[Reposting my own article originally written and published on Shanghaiist]
On June 25, Singapore hosted The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony at Marina Bay Sands, where a delegation of chefs, journalists and gourmands from all over the world came together to celebrate the stars of the restaurant industry. The evening culminated with the crowning of Mirazur (Menton, France) as best restaurant of 2019.
Picture Credit: The World’s 50 Best
The list, which represents the taste and democratic opinion of a panel of 1000 discerning voters scattered across the globe, awarded only two spots to restaurants in China. The Chairman (Hong Kong), ranking at 41, is the only representation of Chinese food on the list, and this year Shanghai’s Ultraviolet (Shanghai) dropped back to no. 48 after climbing to the 24th position in 2018.
On the contrary, in the past couple of years Singapore has been moving to the forefront of the culinary map, winning awards and accolades by institutions such as Michelin Guide and 50 Best and therefore positioning itself as a top-tier destination for gourmands from across the globe.
With its myriad of dining options, Singapore can be tricky to navigate. From breath-taking panoramic sky bars and fine dining restaurants, all the way to local cheap eats and some of the best cocktail bars in the world, here’s a curated mini-guide to bookmark for your next foodie getaway.
LOCAL CHEAP EATS
Singapore is a country of foodies in which communal life circles around enjoying great bites. One of the can’t-miss experiences is spending time eating your way through hawker centers (big open-air food courts) and other cheap eateries nestled inside shop houses and old-school malls.
This sweet and sour monster crab dish is Singapore’s very own invention and one of the most authentic representations the country’s culinary heritage. Have some insanely tasty Chilli Crab at KEK (short for Keng Eng Kee), which isn’t super central, but definitely worth the trip.
Arguably Singapore’s most iconic dish, you’ll find excellent versions in most hawker centers. One of the most famous (and delicious) is Tian Tian (stall #01-10/11) at Maxwell Food Center, once praised by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and included in the Michelin Guide.
This one is not for the faint of heart: probably one of the strangest and clumsiest foods you’ll try in your life, eating and sucking marrow from this deep red stewed lamb dish is an experience on its own. Stay on Anthony Bourdain’s path and have it in Golden Mile Food Center’s ground floor at Haji Kadir, a stall that’s been run by the same family for three generations.
Stay at Golden Mile Food Center for a bowl of this traditional spicy noodle dish topped with braised pork rib and prawns. The Chilli Mee at Chung Cheng (stall #01-59) is famous for the layers of flavor lent by its textured, homemade spicy belacan sauce, which you can also buy to take home as a souvenir.
If you like spicy noodle soups (and why wouldn’t you!), you can’t miss trying Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon (stall #02-57/58) at Hong Lim Center. Three generations have been perfecting this recipe day in and day out, and the result is truly lip-smacking.
While you’re at it, go upstairs to Ji Ji Noodle House (stall #02-48/49/50) and have a bowl of Wanton Mee topped with excellent char siu pork and accompanied by deep fried wonton skins. The spot is especially popular among the local lunch crowd, so best to visit during off peak hours to avoid long queues.
While it may not be located in the most beautiful venue, Queensway Shopping Center’s Janggut Laksa is the real deal, calling itself the ‘The Original Katong Laksa’. Their otha and chicken curry are also delicious.
You’ll find great versions of this fragrant pork rib soup in most hawker centers, yet when asking Singaporeans where to find the best Bak Kut Teh many will point you to Founders, a restaurant chain that makes a deliciously peppery and garlicky version of the dish. Order a side of youtiao to dip in the broth.
Melting pot as it is, it’s important to go to the right place for Indian food in Singapore. You’ll find a fun, delicious and (dare we say) authentic experience eating curries with your hands from banana leaves at Samy’s Curry Restaurant in Dempsey Hill, which offers a true family-style Indian meal.
Though originally a Malaysian dish, Nasi Lemak has been adopted as one of Singapore’s most quintessentially local dishes. If you’re having drinks and are caught with late night cravings in the city center, head over to Mt. Faber Nasi Lemak for a no-frills fix of tasty food.
As the worthy movie set of Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore crawls with upscale, glitzy and absolutely fabulous high-end restaurants, where chefs can be creative and extravagant without feeling constrained by a price-sensitive crowd.
A favorite among Singapore jetsetters, this trendy Australian barbecue restaurant has been winning global gastronomy accolades for its simple yet exquisite bites and steaks. Helmed by Dave Pynt, Burnt Ends ranks no. 10 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019. It can be hard to book, so plan ahead!
At Candlenut, Chef Malcom Lee serves up elevated Peranakan food, a cuisine sprouted from the mix of Chinese southern dishes and local Malay ingredients during the immigration waves of the 15-17th centuries. This is the first and only Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant in the world. Worth a visit, especially for their Wagyu Rendang. [Candlenut Singapore Review]
Once your cravings for local food are satisfied, head over to CURE, where Chef-Owner Andrew Walsh presents and redefines Irish food at its finest, melting in some Asian influence. The chef’s tasting menu is fun and delicious, enjoyed in a polished yet laid-back, social environment. [Cure Singapore Review]
Helmed by Chef LG Han, this one-star Michelin restaurant offers the most refined version of Singaporean food you will find. Drawing from his grandmother’s cookbook and his own personal experiences, Chef LG honors his home country’s culinary heritage by offering modern and truly delectable renditions of local food classics all made with hyper-local ingredients. [Labyrinth Singapore Review]
Crowned best restaurant in Asia by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 and awarded two Michelin stars, Odette is headed by Chef Julien Royer, who delivers flawlessly executed modern French cuisine that draws inspiration from the best seasonal produce. The environment is formal; perfect for special occasions.
Singapore’s bar scene is among the best in the world, right up there beside London and New York as one of the most represented cities on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. There’s nothing better than spending your evenings in the company of worthy libations, but mind you – drinking in Singapore is damn expensive.
Even if you’re not in the mood for a drink, you can’t miss going to Atlas, even just for a peek at its grand settings – this stunning bar features sky-high ceilings, Art Deco design and a collection of over 1200 gin labels. Aside from the environment, the cocktails are world-class, making this bar a bucket list destination for any drink lover.
No. 4 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 and No. 13 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2018, Native is probably the most sustainable bar in the world. Head Bartender and owner Vijay Mudaliar has worked hard to establish Native’s nearly zero waste, closed-loop system, where he creates delicious cocktail creations using only local and regional ingredients. They also forage for herbs in their own mini urban garden. [Native Singapore Review]
With its offering of innovative, culinary-minded concoctions made from micro herbs, vinegars, fermented produce via a mix of techniques, Luke Whearty’s Operation Dagger in Singapore has been at the forefront of Asia’s bar industry for the past few years, appearing on The World’s and Asia’s 50 Best Bars lists year after year. Order the Chocolate Pinot – it will change your life. [Operation Dagger Singapore Review]
If you’re into beer, you’ll love a visit at The Guild – a bar established by Young Masters, Hong Kong’s most prominent independent craft brewery, in collaboration with Chef Vincent Lauria, who helms the kitchen and whips up some delicious comfort food. Favorite beers include the signature Cha Chaan Teng Gose and the oaky Rye on Wood. [The Guild Singapore Review]
Though it may be a touristy destination, you can’t in good faith skip a visit to the bar where the classic Singapore Sling was invented. Located in the historic Raffles Hotel, this place serves an average of 1200 Singapore Slings per day. Watch your step on the way out – those cocktails are boozy.
If you find yourself upstream of Orchard Road, find the secret entrance of this bar at the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel and be transported to the prohibition era. With a list that celebrates 400 years of cocktail history, your best bet is to ask the lovely staff for recommendations. Or, order a Reverse Gin & Tonic, maybe the best G&T in town, Asia, or even… the world!
An option for the adventurous wine lovers out there who want to experiment with funky flavors, Wine RVLT offers natural and biodynamic wines at reasonable prices in a Berlin-style industrial-chic environment, perfect for sharing a few bottles with groups of friends.
BARS WITH A VIEW
There’s no shortage of breathtaking rooftop bars in Singapore where you can sip on a Singapore Sling while watching the sunset. Here are top recommendations for the best panoramic views in town.
No list would be complete without mentioning Marina Bay Sands hotel, which houses what has arguably become the most famous infinity swimming pool in the world. While the pool is only open to hotel guests, you can still go up to roofbar CÉ LA VI for a few drinks and 360º views of Marina Bay.
If you prefer to be on the opposite side of Marina Bay, Lantern, located on top of Fullerton by the Bay, also offers gorgeous city views. Here you can watch the colors of the sunset reflecting across the tall buildings around you – plus, catch Happy Hour prices on select beverages every day until 6pm.
-Keng Eng Kee Chili Crab: 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-136, Singapore 150124
-Tian Tian Chicken Rice: 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore 069184
-Haji Kadir Sup Tulang Merah: 505 Beach Rd, #B1-13/14 Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore 199583
-Chung Cheng Chilli Mee: 505 Beach Rd, #01-59, Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore 199583
-Ah Heng Curry Bee Hoon Mee: 531A Upper Cross St, #02-57/58, Hong Lim Food Center, Singapore 051531
-Ji Ji Noodle House Wanton Mee: 531A, Upper Cross St, #02-49, Hong Lim Food Center, Singapore 051531
-Janggut Laksa: 1 Queensway Rd, Queensway Shopping Centre, Singapore 149053
-Founder Bak Kut Teh: 530 North Bridge Rd, #01-01, Singapore 188747 (and other locations)
-Samy’s Curry Restaurant: 25 Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249670
-Atlas: 600 North Bridge Rd, Parkview Square, Singapore 188778
-Native: 52a Amoy St, Singapore 069878
-Operation Dagger: 7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01, Singapore 069791
-The Guild: 55 Keong Saik Rd., #01-01, Singapore 089158
-The Long Bar : 1 Beach Rd, Raffles Hotel, Singapore 189673
-The Other Room: 320 Orchard Road, #01-05 Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 238865
-Wine RVLT: 38 Carpenter St, #01-01, Singapore 059917
-Burnt Ends: 20 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore 088391 – phone number 6224 3933, reservations at https://burntends.com.sg
-Candlenut: 17A Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249676 – phone number 1800 304 2288, reservations at http://comodempsey.sg/reservations/candlenut
-CURE: 21 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089128 – phone number 6221 2189, reservations at https://www.curesingapore.com
-Labyrinth: 8 Raffles Ave, 02-23, Singapore 039802 – phone number 6223 4098, reservations at https://labyrinth.com.sg
-Odette: 1 St Andrew’s Rd, #01-04 National Gallery, Singapore 178957, 6385 0498, reservations at http://www.odetterestaurant.com
-CÉ LA VI: 1 Bayfront Avenue Marina Bay Sands, Tower 3, Singapore 018971
-Lantern: 80 Collyer Quay, Singapore 049326