PLY BAKED GOODS | Where to eat: Before you say, 'not another bakery', step into this 16-seat cafe in a Thomson Road shophouse and give their bakes a taste. After two successful years as a takeaway-only outfit, they have recently expanded into serving their confections for dine-in customers. What to eat: The rainbow cake will grab your attention with its bright colours. At $8.50 a slice you get a seven-layered, iced sponge cake studded with chocolate pearls. Try also the royal chempedak (jackfruit) cake ($6.20) or the New York cheesecake. There are savouries on the menu too; for those looking for lighter bites, they cook their French fries in an air fryer ($8).
SAHA SIGNATURE RESTAURANT & BAR | Where to eat: The newest occupant to the Duxton Hill dining enclave is Indian celebrity chef, Abhijit Saha's eponymous restaurant. After running two popular restaurants in Bangalore, India, and winning several awards, Saha brings his contemporary take on traditional Indian recipes by way of a restaurant and terrace bar to Singapore. What to eat: The eclectic food is best explored via the tasting menus: pick between a vegetarian ($78) and non-vegetarian ($98) option. Expect to try dishes like the vegetarian frozen dahi vada powder (yogurt caviar with tamarind chutney and crushed cumin) and meat-dishes like the balchao (Goan tomato-chilli paste) spice-grilled scallop salad with cashew nut crust, asparagus, ginger orange dressing and mixed greens. After dinner, retreat to the terrace cocktail bar for an Indian mojito (made instead with Old Monk dark rum, $16) or a Kari-Tino (a martini flavoured with curry leaves and green chillis, $16).
BOOK A TABLE HERE | GRAND MANDARIN RESTAURANT | Where to eat: A little ways down from the frog porridge establishments of New Bridge Road, next to Jean Yip Salon, is a four-story building with a gym. The ground and second floors have now been converted into Grand Mandarin, a Chinese restaurant with traditional-style fittings and modern cutlery. Its founders being in the finance industry, the clientele doesn't fall far. The rooms are also outfitted with conference facilities. What to eat: Yes, Grand Mandarin's roast meats are out of this world - the fatty-but-sturdy char siew ($15) melts in the mouth, once you crunch past it's thin crystallized honey shell. The char siew strips are roasted, the strips then dipped in honey, and each hand-torched to get that thin candied shell. The roast pork belly, meanwhile, ($15) is light, with crisp skin that isn't so dense it gets stuck in the teeth when bitten into. But that isn't all - also worth trying are the light but punchy, crisp fried soft-shell crab with chicken floss and curry leaves ($18); the pork neck and bean sprouts glass noodles (price available upon request) that is permeated with tenderness and wok hei; and the egg white fried rice with dried scallops and crab meat ($16) - a naturally flavourful (and flavoured) dish. We'll be back to try the Cantonese-style Peking duck ($78) and, if luck will have us, the wild empurau (generally $900 per kg) fish. The fish that feeds on ripened fruit that falls from the trees should be a dream. You have got to book this fish dish well in advance though.
TABLE MANNERS | Where to eat:Communal didn't work out. We hope this second outlet of Table Manners (TM) will. TM's steady following at Changi City Point should be indication that they've at least got some sort of formula right: easy, bar-friendly American/Cajun bites and happy hour deals for its executive, now CBD-based, clientele. They've kept Communal's bar that runs the establishment's length, but the voltage has been turned up, and planters added in above. Mainstream pop streams. What to eat: "Bar snacks for only $5!" - it shouts out at the front. This deal comes with every drink ordered until 8pm. There is a medium selection of drinks – New World wines (glass $9.50; bottles $45-$108), 11 cocktails ($11-$13), a handful of spirits ($8-$11) and many non-alcoholic beverages. The spicy chicken wings starter ($8.50) and the TM ribs (half rack $20, full rack $36) come with the same spicy, tangy barbecue sauce with a herbal tinge. The Louisiana fried chicken ($18), though tender, resembled more of fish and chips.
HAKATA IKKOUSHA | Where to eat: The head itamae (“chef” in Japanese) behind Hakata Ikkousha opened his second branch in Singapore at Chijmes. Expect the same consistency as the Tanjong Pagar and Terminal 3 branches – he drops by often to keep them on their toes. What we ate: As per the Hakata tradition, one begins their ramen meal by snacking on cold, hard-boiled eggs; these are available free flow. With six different tonkotsu ramen on their menu, the (definite) star of the shop is the broth – savoury and creamy but not overwhelmingly rich. Chef Kousuke Yoshimura mentioned that the soup is stewed for 12 hours with the bones being replaced periodically. We also like their thin-skinned gyoza (five for $5) which comes with a minced pork filling. Additional toppings such as seaweed ($1.50), flavoured egg ($2) and black fungus ($1) are also available.
TUNGLOK XI HE | Where to eat: The Tung Lok Group has taken over nearly Orchard Central’s entire seventh floor. While we like their new concept Noodle Stories, for a communal meal of Peking duck and other Chinese specialties, we would head over to this restaurant a few doors down, which is a collaboration with Beijing’s Xi He group. What to eat: The spread must begin with the duck ($78 each). The duck is carved table-side and comes with an array of condiments (cucumber, scallions, hoisin sauce, sugar, blueberry sauce) and pancakes. The chef recommends dipping the duck thigh cuts in a mix of sugar and pop rocks before placing it on your tongue to melt. Once the duck has been carved, you can ask for the remaining meat and bones to be fried cereal-style with oats (for an additional $10). Try also the decadent salmon skin with salted egg yolk ($10) and a refreshing wing bean salad served inside a carved tomato ($8). There are even a few Sichuan-style dishes on the menu; we tried the chicken with dried chilli and cashews ($16) and a super spicy poached sliced fish in chilli sauce ($22).
XPERIENCE RESTAURANT & BAR | Where to eat: Soft-launched Sofitel So's signature restaurant and bar gastro bar is one that we should want to get in bed with - no really, look at this video: their "chef's table" is designed to look like a bed, the private room resembles a Hamptons dining room, and the rest of the restaurant is blinged out with crystals and fresh flowers (orchids, when we visited). Xperience is designed to be all about the, well, experience - in the stylish, East-meets-West, casual yet luxurious environment, diners are able to knock back. It has flash environs that can be compared to W Hotel at Sentosa. What to eat: Fusion (Asian-French) dishes that have been categorised on the menu into their predominant flavours and textures. A standout from executive chef Anne-Cecile Degenne's menu is the smoky (and zesty, and slightly smoky) chipotle chilli crab tacos ($12/$$24/$36) - even bites all around. The lobster and scallops laksa risotto ($39/$62) was a good attempt, though a little undercooked - the essence of laksa captured in this generous dish with alternative textures. The best part about eating here: you can pick your own portion sizes - from tapas (XS) to family sizes (XL). Three-course lunch sets are at $50.31 per person.
AND ALL THINGS DELICIOUS | Where to eat: Previously an online bakery, this halal cakeshop now has a brick and mortar home at 462 Crawford Lane. The space is shared with independent textile design label, Fictive Fingers. What to eat: The baked goods are made using quality ingredients – unsalted butter, farm-fresh eggs, real fruit, pure flavourings and organic unrefined sugar. This then goes on to create a lush sticky toffee pudding (single slice $5.50, the 9-inch square cake and 450g of toffee sauce for $45) and their best-sellers – the orange cranberry scones (six for $15). The shop has a few seats outside for dine-in customers, but is mostly a takeaway cafe.
THE ASSEMBLY GROUND | Where to eat: We haven't seen the cafe-in-shop concept really take off in Singapore (it is usually only the cafe that thrives), but The Assembly Store at The Cathay and its adjoining cafe may prove to be an exception. The Assembly Ground has its own entrance and it is a large space with decor that is minimalist, although exposed brick and naked bulbs do make an appearance, as with most on-trend (read: hipster) establishments. What to eat: They use either Nylon Coffee Roasters' Four Chairs blend or Common Man Coffee Roasters' 22 Martin blend in their brews, and cappuccinos ($5 for single shot, $5.50 for double). The food menu includes brunch and breakfast dishes, salads, pasta and pizza. Try the Assembly brunch, their version of the full works: this is a platter filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, a sausage, sauteed mushrooms, potato gratin and grilled tomatoes with toast ($19.50). We like that there is finally a new brunch and coffee spot in an accessible, in-town location. We only hope the quality remains good and consistent.
SUNDAY MARKET | Where to eat: The Factory on Lim Tua Tow road pulled down its shutters earlier this year. In its place, a cafe serving Asian-fusion brunch plates has moved in. Look for a lettered glass-front with an orange signage that says 'Sunday Market' in both English and Chinese characters. The decor is quirky, with a bicycle here and a massive chandelier there. What to eat: Sunday Market steers away from the usual brunch fare with dishes like pancakes topped with roast duck, crispy eggs and garlic hoisin sauce ($12.90) and desserts like the Bangkok toast - toasted brioche dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and served with matcha green tea custard and Thai milk tea ice cream ($10.90). Drink-wise, you can give the usual cup of coffee a miss for the Thai chai milk tea ($7).
ON THE TABLE | Where to eat: Kovan eatery, Lola's Café, has a second outlet, and it is in an equally tucked away location at Pasir Panjang. With a differrent name and smaller menu, this is a cheery spot to get coffee and sweet and savoury eats. What to eat: Give their waffles a try. These are served from 11am to 10pm and come with single ($8), double ($10) or triple ($12) scoops of ice-cream - choose from flavours like earl grey, salted caramel and raspberry. The savoury eats include dishes like fries with truffle mayo ($8) and the crisp honey chicken wings ($9).
HOGS BAR RESTAURANT | Where to eat: Ocean Kingdom Seafood Restaurant is no more. In it's colonial house space now is Hogs Bar - "a biker- and non-biker-friendly" bar and restaurant that, we think, require an apostrophe in its name. It's a great place for hangover food until 3pm. There are ten TV screens showing sports, and a pool table, if you need to stretch a little. What to eat: What you'd expect burly bikers (we spotted none on a Sunday morning) would eat, plus lattes. Bacon Benedict ($14) with nicely-toasted muffins is a good, not-so-greasy choice. The American Breakfast ($20) is a monstrous plate of pancake, homemade chicken nuggets, potato hash, bacon steak (tastes like bak kwa) and three scrambled eggs, while the salty (but good) homemade corned beef and potato hash ($16) could use some slices of toast. The menu switches to one with a big selection of burgers after 3pm.
DON ANTONIO PIZZA | Where to eat: On the edges of the Arab Quarter is this cosy 30-seat Italian pizza restaurant is a picture of everything diners feel good about: glass façade, Italian coffee (illy) sign, hipster café-worthy distressed floors, Santorini-blue accents and white-washed wooden panelling. It is run by Napolitano chef Antonio Coccozza (formerly of Senso Ristorante and the now-defunct Bice) – hence the name – and his wife Germaine Wong. What to eat: Thirteen-inch pizzas ($19-$24), pastas ($20-$24) and coffees. The eggplant involtini (baked eggplant rolled with cooked ham, provola cheese, basil, parmesan and breadcrumbs, $14) is a twist on the vegetarian eggplant parmigiana ($16), which is also on the menu. They used to serve some rarely-seen Italian specialties too, like a pizza fritta (fried pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and parmesan). We hope they bring those back.
UNA | Where to eat: That enclave in Dover we've all forgotten about – Rochester Park. This restaurant (first floor) and tapas bar (second floor) has taken over the entire lush compound of One Rochester. Led by chef Jean-Philippe Patruno of the now-defunct Bomba Paella Bar, it's a dinner-only venue (for now, we hope). What to eat: Modern Mediterranean food with familial flavours. Specifically: Spanish, French and Italian. Restaurant dishes include the slow-cooked Iberico pork belly with smoked chorizo mash ($32), and the scallops a la plancha (with veal cheeks and Iberico ham crisp, $28). The tapas bar serves dishes like Galician octopus ($21), and is fitted with a full bar offering wines, spirits and cocktails developed by Proof & Co (of 28 HongKong Street fame).
NUTMEG & CLOVE | Where to drink: Seventeen Ann Siang Hill is where London old school glamour bar, Nightjar, has chosen to set up their Singapore venture. Housed in the premises of 1924-founded Cantonese clan, Ching Yoon Wooi Kwoon, the first floor space is now open to more than just the (descendants and) migrants from Ching Yuen (Qingyuan), Guangdong. In-keeping with the shophouse's history, the décor harks to a Chinese medicine hall, with whiskey lockers that extend up the well tunnel. Dainty Chinese cups are used as serving ware for the mostly Chinese businessmen (and -women) clientele. What to drink: On our preview visit, we were treated to a chrysanthemum- and osmanthus-infused Tanqueray Ten gin with St Germain elderflower liqueur, Suze and citrus juice cocktail. They've named this floral concoction the No. 17 Jade Springs ($20), and added edible gold dust so your lips will shimmer after you've taken a sip. How Hollywood-movie-opium-den-esque. If you like plum-flavoured drinks, the Golden Dawn (Tanqueray gin, ginger wine cordial, pineapple juice, adorned with a jujube shrub and Chinese hawthorn, $16) is a messy but fittingly natural-sweet drink. The rest of the cocktails fall between $16 and $20, while the very limited list of wines by the glass can be swept up for $11 to $13 per glass. Ten dishes ($9 to $22) are served, including the Nutmeg & Clove pancakes ($14) with bak kwa and maple syrup, and a lobster roll ($16).
LUKE'S OYSTER BAR & CHOP HOUSE | Where to eat: Third floor, Robinsons Orchard, tucked next to the women's section. For those who have been living under a rock, Robinsons is now in the building that housed the former Heeren. The in-mall restaurant is the first branch of Luke's Oyster Bar & Chophouse on Gemmil Lane, so the basics of the décor doesn't fall far: instead of blue, it's black and white tiles, with bar seating, and well-placed burgeoning greenery. It's equally sunshine-filled, though the space is bigger, longer, and looks out to bustling Orchard Road. What to eat: The classics: Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cakes ($47), lobster sliders ($24), Luke's clam chowder ($17). For dessert, Luke's oreo cookies with vanilla centers, minted chocolate and whipped cream ($16) hits the spot for us.
NOODLE STORIES | Where to eat: There is always something new brewing at the Somerset mall block (Orchard Central, Orchard Gateway and 313 Somerset) and this time it is an eatery specialising in Northern Chinese cusine by the Tung Lok Group . Noodle Stories is a casual dining eatery on level seven of Orchard Central (occuppying the spot that previously housed Lao Beijing). They offer value set meals, noodles and dumpling dishes. What to eat: The signature dish, the biang biang noodles ($10.80) originates from the Shaanxi province of China and is a bowl of flat, broad noodles tossed in an umami-rich, vinegary sauce. Topped with some green vegetables and a ramen-like egg thrown in for balance in this carb heavy dish. We weren't impressed with the guo tie (pan fried dumplings) — these delicate-skinned morsels are made in-house daily, and while the skin itself is thin and nicely pan-fried, the filling of pork and chives was lacking in flavour. Also available in shrimp and pork. (six to eight pieces for $6-$8).
SUPPLY & DEMAND | Where to eat: While their original outlet at Esplanade is in a more picturesque location, Supply & Demand on level two of Orchard Gateway makes up for their lack of an outdoor space with views over the treetops (and people) of Orchard Road. We like the decor here: the walls are adorned with bookshelves, vases and bric-a-brac like that of a tastefully decorated home. What to eat: This modern Italian restaurant serves pizzas, pastas and craft beers – just like their original outlet. At the first outlet, we tried, and liked, the caperi e pomodoro (capers, cherry tomatoes, white wine, parsley and a generous portion of rucola leaves on angel hair pasta, $22). We hope this branch maintains those standards. Brunch is served here on weekends (11am-5pm); expect dishes like the eggs benedetto (poached egg, gammon ham and cheddar on homemade bread, $15) and grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade pumpkin batard (baguette, $15).
CARVERS & CO. | Where to eat: Next to Bergs' East Coast Road outlet, tucked below the new Thunder Rock School (43 East Coast Road, 2nd floor) is this cosy blue and black-signaged 40-seater with a homely, community feel. Chalkboard menus, wooden tables, mirrors for expanded space effect, magazine tear-outs on the back of an armoire... you see the influence of an Italian farmstay on Carvers. Owner, and former stakeholder of One Man Coffee, Sarah Lin was bitten by the Italian hospitality bug during her honeymoon. What to eat: Roasts, and equally food coma-inducing dishes. Expect some of the menu items to be familiar (like the toad in the hole, still served with candied bacon jam, $15 – this time not as cloying, upped with truffle oil). Coffees ($4-$6.50) are as good, made mainly by Yue Ling from beans roasted by Common Man Coffee Roasters. He honed his skills in Melbourne. The Margaret River wagyu main served with thyme-roasted garlic confit and addictive balsamic caramelized onions (serves one, two or four, $40/$75/$150) is a fixture, although the rest of the food menu will be made up of rotating specials. We hope you get to try the moist roast turkey (with rosemary, thyme and bacon, served with honey-glazed carrots and soft mash, $30), and stunning porchetta served with apple chutney and aioli ($30). Brunch is also a big affair here, and we'd recommend the creamy, slightly salted peanut butter and banana French toast ($11.90, add $3 for additional candied bacon – aka 'Elvis').
SPRIGS | Where to eat: Among the several options for a good meal on Purvis Street (from an Italian fine dine, Garibaldi, to affordable French fare, Saveur) is this new modern European cuisine. Sprigs is a cosy eatery with minimalist decor and attentive service. Chef de cuisine, Shubri Basere is formerly from Gunther's - the French, fine-dining restaurant across the road. Looks like bartenders aren't the only ones moving around. What to eat: It serves up dishes where herbs take centrestage in each dish. The small and succinct menu is broken up into starters, pasta dishes, mains and dessert. We liked the sophisticated chilled pea soup with blue swimmer crab salad and creme fraiche ($15) - a refreshing start. The mains include a crisp-on-the-edges, soft-within baked cod in tomato-saffron broth with capers, kalamata olives and root vegetables ($33) and a tender, honey spiced duck breast that has been sous-vide for three hours (served with jus, white beans and roasted carrots, $26). While well-portioned and high on flavour, we found the dishes a tad expensive. We wish they find a way to serve this quality at more affordable prices.
COAST AND COMPANY | Where to eat: Tucked away in the hidden corner in the East is this two-storey-high lovechild (or café) by Papa Palheta and bike shop, Coast Cycle. Located inside the private estate, Siglap V, it is the perfect hideout away from the bustling crowd. Seek out avid cyclists (and Coastliner bicycles) on level two, and coffee connoisseurs on the ground floor. Of course they have parking lots for your bicycles. What to eat: Chef Willin Low – of Wild Rocket and Relish – is consultant chef, so expect to chow down on Singapore-inspired dishes such as the beef rendang hotdog ($14) or the Chapalang salad (mesclun salad, cherry tomatoes, bak-kwa, sakura ebi and goma dressing, $15). They also serve toast with sour cream cheese ($8) or almond peanut butter ($7). While waiting for your bike to be ready – from maintenance ($28) – you can chill with a cup of quality coffee ($3-$6), tea by the pot ($7) or freshly pressed juice ($5).
CURBSIDE CAFÉ & WINE BAR | Where to eat: Located among office buildings, this café is the best-kept secret of Biopolis Road… before we found out about them. Packed with wooden tables and metallic chairs painted in red and black, this café is a picture of homely comfort. What to eat: The menu has an extensive range of items – from meatball sandwiches ($8), cabonara ($14), and salmon salad ($15), to beef and cheese ($13). We did a little investigative journalism and found out the best-seller is the RVCB ($10) dessert, a red velvet cheesecake chocolate brownie. The sight of it made us weak in our knees.
SUGARHALL | Where to eat: On Amoy Street, next to Jigger & Pony bar, is this rum bar-fronted restaurant with upbeat remixed (sometimes) old-timey music.The glass door is similar to the bar's because, well, it is the sister establishment of Jigger & Pony. The lighting is dim, walls distressed with wood panelling above, pillars of exposed bricks panels, and bulbs in mason jars hanging from ropes. What to eat: Bigger (than Jigger's) plates - some really good ones included - are served at this Western/European restaurant. The pork chop ($22) from the grill is cured in salt brine, served with orange jam, parsley, and a grilled tomato. The thick cut of pork is tender, moist and full of flavour. We also loved the broken pork sausage starter ($14), mainly for its well seasoned cabbage. Who would have thunk the pale leaves to possess such depth of flavour? Must have been the bonito butter. The side of fork-crushed potatoes ($10) was less stellar, it being of softer textures; we wish the veal cheek starter ($16) had peppercorns to balance out the sweetness. Cocktails span across spirits, even though rum is at the front. The Sugarhall daiquiri ($22) is a lovely, smoky mix of Rhum Rhum Agricole Blanc, Appleton Estate VX Rum, gula Melaka and like. Not all the cocktails are as forward as this, but trust the bar guys to make sure there's a range.
BUTTERO | Where to eat: Tras Street (again), in a deep ground floor space within a shophouse. Two walls, featuring a masked girl, Native American references and wild flowers (painted by Belgian artist, Caratoes - she has been commissioned by The Four Seasons, Nike, Coach and Absolut Vodka), lead into the bar and the side–tucked kitchen. On the opposite side, monochromatic photos hang above the booth seats that line the wall. What to eat: "Italian grub with the rebellious vibe of the Wild West" is what's been sold to us. Read about our entire experience. (Address: 54 Tras Street | Tel: 64387737 | Opening hours: noon-3pm, 6-10.30pm)
OPERATION DAGGER | What to drink: We had to follow the signs to get to this basement bar that is both hidden and a secret of sorts. No signboard, no web presence and a few followed conversations on social media later, we found ourselves walking down a dark staircase at Ann Siang Hill to uncover the latest underground drinking bar in town. Operation Dagger is hidden, but not unwelcoming. It is mysterious, but not intimidating. The folk behind Oxwell & Co. have taken over the space that used the The Little Drom store and transformed it into an apothecary-style basement bar with walls lined with hand-labelled bottles. What to drink: The menu is handwritten as well – a handful of cocktails, where the flavours have been described but not the spirits ($22-$26), few boutique beers ($12 per bottle) and wines ($18-$30 per glass). Tell the bartender your preference and they will make something for you. We tried the warm mulled wine, a sake-based cocktail which is warmed in a coffee siphon and infused with spices like cinnamon and anise with a pleasant burnt caramel finish ($22).
ABITE | Where to eat: Having gained fame when they started out as an online bespoke cakes retailer, this cake house is now a brick and mortar store at Owen Road – bringing stiff competition to the other cafes (L’etoile Café watch out). What to eat: But of course their cakes, where choices range from the light tofu cheesecake ($4.90) to the moist chocolate cake ($5.50). You can also sip on Clippers Tea ($6.50 per pot) while savouring delicate, frosted cupcakes ($3.50 each). Tuesdays are the best days to visit, as it is the day they bake their tarts ($4.50 for round tarts, $4.80 for rectangle tarts) for the week.
SPANISH DOUGHNUTS | Where to eat: We are always on the hunt for good quality churros and have often been disappointed by the lacklustre offerings in Singapore. This Spanish staple is now available in both traditional and novel flavours at Australian chain, Spanish Doughnuts’ first Singapore outlet at Orchard Central. Either grab-and-go or settle into one of the lush red armchairs and tuck into your order of the fried dough sticks. What to eat: While a standard order may be a portion of the original hot churros (6 sticks dusted with sugar and served with chocolate sauce, $9.90) we recommend you be adventurous and give their premium flavours a go. The glass case is lined with delectable options like crème brulee-filled thick churros, and churros completely coated in chocolate, topped with nuts and flavours like white chocolate bon bon and coconut bonbon (three for $12). The churros are fried in pure vegetable oil, so if you get them straight out of the fryer (we hope you do!) you'll get the crisp, sinful bites that are also adequately moist. They have plans to introduce churros with savoury dips soon; watch this space.
POTATO HEAD FOLK | Where to eat/drink: Taking over one of Keong Saik Road’s most iconic buildings (that previously housed Tong Ah Eating House) is Potato Head Folk, of Bali beach club fame. Their first venture outside of Indonesia (they also have two restaurants in Jakarta) will be a four-storey drinking and dining venue that opened on June 6. What to eat/drink: On street level, there will be a burger bar called Three Buns with both veranda and indoor seating. Expect gourmet burgers and dessert pots supplied from Pots & Co. Three Buns’ menu will also be served on the second level, along with tea, coffee and pastries. The second level will double up as an events space with plans to host performances and exhibits. Studio 1939 on the third floor will be an intimate bar with walls adorned with both modern and traditional Chinese artwork. The cocktail list will feature favourites by world-renowned mixologist Dre Masso, along with select wines and spirits. The reservations-only bar will open from 5pm to 1am. The fourth level will be The Rooftop: part-herb garden, part-tiki bar serving tiki cocktails, with barbeque and dinner events done by guest chefs.
SUFOOD | Where to eat: Taiwan’s largest chain of vegetarian restaurants (18 outlets and counting) has set up shop in Singapore at level two of Raffles City. The 140-seater is a casual eatery that opens for lunch and dinner and serves up meat-free dishes with dairy-, onion- and garlic-free options. They plan on opening five more outlets in Singapore by 2015. What to eat: They offer up an affordable eight-course set lunch ($25). Of the seven dishes, we liked the mushroom salad with a zesty garlic and lime dressing ($7.80) and the root soup ($5.80) – a comforting vegetable broth with burdock root, lotus root and cashews. The dishes are good attempts to recreate familiar flavours although they could do with bolder flavours and more punchy seasonings. Give them a few weeks to settle down before paying them a visit for fare that is slightly different from the run-of-the-mill mall restaurant.
BOOK A TABLE | SEASONS BISTRO | Where to eat: Occupying a spot that previously housed American chain restaurant, Applebee’s is a bistro, bar and restaurant that focuses on using seasonal ingredients in their dishes. The restaurant is also committed to using sustainable produce wherever possible; they will be participating in the upcoming Sustainable Seafood Festival with a special menu. The large space is characterised by their warm wood furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows. What to eat: Their launch offer is a good-value two-course lunch set ($12.99) – opt for either a tomato-based clam chowder or a soup of the day (we tried a very comforting potato and watercress soup), a choice of mains that include Louisiana fried chicken served with dirty rice, a sinful croque monsieur or a Baja-style cobb salad and free-flow of soft drinks or coffee or tea. If you choose to go a la carte, they serve a posh version of the food truck taco as a starter, this has lightly-seared tuna, salsa verde and crumbled cotija cheese (Mexican, cow's milk hard cheese, $14). They have a full service bar from which cocktails, beer and wine are available. Ask for the American beer on draught which will be introduced in a few weeks.
:PLUCK | Where to eat: Hold your tongues out - this cheekily-named (and campaigned) restaurant is opening on 12 May on Club Street. Taking the former space of Shots, :pluck hopes to be the next food buzz about town, with a limited 25 seats. Fortunately, this capacity expands by 20 sidewalk seats on Fridays and Saturdays, though word is that the counter seats are where the action's at. Pull up for an intimate experience with chef Brandon Teo (previously at Keong Saik Snacks) and team. This being part of The Establishment Group (Gem Bar & Lounge, Manor Bar, Zui Hong Lou), cocktails will be courtesy of Din Hassan. The interiors will be industrial chic with subway tiles and distressed walls. What to eat: Everything on one modern assembled plate, it seems. 'Small' plates (for one person, $12-$18) include the sixty-two-degree egg with fresh sweet corn glazed in maple syrup reduction, polenta puree and chicken strips, and the crisp bone marrow croquettes with onion and parsley sauce and garlic sourdough; 'Medium' plates (for two to four persons, $22-$28) could come as a whole grilled squid with saffron rice puffs, red wine potato dashi emulsion and semi-dried tomatoes; while the 'Sharing' plates (from six persons, $38-$46) include the whole red snapper or whole leg of suckling pig. The menu will change every couple of months, inspired by Teo's globetrotting adventures. Don't get too envious now, you can dig in.
OMAKASE BURGER | Where to eat: This homegrown brand of gourmet burgers finally has an 'in town' outlet. No need to trek all the way to Turf City for their signature smashed burgers, they are now serving these up and a few new items at their 92-seater space in Wisma Atria, L1. What to eat: Banker-turned-restrauteur Cheng Hsin Yao has revamped Omakase’s burger buns into a softer, more pillowy offering that toasts well and soaks up the juices better. Try this in the exclusive-to-Wisma cheeseburger with applewood smoked bacon. The patty is a blend of three imported cuts of beef and is done medium rare to juicy perfection. At $17.90 it's a tad pricey but the ingredients are all premium. Also new are their French fries that are fried in beef tallow ($5.95 for a regular portion). These are available only on weekends as the beef fat is rendered in-house, this technique results in fries with more savouriness and nuanced flavours.
DULCE AND SUCRE | Where to eat: One of the first movers to set up shop at the basement of new Orchard mall, Orchard Gateway is a café and bakery by the celeb duo behind Twelve Cupcakes (Daniel Ong and Jamie Teo). What to eat: There are a host of sweet treats to go with your morning coffee or tea and some of these innovative creations include cake loaves ($5.60) in flavours like cranberry pistachio and lemon drizzle, whoopee pies ($3.50) in chocolate, salted caramel and strawberry chocolate and push-pops ($3.80) – a genius, no-mess way of eating a cupcake while on the move. They come in flavours like red velvet, rainbow vanilla and M&M. Both dine-in and take away options are available.
LE COMPTOIR | Where to eat: Occupying a large spot on the corner of the soon-to-be-cool Circular Road is a new créperie and bar by the team behind French wine bar O Batignolles. Le Comptoir is a breezy space with both indoor and street-side seating and a choice spot for after work drinks. The open till late (Mon-Tue 11am-midnight, Wed-Sat 11-2am, Sun 11am-10pm), so next time you need some nosh after a night on the town, make this your stop. What to eat: Authentic, French crépes dominate the menu, they import the buckwheat flour from France and all the sauces, syrups and condiments are made in-house. We recommend you try the Menáge 5 (emmenthal cheese, ham, soft-boiled egg, mushrooms and tomato folded into a crisp on the outside, and soft within crépe, $16). A more adventurous offering is the Kao San Road, a Thai-inspired crépe with prawns, mango and tomatoes in a laksa-like thick sauce and topped with beansprouts and mint leaves, $20). Pair your meal with a refreshing glass of French cider, these are more flavourful and lighter than their UK counterparts, ask them for recommendations. These are available by the glass ($6-$9) and by the bottle.
MOMOLATO | Where to eat: Located at the SMU School of Economics and Social Sciences (opposite Rendezvous Grand Hotel and Kopitiam, near Mr. Bean), is this corner gelato "lab". The story is one we've heard before - former banker Sharon Tay is the founder and chef at this small start-up. She fell in love with gelato during a trip to Italy and learnt the art of making gelato by attending the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna. It is a colourful corner shop that opened in January 2014, furnished with stackable chairs and tables on its concourse. Not that you'd really care when you get there - we were so engrossed with the cold treats we sat on the steps. What to eat: The flavours aren't the usual mix: we loved the Shiok (smooth coconut gula Melaka with pandan jelly), Avocado Face Palm (avocado gula Melaka), Shiro (slightly salty and nutty white miso with butterscotch with almond bits), and My Name is Earl (a well-balanced blend of different earl grey teas, aged for two days before churning) - $3.90 to $4.50 per scoop. We didn't care if we weren't SMU students, and couldn't get a discount. Tay also makes gorgeous alcoholic ($4.30) and non-alcoholic iced lollies ($3.60), like watermelon sorbet and kiwi fruit, and coconut milk with coconut shavings. In May, Tay will be collaborating with the National Museum on a project, and this pastry-trained chef be rolling out cakes with her gelato.
ROUSE | Where to eat: Nestled in between a bike shop and a hardware store is yet another café to set up shop in the newest hipster hood of Little India-Farrer Park. Located on 36 Dunlop Street – this cosy corner is decorated with little knick-knacks and industrial-chic furniture (you know, wooden tables and high stools). An ideal hipster hangout in our opinion. What to eat: This café is halal certified and the grub is slightly more not run of the mill. There are no specific categories (mains or appetisers) on their menu, but there are worthy options like the open-faced roast beef sandwich ($15.90), the quinoa quake (poached eggs atop a quinoa patty with smoked salmon and lemon drill yoghurt at the side, $15.90) and basics like a caesar salad with chicken or turkey ham ($12.90) your sides. They also serve cakes ($7-$8.50 per slice), Dutch Colony coffee ($4.80-$5.50) and Clipper tea ($7-$7.50 per pot) for those craving for a mid-day snack.
THE CLIFFORD PIER | Where to eat: What use to be One on the Bund (we hear that they are relocating to Orchard Gateway) has now been revamped to the very elegant The Clifford Pier. Adorned with bespoke chandeliers, plush carpets and luxurious tableware, this exquisite all-day dining restaurant at The Fullerton Bay Hotel opens out to what used to be the landing jetty. What to eat: A new look and new menu with Singapore’s heritage infused through and through. We recommend you try the Rickshaw Noodles (stewed hand-made Hokkien noodles with anchovies and pork broth, $18) and Porchetta (slow-roasted spice infused crispy suckling pig with grilled garlic; in-house blend of salt and chilli at the side, $68). A tip from the chef: dip the grilled garlic in the chilli before taking a bite.
BOOK HERE | WATERLOO TIMES | Where to eat: Tucked away at Waterloo Centre, is this shophouse tenant with an open kitchen and medieval-themed exterior (they even have a shield!). It is a small, neighbourhood-friendly space (expect children and families) with its menus written on its walls. GST and service charge are not included in the bill. What to eat: Pastas and homemade breads. The mushroom risotto ($16) is full of vegetables and flavour, and the homemade breads served with a spritz of truffle oil. Of the four thin, cracker-like-based pizzas on the menu, the blueberry compote, avocado and parma ham ($15) caught our eye. The menu changes seasonally, especially on the specials wall.