It’s probably going to be 80°F, mostly sunny and very humid with a small dose of haze, but, come fall, restaurants in Singapore are gearing up for their autumn menu. If this is how change in seasons are signaled in the tropics, well, let’s embrace it.
How can we talk about Singapore and not talk about hawker centers? Well, that’s kinda the point of this post. We love Singapore for the mix of fantastic hawker center fare and international cuisine from around the world. This time we want to highlight just the latter, from our most recent visits.
Meta serves a take on French-inspired cuisine with a distinctly Korean bent. Chef Sun Kim’s dishes are elegant and creative, but also retain an element of classic and familiarity.
You don't expect an "elevated" version of bibimbap with hokkaido uni to do much, but in fact it is a light, extremely flavorful and clean-tasting... bibimbap.
At lunch one day, I had beautifully cooked pork belly, served with slow-cooked endive and soy caramel, alongside homemade white kimchi that cut the sweet and fatty pork wonderfully.
Meta is currently one of my favorite restaurants to go to in Singapore.
Cheek By Jowl
Cheek By Jowl gets its name from chef Rishi Naleendra and restaurant manager Manuela Toniolo’s years of togetherness culminating in them running a restaurant together — cheek by jowl. They serve Modern Australian food, which is to say a kind of ingredient-driven cuisine that is a confluence of various cultures coming together.
A recent dinner included lamb shoulder sitting atop salt-baked celery root, draped with cavolo nero and garnished with a dusting of black olives. An incredibly balanced dish.
Another time, my meal included smoked mackerel with horseradish, pickles and green pea juice followed by slow cooked pork belly, charred scallion, tarragon and a jus made with pig ears.
At lunch one day, I started with Sambal Kacang Petai (stir fried stinky petal beans with tamarind & chilli sambal, crispy shallots), a light and heady mix of spice, heat, acidity and funk. Chap Chye (braised cabbage with mushrooms, lily buds, sweet & dried bean curd, pork belly and black fungus in rich prawn stock gravy) was an umami rich potion of sweet, earthy and fishy flavors and oddly addictive.
I finished with a Peranakan classic of Buah Keluak, which came with wagyu beef from Rangers Valley of Australia, along with some steamed rice to go with it. The sauce was thick and rich, fragrant and lightly medicinal. Kinda like Bak Kuh Teh, you either love it or you don’t.
Like Meta and Cheek By Jowl, Cure joins a range of restaurants in Singapore that are serving interesting, creative food in relatively low-key settings. Cure’s space is refined, intimate and cozy; the energy from the open kitchen helps dress it down.
Following a course of foie gras brûlée with burnt cinnamon sugar, a recent meal included pumpkin granola with burrata curd and sage milk gel. Erring on the sweeter spectrum, this was an intriguing, creative take on granola and milk. That degustation climaxed with beautifully cooked duck breast from Ireland’s Silver Hills Farm with sour endive, pineapple and parsnip.
Whitegrass sets a new tone for fine-dining in Singapore. Typically, high-end restaurants here tend to rely heavily on expensive ingredients like caviar, truffle and foie-gras. Whitegrass does something completely different: while not necessarily precluding the use of these ingredients, chef-owner Sam Aisbett relies more heavily on less-known ingredients and creativity, thus creating highly original, interesting dishes — in a beautifully designed fine dining space that feels like someone’s home.
The menu has a distinctly Asian touch, less so because this happens to be Singapore and more because this just is Sam’s natural style. His fondness for seafood is also very apparent.
A recent degustation started with lightly marinated yellowtail amberjack with green apple dashi, toasted seaweed oil, pickled choko, young herbs and frozen wasabi, followed by a salad of slow roasted young beetroots, smoked eel cream, rosella jam and Tasmanian pepper berry.
The larger courses of the meal started with slow roasted mangalica pork, scallops silk, handmade silken tofu, smoked onion cream, black moss and an aromatic pork broth. This was an umami-rich symphony of land and sea — incredible. I ended my meal with grass fed beef from the Scottish Highlands cooked over white charcoal served with 20 year aged Japanese soy, black salsify and fermented mushroom. While there was nothing to fault in that course, I might opt for the sea bream next time for something more interesting — something that’s more Sam.
Whitegrass is located within Chijmes at #01-26/27 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St, Singapore 187996
Chef Julien Royer, who brought much acclaim to Jaan, now brings the same food to his own restaurant. Located within the National Gallery, formerly a part of the Supreme Court of Singapore, the restaurant is thoughtfully designed: beautiful and luxurious, dressed down with a softness that makes it cozy and welcoming.
In a city that otherwise craves constant novelty, it’s perhaps the constancy of the dishes here that make Odette a reliable, familiar and entirely satisfying experience. This presents a curious dilemma — people come here because they know what to expect — so changes to the menu have to be introduced very gradually and deliberately. (At this point, the menus at both Jaan and Odette look very similar.)
A recent lunch tasting included classics like Hokkaido Uni with langoustine, mussel “cloud” and Oscietra caviar; heirloom beetroot variation with salt-baked beetroot, Straciatella “artigiana” and honeycomb; and rosemary smoked organic egg with smoked potato, chorizo and buckwheat, followed by seared foie gras with peach, Java pepper and yuzu. For the main, I was served one of my favorites, “BBQ” pigeon Fabien Deneour: petit pois, roasted porcini and pickled cherry. Can’t fault either the service or the food.
Odette is located within the National Gallery at 1 St Andrew's Rd, 04 National Gallery, Singapore 178957
See all of these locations, and more, on our Singapore, Fall 2016 Edition map: