January 2, 2020

It's 2020. And while some see it as the start of a new decade, others remain wistful about the end of the last decade. In the past 10 years, the F&B scene has had its watershed moments, but for the most part, restaurateurs had to endure tumultuous periods of labour shortage, high rental costs and shifting consumer demands. Only the strongest survive, and to make sure that you start off on the right foot, we've picked five exciting spots that will foil any diet plan or steps to sobriety.

1. Butcher’s Block

The Low Down: This steakhouse is the newest member to join the F&B contingent at Raffles Hotel Singapore. Helmed by Chef de Cuisine Remy Lefebvre, previously of El Mero Mero, the French native has devoted his time to the craft of dry aging both meat and fish which you will witness first-hand in the ‘Meat Vault’ located at the entrance.

The Vibe: Dark and sultry, with an indubitable air of lavishness. Perfect for second base dates and nights of reckless abandon.

The Crowd: Bon vivants and namely those with a penchant for hulking cuts of beef and a certain regard for chef Remy’s dedicated sourcing. 

The Place: Scrap all ideologies you have about a steakhouse. Butcher’s Block’s gargantuan and gorgeous interiors are anything but sterile. Seats in the house are slightly tilted to face the open kitchen, akin to going to the culinary theatre. A mishmash of fabrics, textures and colours are impeccably tailored to highlight the food; seductive alcoves, sullen dark blue accents and copper lighting. It has a sense of intimacy, but not to the point where  you can't check out what your neighbour is ordering. 

The Food and Drinks: While the à la carte menu looks extremely navigable, it’s really the OAK (One-of-a-Kind) table experience that you want. With free-flow curated wines and a seasonal menu which is a happy harmony of the Chef’s successful sourcing from both land and sea, this encounter is eclectic, but in a brilliant way. Look forward to hand-dived scallops laden with madagascan pepper sauce and wild turbot bathed judiciously in sauce vierge, and grass-fed Angus beef dry-aged for 45 days carved tableside) accompanied by nothing but a salad to prove its exceptional pedigree. A word to the wise: you’ll pine after the confit globe artichoke long after the meal. Layered with purple artichoke puree and crisps and finished with spicy black vinegar dressing, it’s a bit left-field, yet it works tremendously with the Hermit Ram ‘skin-fermented’ sauvignon blanc.

328 North Bridge Rd, Raffles Arcade, #02-02 S188719; 6412 1816. Daily 6pm to 10pm.

2. Live Twice

The Low Down: Just what Singapore needs—a bar with a cracking narrative. Live Twice is an intimate cocktail watering hole by the Jigger and Pony group that is just as beguiling as their other establishments

The Vibe: Mid-20th century Ginza bar. Hearken back to the post-war period where literary clientele used to consume old-school cocktails with verve. Think immaculately dressed bartenders attending to guests putting on the ritz, without any pretense or bravado. 

The Crowd: If you know, you know.

The Place: Gan Guoyi and Indra Kantono have outdone themselves with this one. The dutch doors and hazy red lights are gone. Taking its place is a chic spot dedicated to members of the inebriated, well-heeled crowd. Sit at the custom-made communal table to get your hands on your cocktail in its most frigid state or retreat to the various cloisters, some decked with Akari light sculptures and others with chestnut shade Falcon armchairs for loungy comfort.

The Food and Drinks: The beverage menu is divided into two sections: ‘One Life for Yourself’ and ‘One for Your Dreams’, each with 7 cocktails to choose from. The glory lies in the vesper that has been shaken so vigorously that you’ll find shattered ice shards, disguised in the spirited mix of Tempus Fugit Kina L'Aero D'Or, Ki No Bi ‘Sei’ navy strength gin and Ketel One vodka. From the more imaginative category, the Shallow River boosted with Okinawan brown sugar and the Snow Flurries with Empirical Spirits' Fallen Pony Blend jostle for attention. Food-wise, the beef katsu sando is worth the splurge but it’s the ebi & corn sando that you want to get your paws on.

20 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore 089834; 9011 8304. Open Monday to Thursday, 6pm to 1am; Friday and Saturday, 6pm to 2am.

3. Caffe Cicheti

The Low Down: Remember the guys who opened Bar Cicheti along Jiak Chuan Road, that has become the neigbourhood's go-to for pasta and wine? Yes, they're back at it again—with the group’s third concept, Caffe Cicheti. A quick backstory: the previous tenant, Fynn’s belonged to restauranteur Liling Ong (who is one of the owners of Bar Cicheti). Call it a brand reshuffle, if you want.  

The Vibe: Imagine being on a holiday in Italy and wandering into a ‘local’ restaurant only to discover it's not punctuated by the usual raucous laughter. 

The Crowd: Executives around South Beach Tower and those looking to Instagram gleaming marble surfaces and wicker chairs. 

The Place: You will feel quite at home by the sand-washed furniture and rattan pendant lamp shades hanging overhead. To unwine, have a glass (from their comprehensive wine list with impartial pricing) on the charming little patio decked out with high tables and tropical foliage.

The Food and Drinks: Uncomplicated flavours of the coasts of Italy. Dishes that should be on your agenda are the panzanella graced with creamy stracciatella and the vongole bedecked with morsels of plump Hobinougai clams, rich garlic butter sauce, and to top it off, a quarter of burnt lemon. Weekend brunch is a homage to its feel-good classics such as ricotta hotcakes drizzled in maple syrup, and grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with provolone, parmigiana, fior di latte and cheddar.

26 Beach Rd, #B1-21, Singapore 189768; 6384 1878. Closed on Monday; Open Tuesday to Friday, 11:30am to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 10pm; Saturday, 11:30am to 3pm, 5:30pm to 10pm; Sunday, 10:30am to 4:30pm.

4. TONITO

The Low Down: Chef Daniel Chavez of OLA Kitchen Group melds Peruvian with Mexican cuisine at the gateway to the world—Jewel Changi Airport. Dancing around the demands of the economy, millennials, frequent travellers and tackling misconceptions of the overly convivial nature of Hispanic culture; the group has arrived at a fun, family-friendly solution bolstered with recognisable menu options from nachos to seafood ceviches and burritos.

The Vibe: Bright, approachable, filled with just enough homespun memorabilia to keep things cosy.

The Crowd: Families with mum and dad knocking back a cheeky pre-flight shaken Mexican margarita while the kids entangle themselves in stringy cheese pulls of pork belly Chicharron quesadillas. Occasionally you’ll see groups of suburban settlers, descending upon the menu with good intent—the kind that know how to suss out a good Latin American haunt.

The Place: The restaurant spans over two distinctly different sections; the warmer dining room section and the more tenebrous area on the terrazzo which opens up to the misty allures of the world's tallest indoor waterfall. Wherever you’re seated, the Latino hospitality is palpable and positive.

The Food and Drinks: Start with the ceviche tonito, a citrus combination of Japanese scallops, octopus and crab meat bathed in tiger’s milk that rouses your taste buds. The pork tacos are an instant hit and so is the Latino seafood rice. You will leave satisfied without feeling stuffed.  

78 Airport Blvd #02-248, Jewel, Singapore Changi Airport, 819666; 6904 3975. Daily 11am to 9pm.

5. GO Noodle House

The Low Down: It took them all but 37 outlets spanning Malaysia and Australia before making the decision to descend upon Singapore, late last year. GO Noodle House brings its famous family recipe to its spanking brand new branch in [email protected] The secret is in the fish bone broth which is derived from an age-old recipe by co-founder Alvin Tan’s mother. The establishment is tight-lipped about the recipe and even ships frozen blocks of its master stock across the border to ensure consistency.

The Vibe: Fast casual dining with the star being piping hot bowls of noodles.

The Crowd: Town dwellers in search for comfort food, throngs of young millennials as well as ravenous pencil pushers looking to score a delicious deal.

The Place: Similar to its branches in Malaysia, the noodle house in Singapore adopts a 1950s China shophouse presence decorated with moon gates and black lacquered shelves lined with Chinese ceramic wine pots housing their unique fermented Shao Xing Hua Diao Jiu (which one can purchase for in-house storage).

The Food and Drinks: The noodle menu offers handmade fish paste to fresh fish slices and we hear there’s even frog in the pipeline. Our favourite is the Hakka sauce pan mee with century egg, a soup-less bowl of handmade noodles with lashings of pork lard black fungus, fried shallots, anchovies, minced pork, chili oil and century egg. When it all comes together, pleasure triumphs. Tip: Order the crispy fu chuk or fried beancurd skin stuffed with fish paste to share.

313 Orchard Rd, #B3-37/38, [email protected] 238895; 6363 5323. Daily 11:30am to 10pm.