This is the aunty-approved Singapore Best Restaurants 2016 food guide – The Masala Guide!
I thought of writing a listicle so that Santa Google would gift me with a million hits, but decided against it. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of Singapore Best Restaurants 2016 type of articles being published so I thought, why not round the year off by featuring my top dining experiences of 2016 and have a little fun with it at the same time?
As a former food critic for Tatler’s Best Restaurants Guide and Wine & Dine’s Top Restaurants Guide, I’m used to assessing restaurants on the usual factors like quality of ingredients, taste, ambience, service and wine list.
But I’d rather just look at three simple things when figuring out whether a restaurant is recommendation-worthy.
- the passion of the chefs/owners
- the creativity behind the dishes
- the taste
And so, the Masala Guide was formed. True to its monicker, I only feature places/dishes that my flavour-bombing mouth craves for. So no subtle, spice-less, soul-less dishes here!
I use stars. Not just any stars but Star Anises. 🙂 No need for explanation on what each rating means, obviously the more star anises a place has, the more intensely it has met my three criteria.
The headings may be tongue-in-cheek but the intent is serious – these are the places that delivered on passion, creativity and taste. So let’s start.
Best Place to Marvin Gaye and Get It On (for the ladies):
Come on… a bungalow in the beautiful Botanic Gardens and a chef whipping up “gastro-botanica” plates like these? Bring your date there and watch her swoon. 🙂
By the way, I have a “male” version of this listing but it’s all the way at the bottom of the post as it didn’t get any star anises from me!
Best Non-Michelin-Starred Restaurant:
Michelin, schmichelin. Who cares! When you’ve got Duran Duran as the soundtrack to a cracker of a meal with a rocker of a head chef… who cares that the Tippling Club didn’t get a star. You still get my star anise. 🙂
Most Memorable Dinner:
Perhaps it was the fact that it was New Year’s Day and our 1st meal of the year. But more likely, it probably was Chef LG Han’s innovative approach to reinventing Singapore’s favourite dishes that impressed me.
Think Chilli Crab, with an ice cream posing as the chilli. Or xiao long bao that really is a gorgeous chendol/gula melaka dessert. And you get the picture.
Best Curiosity-Arousing Experience
Although I might be tempted to suggest Tippling Club instead, Salted & Hung wins out for me because it’s a great combination of quirkiness and value for money (VFM). That VFM factor is very important to me.
So, I’m happy that Salted & Hung arrived to tease our tastebuds with dishes like kangaroo tartare with blood orange crème and this unctuous uni and crab combo!
Best Place to Bring Your Swedish Friends to:
Or any other visiting friends for that matter. Not only are you showing off a local boy’s cooking, it’s also showing off how creative our chefs can be with our local cuisine.
Best Tai Tai Wannabe Lunch:
Fantastic french at this stalwart – the soothing ambience and delish dishes make this a perfect place to have some bubbly and enjoy a long lunch with your ladies who lunch.
Best Singapore Restaurant Week Dinner:
This French restaurant already serves up very good set lunches, and I have to say, I was very happy that they kept their standards up for the Restaurant Week. You know how some places serve substandard sets during the Week? Well, OCF did not stinge. I still remember that amazing dessert I had!
Update 19 Dec: OCF has just informed me that they are closed for renovations till further notice. Well, hopefully they open again soon!
Best Brunch Buffet:
My go to for celebratory champagne-fuelled Sunday mornings. Less and less these days as my aging tummy cannot handle too much eating and drinking.
Anyway, this is the place to go to if you like quality over quantity.
Spanish chefs in Singapore say this is the best Spanish in Singapore. Say that twenty times.
That squid-ink paella? To Die For. So good, I must have forgotten to take a good picture.
Even my mother and her 5 fussy sisters said so. Yes, they are indian. Enough said.
Best Birthday Meal with the Oldies:
Well, unless your 70-year-old parents are into fine dining degustation, then by all means, head to the other The Kitchen (at Bacchanalia – featured below).
Otherwise, give them a blast to the past at the National Gallery where they can reminisce about their 20km daily walk to and from school while eating ice balls. And host your dinner at the suitably heritage-hued National Kitchen where they can complain about the price of fish head curry.
Best Place to Break Bread:
No, no, this isn’t just about fulfilling your gluten dreams. The Kitchen at Bacchanalia delivers on creativity and fabulous flavour combinations. It even made something so bloody boring like carrots taste so good.
Best Bistro in Da Hood:
I can honestly say that no one I have ever recommended to dine at this little bistro in sleepy Kembangan has come out disappointed. Chef Terence’s (ex-Mugaritz, guys) dedication to perfecting each dish before it appears on the menu means that diners can be guaranteed a good meal, no matter which dish they try.
And all at amazingly reasonable prices.
Best Secret Lunch Hideaway:
If you’d like to whisk your special someone to a secluded, leafy enclave, then Lewin Terrace is your go-to place. Escape the hustle of the city and indulge in some delicious Japanese-French fare.
Best Secret Hideaway (this time, in the CBD):
The folks behind Moosehead named this very modern, inventive restaurant after their grandmas. Hmm, well, they must have been a couple of very cool grandmas to inspire interesting pairings like fermented peach, thai basil and burrata!
Luscious chunks of crabmeat in a creamy tomato based sauce – this place serves the best crabmeat pasta in Singapore. Plus, its secluded location in sleepy Changi Village Hotel makes it a nice getaway for a long, enjoyable Italian meal. Best seats are outside, overlooking the sea and the sunset.
Other Notable Mentions:
Best Place to Marvin Gaye and Get It On (for the guys):
Not a garden. Not a bungalow. No fancy schmancy terms like “gastro-botanica”. Just good ole pig on a stick. With decently priced beer to boot. Your boy will be happy.
Best Newbie in the CBD:
Damn those CBD peeps with their endless choice of lunchtime venues. Says the writer who slums it out in the industrial estates of the east.
Well, fortunate they are indeed, that CBD lot, to have Cheek By Jowl in their hood. Again, creativity and a dedication to flavour is what impresses me about the food here.
Best Seafood Find:
Maybe I should categorise this under the Marvin Gaye section. After all, with all the oysters you will eat here? But in all seriousness, the bi-valves here are of the highest quality. The mostly seafood-based menu also shows creativity and great execution.
Another Best Seafood Find:
Here is another restaurant bursting with its owner and chef’s pride about the work they do. I mean, the passion is palpable! The food is really good too. You’ll be surprised how many places can muck up a perfect little fillet, but the folks at NUDE know their stuff!
Oh, and great value-for-money too.
Best for Cheap and Good Tapas:
For once, you don’t have to run off to eat prata after a tapas meal. You don’t have to order 20 dishes to feel full either. So yeah, cheap and good.
Best Under-rated Tapas Bar:
We know all the usual suspects. FOC, Esquina etc. But it’s always great to find hidden gems, especially when they are located on a street called Gemmill Lane 🙂
Seriously though, I was pleasantly surprised by this unassuming place and I would recommend this little joint for a tapas crawl sesh.
Best “From Atas to Accessible” Izakaya:
Where once it was all pricey izakaya grub, they’ve now come down to our plebeian levels and shock of shocks, offer American-style sushi! But hey, that’s the most fun kind of sushi, no? They’ve still got the fancy stuff though, and I love this crazy mess of a gourmet sushi featuring uni, crab, ikura and negitoro. Do not eat this if you’re on a first date!
Best for a Mid-week Meal and a Drink:
With generous happy hours, you might be tempted to just come here for a drink. But the food menu is rather brilliant and I still dream of those juicy, pink lamb chops I had there. Innovative cuisine as well, so my vote to perk you up mid-week!
Best Friend’s Restaurant:
Okay, okay, he isn’t my BEST friend but he is a friend and he is the friend who owns the best restaurant, amongst all my friends, get it?
Wham, spam, thank you ma’am – those sweet potato fries of his are fabulous!
Best Place for a Pork Belly:
So crackling, my hubby could play a drum solo on it – was how I described this in my original blog post. It even converted a non-pork-belly eater like myself to try some!
Best Hidden Café:
Damn those CBD folks again! I’d be grabbing a cuppa here every day if I worked in the CBD. Coffee is good, ambience is awesome.
Well, it’s a floral boutique and a cafe in one – so just stepping in will make you feel all purdy. And with the range of coffees, whether espresso-based, syphon or nitrogen-infused cold brews, you know these folks are serious about their java!
Best Ice Cream Shop:
No garish neon-coloured tubs of cream here, guys. Those natural pastel colours should convince you that you can eat Birds of Paradise’s ice cream every day and be healthy.
Well, I had to feature this place, naturally. After all, how could I not when they serve a “star anise” flavoured pear ice cream?! 😉
Best Cheap Indian:
My first (and only) prata post on a blog named The Diva Eats Prata. Try Shri’s prata and you will see why. Also, they’re not bad for the other (real Indian) food as well – like thosai and chicken curry.
And Finally, Best Place to Slip into a Food Coma:
Samy’s at Dempsey
This age-old favourite piles on the curry as much as it packs in the flavour and its chicken masala, fish head curry and mysore mutton is the classic coma-inducing combo for any diner!
And there you have it! My Singapore Best Restaurants 2016 experiences. Hope it gives you some ideas on where to round the year off at and here’s to another year of gluttony!!
Happy New Year!
*Star Anise icon is created by emilegraphics from the Noun Project.