For so long, eating out in Singapore meant either hawker or OTT fine diner. But thanks to restaurants like Meatsmith, there’s a new breed of mid-range casual diner, offering excellent food at reasonable prices. Meatsmith does what its name suggests: smokes and carves meat. There’s a distinctly American edge
to the food thanks to US chef Andrew Baldus (think Memphis-rub pork cheeks with pickles, smoked sausage and jalapeno poppers) and an industrial vibe to the fitout. A word of warning: Don’t order the Meat Plate for main unless you are SERIOUSLY hungry.
167-169 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068620
The upmarket brother restaurant to Meatsmith, Burnt Ends is barbecue on steroids. It bills itself as a casual diner, but it’s hard to agree when a snack
of ‘Steak Frites’ (a mouthful of potato topped with minced raw beef and caviar) costs $35 per piece. Still, if you want to live large, this is the place to
do it. The counter is loud, fast and fun, and food is flung at you from all angles. All the snacks, such as the aforemen- tioned Steak Frites, corn with lardo, grissini with taramasalata, are great. For mains, make sure you get the bone marrow bun – it’s like garlic bread but with salty bone marrow instead of garlic butter. It is outstanding.
20 Teck Lim Road, Singapore 088391
CHEEK BY JOWL
This represents one of the best value mid-to-high-end dining experiences in Singapore (probably Australia, too); especially if you go for lunch, where five courses will only set you back $58. Price aside, the food is simple but inspired. A dish of sunchoke and mushrooms in an onion broth
delivers an intense whack of umami; warm cheese bread is turned up a notch when dipped in a puddle of aged Comte; roasted pumpkin, kale and cashew is so meaty we don’t believe the chef when he says it’s vegan. The mostly organic and biodynamic wines available are on the more expensive side, but, again, a lunch booking
will save you here.
21 Boon Tat St, Singapore 069620
NOTE: Cheek By Jowl has since closed but will be reinvented as a Bistro in the same space
GEYLANG EAST MARKET AND FOOD CORNER
Singapore is famous for its hawker centres. In a city where spending $16 on a beer isn’t abnormal, hawkers easily represent the best value when it comes to food. We chose Geylang East Market and Food Corner on the recommendation of our friend and local tour guide, Chew, whose parents have a stall there. Called ‘Original’,
it specialises in claypot dishes such
as seafood laksa, chicken curry and prawn head soup. Chew’s dad also went and picked up a range of dishes from a variety of other stalls for us to try, so on top of the laksa, curry and soup we had at Original, we ate:
Chee Cheong Fun: Steamed rice noodle rolls in a dark sweet sauce and spring onions.
Fried Carrot Cake Sticks: These aren’t actually made from carrots, rather grated white radish or daikon mixed with rice and tapioca flours. The mix is steamed, then cut into sticks and deep-fried to crispy.
Jiu Cai Bao: Chive pancakes drizzled in sweet soya sauce Abacus Seeds: Glutinous balls made from tapioca flour and sweet potato or yam, seasoned with soya, fish, oyster and sesame sauces.
Jian Dui: Fried pastry made from glutinous rice flour, rolled in sesame seeds and filled with red bean paste, sweet mung bean paste, or peanut paste.
117 Aljunied Ave 2, Singapore 380117
MAXWELL’S FOOD CENTRE
One of the better known hawker centres is Maxwell’s in Chinatown. It specialises in Hainanese chicken rice, and there’s lengthy queues for one in particular: Tian Tian. It’s a favourite of locals and visitors alike as well as known chefs like the late Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay. There are a few ways to serve this dish, but at Tian Tian whole chickens are poached in broth, then sliced and served on rice with sticks of cucumber and a chilli sambal. It’s insanely delicious and will only set you back around $4. If the queues at Tian Tian are too long, either come back later in the afternoon, or try one of the other Hainanese chicken rice stalls inside Maxwell. They’re all pretty good.
1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
SUPER LOCO (CUSTOMS HOUSE)
Remember Jason Jones? He was one of the founding partners of Melbourne’s wildly successful Mamasita. He’s gone and done it again in Singapore with Super Loco. There’s a couple of locations around town (and out of town, too) but Super Loco at Customs House is the one you want. It’s right on the marina, so aside from views of MBS you may be lucky enough to catch a welcome breeze. The food is Mexican, in varying shades of authenticity, but always top quality and delicious. Definitely order a Margarita – it’s the perfect pairing
for the marina.
70 Collyer Quay, #01-04, Singapore 049323
TONG AH EATING HOUSE
Kaya toast with soft boiled eggs is the traditional Singaporean breakfast, and at most local eating houses, it’s all they serve in the morning. The original ver- sion sees thick-cut white bread lightly grilled before being slathered with kaya (coconut) jam and butter. Very softly boiled eggs are served alongside – crack them into a bowl, stir through light and dark soya sauces and white pepper, dip your toast in and enjoy. Singaporean kopi (thick coffee with condensed milk) is the accompaniment of choice, although it borders on being too sweet for us. If you can’t get to Tong Ah, there are plenty of others options around the city.
35 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089142
A proper old-school Singaporean seafood restaurant. This is lazy Susan territory, where tanks full of fish and geoducks line the entrance, and fist-sized crabs sit tied up on ice. On Sundays there’s a special dim-sum menu which you should take full advantage of, but make sure you still order the fried frog’s legs from the main menu. Definitely go prepared to drink: the list of Grand Cru Champagne and Burgundies is not
just impressive, it’s impressively priced, and not just by Singaporean standards.
583 Orchard Road, #B1-13 Forum The Shopping Mall, Singapore 238884
American celebrity chef Mario Batali has higher-end Osteria Mozza inside Marina Bay Sands, and next door the more affordable Pizzeria Mozza. But, warning. More affordable doesn’t mean cheap. For a plate of Prosciutto di Parma, a small white bean bruschetta, and two Peronis, the bill was close to $100. If you have money to burn and really want wood-fired pizza, this is your place.
2 Bayfront Ave, Suite B1-42-46, Singapore 248780
KIM JOO GUAN
Bakwa (also known as rougan) is a type of dried barbecue pork. Salty and sweet and akin to jerky, the meat is sliced thin before being marinated, dried and grilled over charcoal. It’s traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year, although it is so popular it’s sold all year round.
257 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058806