch spot and bakery named after an Australian street. It was the place the owners called home while attending university. What to eat: The menu is a mixed bag of Aussie-style brunch, lunch and dinner plates ($12-$20). We wouldn’t blame you if you went straight for the cake display, with specials like a honey lemon chamomile cake and a peanut butter banana cake (both, $5 a slice). Pair these with gourmet loose leaf teas ($5.90 per pot), kick back and indulge.
TONY'S PIZZA | Where to eat: At the corner of the row of shophouses that counts Spize – Singapore clubbers' go-to supper haunt of the wee hours – as one of its tenants, is this New York-style pizzeria. It's so-called for the owner of a famous pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York. This is no franchise, even though Tony turned up at the opening of Tony's Pizza Singapore in December 2013 – the staff went to Brooklyn to learn the skills, and Tony simply wants to share pizzas the world. Sit in, take away or have the pies delivered to the home. Last we heard, the owners are working on getting a late–night license so you can stumble in and out after a night of drinking, Big Apple style. What to eat: New York-style pizzas and buffalo wings, of course. It's a thin slice of dough, topped with big ladles of tomato sauce and handfuls of aged cheddar (the latter's their secret ingredient) so the hefty slice drapes over your fingers. Every bite is flavourful – the cheese slice ($6.50) is quite in-your-face, while the Meat Lover's slice ($8) takes it up a meaty notch. The buffalo wings have some serious spice, which is the way we like it. A tip – split one or half a pie (18 inches; $21.50 to $25 for half, $42 to $48 for full) – it'll be cooked to order, with the cheese still bubbling when you attempt to pick it up.
TART BLANC | Where to eat: Millenia Walk is home to a few noted dessert parlours (Francisca Dessert Parlour, 3 Inch Sin and Bing Bian) and adding to the sweet circuit is Tart Blanc – a cafe and bakeshop that serves tarts, sandwiches, pies and more. What to eat: The tarts of course, with flavours like silky chocolate banana, apple with grapefruit, and lemon with blackberry ($7 to $7.50 per slice).