By: Ray Teh
Singapore stands as the gateway to South-East Asia, and over the years has grown into a international city and a “first world country.” As a true blue Singaporean turned businessman, I’d like to share my views on so called ‘fine dining’ and the best of dishes in Singapore restos. The colorful historical background of Singapore has brought people from diverse backgrounds from China, India, Malaysia and nearby Indonesia to add to the wide variety of indigenous recipes. For me, growing up I was fed on “Chinese dishes”, my dad was a poor immigrant from Shantou, China but as I got into my mid teens and into university, I picked up the liking for spicy dishes. I guess fine dining also includes the place and the sense of being in a comfortable setting to qualify ‘the feel’ of fine dining.
Below are my top picks for fine dining in Singapore and true to my diverse background, including spending my last 13 years in Indonesia, I chose 3 restaurants from different cultures, starting with a Teochew restaurant, a Peranakan one and finally an Indonesian restaurant.
1. First vote goes to a very well established HK style Teochew Restaurant, East Ocean Teochew Restaurant. Teochew, or Chaozhou, are Han people who are native to the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong province of China. This restaurant offers the kind of food that as a Teochew child you get used to from childhood and can never forget. Each time, when travelling back to Singapore, this restaurant is must visit place.
Teochew restaurants tend to be noisy as to the Teochews good food must come with “families” along with wives, parents, aunts uncles and kids hence expect large crowds of up to 8 people at a table, gorging on huge plates of food and slurping bowls of soup. Yes, taste surpasses etiquette sometimes.
The usual must haves in a Chinese restaurant such as East Ocean are the (to some maybe controversial) braised shark fins and the signature dish of “Buddha jumps over the wall”. Be prepared to pay top dollar if you go for these dishes in East Ocean Teochew. Other good options include the Teochew sliced soya duck and soya bean curd. For a perfect ending to a good meal, try the double boiled hashma with almond cream.
The restaurant also has a fine selection of traditional Chinese wines and for the international crowd, some French wines as well. The service is reasonably good, but being a regular customer and being able to speak Chinese helps I guess. This is a top end restaurant, be prepared to pay top dollars for a meal, a group of 4 can run up a bill of 300 to 400 Singapore Dollars, especially with wine.
1 Scotts Road, #02-18 Shaw Centre
T: (+65) 6235 9088 F: (+65) 6736 0067
2. My number two choice goes to a Peranakan restaurant called The Blue Ginger. Peranakan and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region during the Colonial era. A family meal of delicious homemade dishes is a cornerstone of the Peranakan culture. Peranakan food is somewhere between Chinese food and the spicy Malay or Indonesian food. My favorites for the main course are Sotong Kunyit ( Tumeric squid dish) and the Sambal Udang (Spicy grilled prawn dish ). Finish off with a unique dessert called Durian Chendol.
Visit the website of The Blue Ginger for more information.
97 Tanjong Pagar Road
T: (+65) 6222 3928 F: (+65) 6222 3860
3. My third recommendation goes to an Indonesian restaurant called House of Sundanese food. Having spend my last 13 years in Jakarta, I cannot imagine a week going by without some of my favorite Sundanese food. When in Singapore I go to House of Sundanese Food to “show” off to my Indonesian friends that in Singapore we can get good Sundanese food too. House of Sundanese has a few outlets, my favorite has a lovely setting beside the Singapore river, where you can enjoy a fresh breeze and a great meal (address listed below).
Sundanese food (as most Indonesian food), has a very “rich” taste and some of the nicest chilli paste (sambals). Start off with some Crackers in a spicy Belachan dip as an appetiser. Belachan is a very spicy chilli paste and strictly for chilli lovers. For choices of food, I recommend the Rendang Dasang Sunda (a beef dish with a thick gravy, the sambal terong (a very spicy eggplant dish but nice), cumi-cumi bakar ( grilled squid ) and the not so easy to find otah otah in Singapore. Finish off with the home made Barley drink to drain down the chilli.
55 Boat Quay (Singapore River)
T: (+65) 65341602 F: (+65) 65343775
Mon-Fri lunch and dinner. Saturday dinner only, 6-10.30 pm. Sunday closed.
Compared to choice Number one of the Teochew restaurant, the cost of going to House of Sudanese is about less than 50% with The Green Ginger somewhere in between.
If you do end up in Singapore and wonder where you can get some “fine” dining done, drop me a tweet at Nuss_boy and I update you if my top three choices has changed.