Memorable eats near the CBD

Part of our Top Tables: Singapore Restaurant Guide 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s probably one of the hippest spots to dine at in Singapore. The entire Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar enclave is brimming with hip and cool restaurants in areas you're probably already familiar with, like Keong Saik, Duxton, Club Street and Ann Siang Hill, all accommodating cuisines from French to Australian, Mexican to Mediterranean. Here’s our guide on 27 of them.
 

Bar-a-thym


A handsome, bright and airy space decked out in gray tones with unexpected pops of color and wall art keeps the vibe fun and relaxed. Chef Francois Mermilliod puts out contemporary French cuisine that keeps you guessing, in the best possible way. Classics are balanced with Mermilliod’s take on things that results in lighter formats like tomato tarte tatin with burrata, almonds and rocket herb salad, as well as duo of Hokkaido scallop and langoustine, shellfish emulsion, Pertuis green asparagus. Desserts, too, are stellar. Take our advice and go with the omakase menu. After all, you’re in good, capable hands here. 18 Gemmill Ln., 6557-2224. $$
 

Bar-roque Grill


This convivial restaurant and grill by Chef Stephane Istel (formerly of the Daniel Boulud Group) serves up classic and solid French fare, from the rillettes, escargots and terrines at the beginning to the Tomahawk ribeye with Bordelaise sauce for mains to the baba au rhum for dessert. Dig into it all in a cavernous space with long communal tables, and finish up at their al fresco space with a digestif. #01-00 Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Rd., 6444-9672. $$
 

Blackwattle


Award-winning Australian Chef Clayton Wells’ first venture overseas comes in the form of a handsome, understated establishment in a shophouse on Amoy Street. Fans of Wells’ Automata in Sydney will be pleased to know the same bold style of cooking features here, expertly executed by Head Chef Joeri Timmermans and Sous Chef Lillia McCabe. The space boasts a raw industrial aesthetic with deep, earthy tones, softened by mood lighting and cushy seats. The restaurant’s calling card isn’t Wells’ name—it’s the unique union of ingredients and strong flavors that intrigue but don’t overpower. Don’t leave without dessert, because that would be a mistake. 97 Amoy St., 6224-2232. $$
 

Blue Label Pizza & Wine


After taking over the spot formerly occupied by speakeasy B28, this newcomer set up by Travis Masiero, who also owns Luke’s, has attracted crowds eager to try the pizzas for themselves. It’s hard to go wrong with classics like pepperoni, but the J-Dog—a red sauce pizza topped with bacon, pepperoni, pork sausage and jalapeno—is a solid bet for carnivores. There’s also a rotating guest chef pizza on the menu, so there’s always something new to try. To wash it all down, call on the extensive wine list or the restaurant’s own Blue Label craft beer. #B1-01, 28 Ann Siang Hill, 9821-9362. $$
 

Brasserie Gavroche


A facsimile of an old school Parisian brasserie right on Tras Street, this pretty, skylit dining room fosters a bit of nostalgia with black and white photos on the wall and a 1930s wooden bar-counter said to have been rescued from the original Parisian Café de la Paix. It’s all about the hearty and rustic here, and aside from the usual suspects like escargots de Bourgogne, you can also look forward to forgotten classics, made using recipes passed down from Chef Frederic Colin’s grandpa Henri, like baked pork terrine pie. The food and service are excellent, but it’s the charming ambience that you’ll find particularly hard to resist. 66 Tras St., 6225-8266. $$$
 

Burlamacco Ristorante


This intimate and elegant eatery, set in a conservation shophouse, really drums up its Tuscan roots, both in the Tuscan commedia mask it’s named after, and the Tuscan dishes on the menu. The menu may be by-the-book, but it is hearty, delicious and comforting. Order home rolled pasta dishes like the ricotta ravioli with porcini sauce and the spaghetti vongole, and meaty affairs like the roast lamb rack with herbed pumpkin in red wine sauce. There’s a serious Italian wine list to go with. 77A Amoy St., 6220-1763. $$
 

Butcher Boy


A cozy, casual Asian-inspired bar and grill focused on cuts of grilled meat specialties, complete with Asian-centric cocktails, headed up by Chef-owner Andrew Walsh of Cure just down the road. All the grilled meats such as wagyu rump cap, Welsh lamb and crispy skin pork belly come with a choice of Asian-in fluenced sauces including sambal, XO sauce, and yuzu bearnaise. The strong cocktail offerings are another draw and features familiar flavors from around the region. 31 Keong Saik Rd., 6221-6833. $$
 

Chef’s Table


Chef Stephan Zoisl’s space looks more like a high-end wine bar, with its high tables and stools; but sign up for one of the multi-course dinners, and he and his team whip up dish after exciting dish in their open kitchen, with subtle gastronomy touches. There’s no menu, only a daily list of about 28 ingredients the kitchen will be working with, and the Austria-heavy wine list is a great accompaniment. 61 Tras St., 6224-4188. $$$-$$$$
 

The Coconut Club


Founded by food enthusiasts Lee Eng Su, Kamal Samuel and Lee Chan Wai, The Coconut Club came about after they attended a nasi lemak convention in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. What matters most at this rustic eatery is the top-notch nasi lemak with a piece of to-die-for, deep-fried chicken, which is pretty much the only thing on the menu, besides add-ons like charcoal grilled otak-otak and cendol. For their coconut rice, they use Malaysian West African hybrid (MAWA) coconuts that are imported three times a week from Selangor, which they clean and juice by hand. That’s a lot of effort for a simple dish, but it’s details like this that really make their nasi lemak stand out. 6 Ann Siang Hill, 6635-2999. $
 

Don & Tori


It seems a bold move to open a premium donburi restaurant in Tras Street’s revered Japanese food enclave, but independent concept Don & Tori holds its own. For sashimi, fish is flown in directly from Japan’s iconic Tsukiji Fish Market and prepared live in front of you. Otherwise, truffle reigns supreme—as do other Western ingredients like foie gras that are a staple in making Don & Tori’s classic Japanese offerings exciting. The truffle salmon carpaccio, and foie gras and scallop are must-tries; but if you’re choosing a don, make it the truffle wagyu foie gras don, a decadent bowl that’s the restaurant’s star offering. And it’s not just good food here—Don & Tori comes with a love story of fictional lovers Don and Tori, realized via murals painted on the walls of the restaurant. 74 Tras Street, 9811-7888. $$-$$$
 

Esquina


Young Barcelona-born Chef Carlos Montobbio took over the Esquina kitchen a couple of years ago, and the vivacious space has only gone from strength to strength, offering classic, comforting tapas with some innovative touches, as in the sandwich-style Spanish omelet, which comes with onion confit and olive oil caviar, and the Spanish Nigiri, a delicious dollop of salted cod, potato and garlic oil topped with roasted peppers. If you haven’t been in a while, check out the quieter second floor space, great for groups. 16 Jiak Chuan Rd., 6222-1616. $$$-$$$$
 

Fleur de Sel


A cozy space featuring an open-concept kitchen, this restaurant is helmed by French Chef-owner Alexandre Lozachmeur, who has worked at the Spoon restaurants and Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee. The menu includes classic French dishes such as slow-cooked duck breast with apple, figs and cherry, as well as a five-course Fleur de Sel dinner and three-course set lunches. #01-01, 64 Tras St., 6222-6861. $$
 

Kimme


Run by Korean Chef Sun Kim of Michelin-starred Meta along with his partner-in-crime and Head Chef Louis Han, Kimme is a more casual experience than fine dining Meta. Upon entering the space, a large marble table serves as both a centerpiece and a communal dining area while an open-concept kitchen lets guests see the amazing culinary team in action. The kitchen offers up a selection of Asian fusion plates, divided into small plates, big plates and sweets. Creations such as Korean-style wagyu tartare with sago chips, and kampachi sashimi with pickled ginger, pomelo, shiso and homemade gochujang sauce, shine bright, as does their version of bossam. It’s refined without being stuffy, and makes for a great date spot. 47 Amoy St., 6514-1588. $$
 

Le Binchotan


Helmed by talented Chef-owner Jeremmy Chiam, the French-Japanese restaurant on Amoy Street with its entrance on Gemmill Lane lives up to its name by specializing in meat and seafood grilled over binchotan (or white Japanese charcoal). Highlights from the menu include the popiah-like Edible Charcoal and the Burnt Aubergine. As for drinks, you can look forward to signatures like the eponymous Le Binchotan, the marriage of whiskey, cherry syrup, yuzu, togarashi and bitters. #01-04, 115 Amoy St., 6224-1045. $$
 

Lucha Loco


Probably among the more casual places in this guide, but we’ll always be fans of their original, perpetually packed space on Duxton Hill, especially the fairy-light festooned alfresco backyard. The name of the game here is elevated Mexican food, and worthwhile options include the mango and snapper ceviche, the carnitas tacos with pork belly, cilantro mayo and jicama, and the Bistek con Nopales, skirt steak with cactus salsa verde and chimichurri sauce. Be sure to peruse their fun, party-worthy and refreshingly adventurous cocktail list, too. 15 Duxton Hill, 6226-3938. $$
 

Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House


Travis Masiero’s oyster bar and chop house has another branch in Orchard, but we’re eternally partial to the tucked away agship on Gemmill Lane. The chic brasserie is classy yet relaxed—everything from the marble-topped bar, to the crisp white linens, to the vest-wearing servers, recalls a lighter version of Old World elegance, while the food includes American retro-glam classics, including iconic East Coast dishes like the clam chowder and Boston lobster pot pie. Or order the lobster mac and cheese to go with your bone-in tenderloin au poivre. The sommeliers on staff bring an extra focus on the wines of the US, South America and the Loire region in France. 22 Gemmill Ln., 6221-4468. $$$
 

Maggie Joan’s


We have loved Moosehead for a long time, so we have been absolutely delighted by the arrival of the more upscale sister restaurant Maggie Joan’s, a narrow and beautifully decorated hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, accessible only via the alley behind Amoy Street, now home to a row of cool restaurants. The space, while intimate, is rather nondescript with typical wooden furniture and raw, exposed bricks. They serve up modern, aesthetically driven plates like hamachi crudo, pickled tomato and basil, Inka roasted cauliflower, and the egg with dukkah & saffron mayo. #01-01, 110 Amoy St., 6221-5564. $$
 

The Market Grill


The bustling industrial-looking space on Telok Ayer is still going strong, with its open-concept kitchen with a zinc counter and a 1.5-meter long live lobster tank. In the kitchen is Executive Chef Kenneth Lin who puts out a straightforward menu of juicy burgers and grilled meats, as well as seafood. Premium beef aside, there is also a selection of unsung-but-good, affordable cuts. The food may be simple but it’s flawlessly executed and always hits the spot. 208 Telok Ayer St., 6221-3323. $$$
 

Meta


This stylish, contemporary Asian restaurant set in a shophouse along Chinatown’s hippest street has earned its first Michelin star and is helmed by South Korean Head Chef Sun Kim, who’s done stints at Tetsuya’s and Waku Ghin. Expect seasonal, inventive plates, whether you’ve gone with the five- or seven-course dinner degustation menus on offer, or three-course lunch set, with attentive, discreet service to boot. Examples from their recent spring menu include Japanese madai with avocado, tomato and yuzu, as well as beetroot with cherry, raspberry and shiso for dessert. There’s also a full vegetarian menu, for those so inclined. 9 Keong Saik Rd., 6513-0898. $$$
 

Myo Restobar


The modernized, sister restaurant of home-style Cantonese cuisine stalwart Kia Hiang is a great case study for F&B establishments seeking to reinvent themselves. Myo has married the old and the new in the best of ways—by introducing what a newer generation of diners are seeking (craft beers, Instagrammable decor etc.) without forsaking what regulars already love about the place. Myo is a chip off the old block when it comes to the food. Kia Hiang’s famed Claypot Spring Chicken is available here and tastes just as good. There’s also a creative dim sum menu with items like Steamed Siu Mai with Conpoy and Black Truffle, Healthy Walnut Buns, among many others. But what you’ll really want to try are the wok menu items. The Black Pepper Angus Ribeye Cubes and the Myo Chilli Crabmeat with Buns are easy standouts. #19-01 Oxley Tower, 138 Robinson Rd., 6931-1247. $-$$
 

Neon Pigeon


This packed, modern izakaya sports a street-inspired facade with grafitti murals, a hip crowd and a trendy menu. They serve Japanese small plates with an edgier twist like chilled cucumber with crushed chili roasted peanuts and goma and crab cakes with wasabi and avocado. For mains, try the smoked baby back ribs in sake barbecue sauce and the tare-roasted chicken thigh with Japanese curry. A special mention goes to their pocket-friendly cocktails and special in-house junmai daiginjo sake. #01-03, 1A Keong Saik Rd., 6222-3623. $$-$$$
 

Restaurant Lerouy


Chef Patron Christophe Lerouy hails from Alsace and his namesake restaurant is both a reflection of his roots as well as his travels over the years. Lerouy trained under decorated, Michelin-starred chefs, including the Pourcel brother of Le Jardin des Sens, and it shows. The upscale establishment seats a maximum of 26 at its bar counter and is the ideal setting for showcasing seasonal ingredients put together in unique combinations such as ibérico pork with eggplant purée, pork jus gelée and pickled daikon. That extends to dessert as well, with items like coconut sorbet pina colada, chocolate truffle bacon, and white chocolate lollipop with a hint of wasabi. 3 Stanley St., 6221-3639. $$$
 

Rhubarb Le Restaurant


Rhubarb Le Restaurant has had a loyal following ever since it rst threw open its doors, and it’s easy to see why. The lovechild of French dining temple Au Petit Salut alums Chef Paul Longworth and manager Jerome Desfonds, this classy dove gray and white space serves up re ned and seasonal French food in its open-plan kitchen. No gimmicks here, just solid food and some interesting ingredients. The a la carte menu has dishes like Obsiblue prawn tartare with seaweed, pomelo and Oscietra caviar, and their signature pigeon breast and leg con t with rhubarb and rose puree. There are lunch and dinner degustations, too. 3 Duxton Hill, 8127-5001,. $$$-$$$$
 

Senso Ristorante & Bar


Senso is a Club Street institution. Food here is a joy, as is the service, and in such a charming space (they occupy five adjacent shophouses and the courtyard is gorgeous), too. The decor, with its starched tablecloths and not-so-subtle giant paintings, is pretty old-school fancy, but the menu of Italian classics is well-executed and consistent. Try the salmon tartare with pan-seared scallops and Avruga caviar, and the homemade raviolio with veal shank and porcini mushroom. Their revamped bar is great for aperitifs. 21 Club St., 6224-3534. $$
 

Sushi Mitsuya


Singapore is full of fancy sushi restaurants. But this one—a rare standalone—has been reliably excellent. Helmed by Chef Ryosuke Harada, formerly the Sous Chef of Sora Sushi at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, the typically private and zen restaurant has an 18-seat counter for course-by-course sushi. As expected, it works on an omakase basis where you’ll get a mix of fresh sushi and sashimi, as well as appetizers and an assortment of cooked dishes. It’s a popular spot for local sushi fanatics, native Japanese and of course many of our panelists. #01-01, 60 Tras St., 6438-2608,. $$$-$$$$$
 

Tippling Club


It’s hard not to love Chef Ryan Clift’s molecular degustation restaurant, with an ever-changing menu that consistently impresses. In the deft hands of Paul Gajewski, you’ll find a slew of amuse bouche and palate cleansers before even embarking on the Classic six-course or Gourmand 12-course tasting menu. Everything is conceptual and presented in kooky vessels, but the food is always a rave. Don’t forget about the equally interesting cocktails, too. 38 Tanjong Pagar Rd., 6475-2217. $$$$
 

Venue by Sebastian


Chef Sebastian Ng made a name for himself at the now- defunct Restaurant Ember, and while we were sad to find out about its closure back in 2014, we’re glad Ng is back with this casual concept. There are many things to try on the menu, including the satisfying Chilean seabass with mushroom bacon ragout, and the addictive crispy homemade tofu with foie gras-mirin sauce with ice lettuce. The dish that stands head and shoulders above the others is the simple, umami flavor bomb of cold angel hair pasta with konbu and truffle oil. Service, too, led by Ng’s wife Sabrina, is exemplary. It’s an inviting place for easy dinners with the gang that works just as well for date night. #01-02 Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way, 6904-9688. $$