You’ve heard it all before that Singapore – Southeast Asia’s overachiever – is boring, bland and just plain blah. Fine for a weekend jaunt, a business trip or as a stopover to break a long-haul flight, this tiny island city has long been overlooked by intrepid travellers wanting to experience more exotic adventures in neighbouring countries like Thailand or Vietnam. Well, things are changing fast.
In the last few years, Singapore has shaken off its staid shackles to emerge as a vibrant and creative destination in its own right, thanks to a slew of new exciting architecture, colourful street murals, public art installations, innovative technologies and energetic food scene. Actually, many consider Singapore’s gastronomic culture the pulse of the city’s renaissance. Not only did this foodie heaven become the first in the world to receive recognition from the Michelin Guide for its street food stalls, it also does incredibly well annually on both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
But even without accolades, Singapore’s dining scene just keeps getting better with exciting new openings and innovative young chefs willing to break new grounds by pushing culinary ideas in innovative new directions. Embark on a gastronomic journey through Singapore, starting with these dynamic dining destinations that represent everything exciting about this city.
As soon as you enter Atlas Bar, your jaw will drop. One of the most breathtakingly opulent dining rooms in Singapore, Atlas on the ground floor of Singapore’s iconic Parkview Square is a throwback to the last days of decadence and takes interiors to heavenly heights – literally.
Behind a marble bar at one end of this glamorous restaurant, lies a soaring three-storey gin tower inspired by the Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City, filled with the world’s largest gin collection. The sheer opulence of Atlas Bar can be a little overwhelming at first. Are you still in Singapore and is it even the 21st century? While you wish you had worn something a bit more dazzling to suit the palatial setting, the friendly servers soon settle you in for the evening at one of dozens of bespoke leather lounge chairs that dot the room.
First order of the night is to try one of the bar’s signature cocktails, the Atlas Martini, made with London dry gin, Ambrato Vermouth and champagne vinegar. Next, explore its comprehensive dining menu of European modern dishes inspired by the glamour of the Golden Age. You can’t go wrong with the Spanish octopus tentacle with braised fennel and fried lemon milk (S$26) which we found to be tender and flavourful, followed by the juicy Sanchoku Wagyu beef steak with padron peppers and glazed onions (S$40).
We recommend ending your meal with the Frozen Milk Chocolate Water, Milk Ice Cream & Palmer’s Brownie (S$18) which is so moreish we couldn’t resist a second one. This buzzy place is perfect for all occasions, and on the night we were there, the tables were overflowing with businessmen closing deals, loved-up couples and an enthusiastic bridal shower. Like us, every single person looked giddy with excitement to be there.
600 North Bridge Road
MasterChef Asia’s winner Woo Wai Leong’s new eatery is a revelation. Under his skilful hands, familiar Asian ingredients such as betel leaf, bamboo shoot and century egg are transformed into modern and innovative delicacies which leave you oohing and aahing in appreciation. His thoughtful and careful philosophy hits you as soon as you step off the hustle and bustle of North Canal Road and enter into this sleek space, peppered with hints of the Orient through a round Chinese window frame and drawers inspired by those found in Chinese medicine halls.
If you are greedy like we are, try the 8 course dinner set menu (S$118); you won’t regret it (there is no a la carte menu for dinner and lunch is only on, Wednesdays to Fridays). Start with snacks like the Spring Onion Shaobing stuffed with mozzarella cheese and served with yeasted butter and laksa leaf which is crispy and full of flavour, and the Escargot Skewers which are glazed with Doubanjiang mayonnaise, grilled then wrapped in betel leaves and charred. You’ll love its smoky flavours.
Then it’s time for some appetisers. Don’t miss Ibid’s interpretation of the classic tea egg in the form of sous vide egg in a light puer tea broth or the white radish porridge with bamboo shoot and century eggs, topped with thinly sliced radish strips for a nice
added crunch. For mains, Chef Woo transforms the short rib, a budget beef cut, into something quite special by cooking it for 48 hours until it becomes meltingly soft then adding more flavour with black fungus and angelica roots. Trust us, you won’t forget the black garlic mash potato that comes with this dish. The Lotus Rice with mushroom and foie gras is sticky and luxurious. End the meal on a sweet note like we did with the soy milk ice cream with Sarawak pepper meringue. Delicious.
18 North Canal Road
THE DEMPSEY COOKHOUSE & BAR
Sometimes it’s easy to forget this modern metropolis also boasts a rich, historical legacy as a British colony. That’s why it’s such a joy to have a drink or eat a meal at Dempsey Cookhouse, one of four restaurants which share a communal dining room at the newly refurbished 1860s Tanglin Barracks now called COMO Dempsey. Set in a gorgeous space with high ceilings and a relaxed colonial vibe, Cookhouse operates under the guidance of renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. While the concept of this restaurant is casual, it doesn’t compromise on ingredients or techniques.
The menu focuses on intense flavours and textures from vegetable juices, herbal vinai
cooking grettes, and broths with an Asian twist. For starters, go straight for the Sri Lankan crab toast with lemon aioli topped with avocado (S$26) or the yellowfin tuna tartare, avocado, ginger marinade and spicy radish (S$29). Both are refreshingly light and zingy. The chargrilled octopus with smoked paprika creme fraiche is tender but over-grilling left us with a slight bitter aftertaste. But the tagliatelle with clams, chilli and parsley (S$25) made us smile again with its strong flavours.
We were having such fun drinking the unique cocktails inspired by Asian flavours such as lychee raspberry bellini (S$22) that we forgot to order pudding but we will definitely come back for some tantalising cinnamon apple cake with green apple sorbet and macadamia crumble ($15).
Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar
17D Dempsey Road