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The best restaurants in Singapore's Arab Street and Kampong Glam

From bespoke cocktails to cutesy brunch to epic nasi Padang, here's where we like to go in the Arab Street area.

By Chelsia Tan | Dec 03, 2015

  • The best restaurants in Singapore's Arab Street and Kampong Glam
    Photo credit: Artistry

Kebab cafes and Kampong Glam Cafe aside, the area around Arab Street is bursting with both local and trendy food. There are several great brunch options, epic nasi padang, a bourbon bar and some contemporary Italian places. These are the ones worth your time.

For coffee and brunch...

Artistry

This multi-hypenated cafe (it also doubles up as an art gallery and events space) has locally-inspired grub like the chili crab burger ($25) and also other popular brunch items like the PB&J French toast ($14), toast stuffed with peanut butter and jelly and baked eggs ($18), with Spanish chorizo sausage, poached eggs, multigrain toast in pomodoro sauce. There's a decent list of coffee (espressos, flat whites, the works), too.

Cad Cafe

The space is decked on in quirky, retro touches like colorful artworks from famous and emerging artists, and a vintage television set. Instagrammable interiors aside, come here for their bagels, which range from a hearty combination of layered beef pastrami on wild rocket, with tomatoes, dill pickles and jalapeno cream, to a decadent plate of bananas and strawberries, peanut butter and chocolate on a cinnamon rasin bagel. There is also a simple selection of weekend all-day brunch items, and coffee, fresh juices and booze.

Hyde & Co.

A few doors down from popular events space and cafe Artistry, this shophouse cafe revolves around a modern English theme. The decor is simple and contemporary, so their food is the obvious highlight. They have plates to share ranging from the classic bruschetta ($8) and pulled pork mantou ($9-14), if you're heading down in a group. Hearty mains include the Mr. Frosty ($18), a diabetes-inducing French toast with s'mores, marhmallows, caramelised bananas and ice cream with butterscotch syrup; and the Toad in a Hole ($17), with mushroom confit, aged chedder, toast and truffles. 

Maison Ikkoku

This popular cafe and bar has a more extensive menu of brunch options that go beyond the big breakfast assemble, which is on the list too. Go for the salmon florentine ($19.90), which has Norwegian smoked salmon, sauteed baby spinach and poached eggs on English muffins, and the calorie-busting croque madame ($15.90), with honey glazed hame, gruyere, homemade bechamel and fried egg on toasted pain de campagne. If you come at night, there's also a bespoke cocktail bar on the second floor, under the hawkeye of long-standing mixologist (back when they were called mixologists) Ethan Leong.

Symmetry

Pretty much an institution for brunch in the Kampong Glam area, if you haven't been to this cafe already, then you're sorely missing out. You'll find more creative French-Australian breakfast plates here, ranging from bites like crepe and sweet corn zucchini fritters ($18), to broccolini salad ($17) and minute steak, with Angus beef striploin and sunny side-up eggs ($29). It can get quite packed on weekends, so head down early or risk missing out. 

The Hangar

Graffiti-ed walls, exposed bricks and food served on slabs of wood—this cafe checks off all the basics of an indie joint. Breakfast and brunch options are straightforward, with typical plates like smashed feta avocado on sourdough bread ($8.90), Stoner Surprise, comprising waffles with fresh fruit, syrup and butter ($16.90) and the Norwegian Catch, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, spinach and dill aioli on sourdough bread ($18.90). Coffee's a big highlight, and The Hangar roasts their own brew with twists like Orange Fetish, a sparkling orange espresso ($8.90), and The Breakfast Bong, with avocado, vanilla and espresso ($10.90).

Wilder

This cozy cafe, with repurposed furniture, exposed light bulbs and raw concrete walls, is tucked away at a quieter part of North Bridge Road. Don't expect an extensive menu here—owner Azurah Khalid keeps her dishes simple, with a focus on quality and locally-sourced produce. Order the Wilder beef burger with homemade buns and taters ($14), or the Sloppy lasagne ($11.90). Portions are not big, so for those with large appetites, try the squid ink with tagliatelle ($13.80).

For traditional cuisine...

Hajah Maimunah

Their focus may be on catering for events, but there are also set menus available for groups of six to 60. Depending on what you choose, there are delicious traditional Malay dishes like ayam goreng kalasan and beef rendang (set A, $17.65), sayur lodeh and sambal goreng pengantin (set B, $23.50 per person). The restaurant-caterer's signatures include sambal goreng, tahu telur, beef rendang and oxtail soup, among more than 40 kampong-style plates on the menu. 

Rumah Makan Minang

This Indonesian restaurant, which has been around since 1954, offers traditional Minangkabau cusine of West Sumatra. Spicy and tender, the beef rendang is a must-have ($3.30), the ayam belado merah ($3.50) is topped with chopped red chili with onions and tomatoes, and the paru belado ($3.50), comprising fried marinated cow lung with chili slices, is a delicacy. Other dishes you can't miss are tahu telor ($6) and the botok-botok ($6), fish steamed in banana leaf and marinated with spices, which are their specialties.

Warong Nasi Pariaman

Located near the Sultan mosque, this is possibly the oldest family-run nasi Padang stall in Singapore. They are known for their authentic dishes like beef rendang ($3.30), ayam bakar ($5.50 for a quarter), ikan bakar ($4.50) and sambal goreng ($1-5 per plate). Warong Nasi Pariaman also does a mean bagedel, which is a deep-fried mashed potato with minced beef, coriander, and coated with egg. Be warned: they sell out fast.

Sari Ratu

The world is divided into those who swear by Warong Nasi Pariaman and those who swear by Sari Ratu. This nasi padang institution does authentic, affordable and comforting plates. The no-frills eatery has an equally simple menu of dishes like ikan gulai (fish in curry), cumi gulai (cuttlefish in gravy) and ayam goreng kampong—unpretentious fare for those looking for a homecooked meal.

For delicious burgers...

Kaw Kaw SG

Their burgers are unpretentious, hearty and sloppy. A francise of the popular Burger Bakar Kaw Kaw in Kuala Lumpur, tuck into generous portions of dishes like the smokey beef bacon burger ($14.80), with a 175g beef patty, beef bacon, melted cheese and barbecue sauce, and the Permaisuri burger ($16.70), a combination of fried chicken, turkey ham, chicken floss and lemongrass sauce. 

For something Asian...

Mrs Pho

Decent, Bjorn Shen-approved Vietnamese pho served in a cool Kampong Glam shophouse? Yes, please. Here, dive into steaming bowls of pho bo nam ($7.90), or beef brisket noodle soup, bun mam ($8.90), which is Viet assam seafood noodles, or bun bo hue ($7.90), a spicy spin on beef noodles. If noodles are not on your agenda, then opt for the banh uot cha ($7), a plate of steamed rice rolls with Viet ham or entrees like the so huyet xao toi ($6.50), cockles stir-fried with garlic.

For Middle Eastern Fare...

Beirut Grill

Lebanese restaurant Beirut Grill cooks up authentic and wholesome Mediterranean fare, like their hot and cold mezzas, kebabs and grilled seafood. You can't go wrong with the chicken liver mezza ($10), marinated and sauteed with spices, or mains like the Beirut lamb chops ($27), char-grilled and marinated with spices or the Shish Taouk ($20), char-grilled chicken cubes that are marinated overnight with herbs and spices.

For a romantic dinner...

5th Quarter

Chef Drew Nocente, formerly of W Singapore's Skirt, calls the shots when it comes to the restaurant's menu of traditional Italian cured meats infused with Australian influences. Try charcuterie plates like rum-cured pork belly ($12), salt & pepper tripe ($10) and truffle salami ($12), and lardo ($8), with honey and chili. There are also other josper-grilled dishes with duck and fish, and roasted greens for variety.

Nox-Dine in the Dark

Here's your chance to get all touchy with your date while dining in pitch-black surrounds at this reservations-only restaurant. From $88 per person, you get a three course meal and dessert comprising a menu of mystery plates. Fork out an addition $30-40 per head for wine-pairings to match. If you like an example of what you'll eating, the food rotates from a list of items like seared Ahi tuna, pan-roasted New Zealand vension tenderloin and chili and candamom creme brulee.

Cicheti

This Venetian restaurant serves up hearty, regional Italian cuisine like woodfire oven-baked Neapolitan pizzas and of course, cicheti, which are tapas-style bites. Order the pappardelle al ragu ($26), with lamb shoulder; gameroni ($13), with prawns, chilies and herbed butter and the bismark pizza ($23), with fior de latte, parmesan, ham, mushroom and soft runny egg.

For drinks...

Bar Stories

It may be located in the twee and touristy gauntlet of Haji Lane, but up a set of ramshackle stairs, this no-nonsense bespoke cocktail bar is one of our favorite places to get away from the crowds. There's no menu. Just tell them what spirits and flavors you like, and they'll whip something up from scratch, though be warned that they have a flair for the dramatic. No somber, stirred Draper drinks here. There's also an interesting menu of bar bites, including stuff like grilled corn with spicy mayo and mussels served on a kimchi cracker.

Beast

This Southern American bourbon bar and restaurant also does brunch, but our favorite way to enjoy an outing here is to try their impressive selection of bourbon. There are over 30 bourbons to pick from, including the more unusual Willet Pot Still Reserve ($15/glass) from Kentucky. Their fun cocktail list (from $18) has mint juleps, bourbon “mojitos” and sweet tea cocktails. Line your stomach with plates like chicken wings and waffles.
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