March 5, 2020

As nature gets ready to spring into action, new dining establishments as well as existing ones are all fighting for your attention. This constant tension makes Singapore's food scene exciting—ensuring that F&B operators do not rest on their laurels. And guess what, you have the pick of the litter. Here are our best eats of the month.

1. 1-V:U

The Low Down: Sentosa could use another party destination, especially one that opens till 3am on the weekends. Leave it to 1-Group, veteran purveyors of unique dining experiences and blowout clubbing adventures to set up a rooftop beach club-cum-restaurant in The Outpost Hotel.

The Vibe: Surrealism occurs at sunset. This could easily become your regular hangout, where you push your worries aside with a cocktail in hand. It's hard not to appreciate the last rays of sun on the horizon. 

The Crowd: We’re not sure if it’s the cheeky tipples or the mellow beats bouncing off the DJ decks, but the crowd sure looks beautiful. Crochet shorts, white cotton shirts, girls sporting billowing kaftan dresses under wide brimmed floppy hats are a common sight.

The Place: Private cabanas and turquoise sun beds invite you to lie down, but as tempting as they may be, once you enter the restaurant, things gets a bit more sumptuous. What you will see is an alcove that boasts Scandi flourishes faintly, with spacious settings, woven bamboo reed chairs and pine green suede banquettes.

The Food and Drinks: The menu is split between Terra (land) and Aqua (sea). Head Chef Ace Tan pairs his recent experiences working in Seoul with his passion for Asian cuisine in a daring menu with left-field combinations. French beans and winged beans salad tossed in Javanese bumbu sauce, garnished with sticky natto? Why not. Another respectable dish is the red snapper fillet steamed in Chinese bamboo baskets and drenched in garlic shoot beurre blanc.

Level 7 The Outpost Hotel, 10 Artillery Avenue, Sentosa Island, Singapore 099951; + 65 6513 7708. Daily Breakfast, 6:30am to 10:30am; Daily Dinner 6pm to 10pm; Sunday Brunch 12pm to 3pm; Closed on Mondays

2. Small's

The Low Down: An incubator to test-bed his kooky food concepts, Bjorn Shen has converted his previous work dungeon into a 4-seater room to stuff people with carbs. More than just a pizza omakase, it’s a throwback to an 80s and 90s pizza experience—think melted cheese-stuffed crusts and hot wings on steroids.

The Vibe: A tiny shack full of nostalgic feels. Marvin Gaye and Tom Jones turn up the heat as you ravage the pies and abuse the dips.

The Crowd: Naysayers and skeptics will eventually howl “Cowabunga, dude!” by the end of the meal. Coming back, you make up the crowd since Small's is meant for a party of four. Also, you’ll have to know your neighbours to make a booking.

The Place: Bare-bones. If you’re claustrophobic, a meal at Small’s might not seem like a grand idea. The ridiculously uncomfortable high chairs take a while getting used to, but let's face it, you're there to see Bjorn work his magic (right in front of you). 

The Food and Drinks: Provocative and stupidly fun. There are chicken backsides tossed in spicy wildflower honey to replace the usual buffalo wings, and fanned out pizza crusts used to mop up a ‘dirty’ board of prawn butter, nutritional yeast and black winter truffle to parrot the gratification of stuffed crust. Spritzes are having a moment now, so do not hesitate to order a Red Vermouth Spritz done right with a refreshing mix of basil and blood orange granita.

161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978; 6336 6949. Reserve here.

3. The Nomads

The Low Down: Located in the heart of Telok Ayer is a new contemporary Central Asian dining concept, The Nomads. Established by Shawn Kishore (who owns and operates Salted Plum and Pasta Supremo) and Olzhas Zhiyenkulov, a Kazakhstan native, the restaurant appeals to society’s lust for fashionable food served in appetiser-sized portions with an abundance of travel stories to ignite wanderlust. The Nomads draws influence from the Silk Road and it can get quite contrived at times, but there isn't any here. However, if you don't like tasting menus, this might not be your jam.

The Vibe: Ostentatiously casual. Staff are eager to please and the constant readjustment of plates feels a little rushed and not exactly polished.

The Crowd: Digital nomads or time-strapped executives looking for a quick break. The rest are made up of diners who have a desire for a slower, more thoughtful lifestyle with an appreciation for multiple cultures.  

The Place: As far as the term ‘nomadic lifestyle’ goes, the restaurant has it down pat. The dining room is dressed up minimally, while the open kitchen serves a functional purpose for executive chef Dannel Krishnan to call out dishes.

The Food and Drinks: You can't shy away from the bread when it is accompanied by foie gras parfait dusted in cardamom, cumin and seaweed butter. The beef dish is cared for lavishly in the form of historical research and a generous amount of cooking time. Inspired by beshbarmak (a Kazakhstan national dish), which is boiled beef and noodles, the tender wagyu cheek is drowned in bak kut teh broth over soubise and crowned with shards of potato sheets. Wash it all down with a Chateau Musar Cabernet Sauvignon that is capable of delighting most palates.

70 Telok Ayer St, #01-01, Singapore 048462; 6977 7057. Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 2:30pm; Saturday, 6pm to 11pm; Closed on Sunday

4. So France

The Low Down: Located in Duo Galleria, So France positions itself as a gastronomic destination and pays tribute to all the good things in life (eating and drinking). With a brand new bistronomy menu, cast aside notions of it being a traditional brasserie with tired classics. Think of their newfangled dishes like an old friend who has just emerged from a successful glow-up. Wouldn't you get emotional?

The Vibe: Low-key Parisian chic. The sense of connectedness and pride towards French culture is palpable.

The Crowd: So France is good for families and solos looking to cosy up with a draught of La Serreine rouge. There are also couples feeding on tapas boards with duck rillettes, pate de campagne and toasted brioche usually bolstered by a bottle of wine from their exhaustive list. 

The Place: Roam the epicurean grocer up front before settling down for a meal at the bistro, it helps to work up an appetite. Gourmands will relish the sensation of Bordier butter and Chabichou du Poitou cheese. If you want more privacy, the new alfresco terrace has fairy lights to set the mood for an intimate rendezvous.

The Food and Drinks: What you will find here is earnest cooking. The menu may present the classics in a nonchalant manner but dig a little deeper and you’ll come to realise the kitchen’s desire to get things right. Take for example, the French Sea Bass—its charred skin and firm-fleshed cutlets paired with broccolini puree and doused with a classic beurre blanc sauce. It’s technically sound and impeccable. The salade niçoise is faultless; the sesame-crusted tuna seared carefully with a tender pink centre you’ll typically find inside a slow roasted leg of lamb. From the hard-to-choose-from selection of reds to whites, small-batch wines are in the mix too, so go for the zesty Domaine Daniel Reverdy et Fils 2018 Sancerre from the Loire Valley.

7 Fraser Street Duo Galleria #01-51/56 Bugis MRT, Singapore 189356; +65 6909 6449. Monday to Thursday, 11:30am - 2pm, 5:30pm - 9:30pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30am - 2pm, 5:30pm - 10:30pm; Sunday, 9am – 6pm

5. Mott 32

The Low Down: If you have been living under a rock, Hong Kong’s famed mod-Chinese restaurant Mott 32 has been the talk of the town. Since opening its first restaurant in Hong Kong in 2014, the restaurant group Maximal Concepts has expanded with outposts in Vancouver and Las Vegas—and their recent foray into Singapore marks their return to Asia, with Bangkok up next. 

The Vibe: Serious money has been thrown into this place. It’s 1970s Hong Kong chic with Eastern flourishes that meet Western tastes. Celebrites can rock up to the booth seats, fumble with chopsticks and Shanghainese soup dumplings, pop open bottles of Pol Roger champagne, and call it a night.

The Crowd: Charming and congenial. Lots of fresh faces spanning a wide age range, all decked out impeccably. There is no questioning their palate or their choices—you know they know the good stuff. A signature peking duck (one of the thirty daily birds that require pre-booking) being carved tableside drives home the point.

The Place: Verdant foliage and flora against a sophisticated chinoiserie backdrop. Brocade nettings mute overhanging lights while sturdy director chairs are softened by embroided cushions. The decorative approach feels deliberate yet subdued. Emerald and warm amber evoke a sense of timelessness in the space.

The Food and Drinks: Make a beeline for the smoked black cod. The visual drama of its presentation certainly adds value to the dish. A sweet and sour sauce adhered to the crispy batter laced with just enough applewood smoke conjures scenes of blackened woks bathed in flames off mysterious back alleys. Pre-book the BBQ plume Iberico pork and Peking duck in advance to avoid disappointment (we aren’t fooling around). Order the Fujian Negroni, a smoky, dangerous smooth operator powered by piquant ginseng liquer, sit back and soak up the atmosphere as you work your way through stacks of dim sum.

2 Bayfront Avenue, B1-42-44, Galleria Level The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 018956; +65 6688 9922. Monday to Sunday, 5pm to 11pm