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May 8, 2008 07:35 PM

Singapore Restaurants--Locals

hi just wanted to start a thread for pretty much the people who either live here or visit frequently .... went to Gunther's and Iggy's... I forgot how nice it is to go to a nice restaurant with nice quality setting instead of hanging out at the hawker with the ah bengs and ah lians.

Iggy's and Gunther's I thought were both OK in terms of quality but I enjoyed Gunther's more. The Food is OK but the value is excellent when you consider you can spend $750 or 1,000 USD easily at Masa's or Per Se or Robuchon in NYC.

I agree the Foie Gras at Gunther's was excellent ... it was a huge slab (about 10x bigger then anything you would get in the US) and it had an excellent candied date or something that was divine. I also had this shell pasta with kurobata pork that was awesome with truffle juice and i think a light mustard which was interesting and very tasty ... thot it was well paired. my companion had a veal cheek that i felt was underseasonsed (tho i think everything in singapore generally needs salt ... ) .. the veal cheek was braised nicely but I think the pork was light years better perhaps because i knew what to expect with the veal cheeks (i think i was secretly expecting / hoping it would be the same as this veal kidney dish i had at bistro Lepic in washington DC that blew me away). and for desert we had the apple tart which i ended up eating like a piece of pizza and was very tasty as well. the ice cream was a rum raisin vanilla but it had some rose in it which was a nice touch.

Iggy's? I enjoyed it .... I don't thnk anything was that memorable but again it's nice to go to a nice restaurant .... i'll probably go a few more times to form my opinion ....

what other good restaurants are there? i wanted to go to Garibaldi's...been to Oso which was great and Buka Nero which i also enjoyed...

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  1. forgot to say that both times the service i'd say was average ... at both restaurants i had to ask for the wine list. i find this odd ... i thought a restaurant makes it money on liquor sales? and thus i figure this would be the first menu they would give you "would you like a drink?" also we would need another moment to peruse the menu and thus the waiter would disappear for 15 min and we would have to call them when ready.... i guess i'm used to more aggressive service in the US? i mean i'm used to the pathetic level of service at the average establishment in singapore but i thought gunther's and iggy's would be a cut above the rest ... they get an A+ on passing out bread though haha. after dessert was finished at gunther's they kept trying to give us bread ....

    7 Replies
    1. re: Hot Chocolate

      Both Gunther's and Iggy's are my favorite place for fine dining in Singapore, but certainly not the same standard as Per Se or Robuchon if that is what your benchmarks are. Yes, I will agree that the service level in Singapore, even in the top notch restaurants like the above two, is just lagging behind America, Tokyo and Hong Kong. It is especially most obvious when the restaurants are at full house and the owners start to think they are at the top of the world, but for frequent travelers like us, we obviously know that is not true. The waitors/waitresses here are just simply too passive without much passion, and not paying enough attention to details.

      Klyeoh recently praised Nicolas at Keong Saik Rd, and the place also received rave review at The Strait Times but I have not been there so will not be able to comment. You may want to try there.

      For Italians, the last time I went to Garibaldi's and Buka Nero was 3-4 years ago. Both places did not leave much impression on me, which is why I was not back again. But recently, a friend spoke highly of Garibaldi's and urged me to give it another try. Another friend, who loves Oso, invited me there a few times but I only like their risotto. The rest were simply mediocre at best. Just about when I was ready to give up on Italian scene here, I had a good meal at Bonta at UE Square. Nothing spectacular, but I thought it was better than the rest. Another one I went recently was Ristorante La Strada at Shaw Center. Without much expectation on the first trip, I though the overall standard was excellent: really good appetiser, good pasta and pizza. But the standard fell off on the second trip a month later, which left me really puzzled what happened. The place may be inconsistent but I think I will give it another try when I am in Italian mood.

      Klyeoh just wrote a review on a few Italian places in town. You may want to read:

      1. re: FourSeasons

        My solution towards getting good service, in Iggy's case at least, was to get seats at the counter, instead of the tables at the adjoining dining room. The seats are very comfortable (fashioned very much after those in L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon) & the added bonus is that you also get to see the action going on in the kitchen.

        Hot Chocolate's right about the great prices for fine-dining in Singapore - but I guess that's where something's gotta give: in Singapore's case, the predictably mediocre service level that's the bane of many diners here.

        The best service I've received recently was at Les Amis. I guess they've always set the standards in this country when it comes to fine-dining.

        La Strada's maitre'd, Subra, is also very genial & friendly, and gives good recommendations on the daily specials. He was previously from Au Jardin Les Amis (assistant manager) & has got this fantastic photographic memory on regular guests' likes & dislikes. Many a times, our intended trip to Les Amis was diverted to La Strada by Subra's friendly wave & smile.

        1. re: klyeoh

          I sit at the counter most of the time in Iggy's, especially in the first few years of its opening. Don't misunderstand me, the service there is good, but yet compared to what you get in America, and especially on my recent trip to Tokyo, it is just not there yet compared to the top notch restaurants.

          I will dissent on "great prices for fine dining" in Singapore. I find them actually quite expensive. A dinner set at Iggy's is now close to S$200 per person (without wines or beverages) on top of the tax and services. I recalled it was just slightly above S$100 when it first opened a few years back. That is certainly not cheap. You can't really compare it to Per Se or Robuchon (though I think Hot Chocolate certainly exagerate how expensive they are; the tasting menu I had in Per Se about 16 months ago was about US$300 per head, Robuchon Macau is more like HK$2000 per head) , those places stand by its top notch reputation, and the tasting menu, I recall is much more filling than the one presented in Iggy's (which really is half full only at the end of the meal). The prices are the same in Gunther's or Les Amis for dinner if you order from the ala carte menu. An appetiser + main dish + desert is going to cost you at least $200++ range. I am pretty sure you will get cheaper prices for comparable meals in NYC or Tokyo.

          1. re: FourSeasons

            yo i'm back.
            the 9 course i think tasting menu at Iggy's was $195 per person ++ so maybe SGD 225 per person without liquor. so that's maybe let's say 450 sing total. Using an average exchange rate of 1.45 that comes out to USD $310 FOR BOTH PEOPLE. I won't include alcohol because everyone's different (some want their blue label or frilly cosmo or vodka martini or 1942 Petrus or 2008 Clois Du Bois)

            When I left NYC in Dec 2006. Per Se was $250 per person. Now you have add 20% tip AND tax. so all in ... it's about $640 per person ... HELLO total. that's $640 US or at the samve average exchange rate of 1.45 ... close to one thousand sing for a meal.

            now there are some dishes at per se and robuchon that were memorable...seared into memory because they were perfect in every way. I don't have that experience with Iggy's ... it was a good meal and i enjoyed it. and i'm glad i went ... also with Per Se you have to call 2 months in advance (makes it difficult to plan an I'm Sorry Meal) and you have to have your finger on speed dial. With Iggy's i can call the same day or maybe on wed to make dinner for Friday.

            So just saying that yes Iggy's is pricey in nominal terms but relative to Per Se it offers a better value and is more accessible.

            1. re: Hot Chocolate

              Hi Hot Chocalate:

              You must be living in another universe in the past 6 months. The exchange rate of US$ vs S$ IS NOT 1.45; it is 1.36 now, and just 2 weeks ago at 1.32. The last time the rate is 1.45 is December 07.

              And I don't know how you do your math from US$250 per person to add 20% tips plus tax to become US$650 per person and then to Sing$1,000 per person. Or did you give 100% tips???

              Iggy's tasting menu is not 9 courses, unless they change the formula recently. It is just 6-7 mini-courses. Everyone I know who has been to Iggy's (and I know many) complain just half fulled at the end of the meal. Per Se, on the other hand, serves a 9-10 courses tasting menu. And it is a food experience itself, nobody comes out of Per Se complaining half fulled.

              But it is just simply ridiculous to compare value in Iggy's to Per Se or Robuchon. Of course, they are not in the same standard. Of course, it takes 2 months to book in Per Se because it is considered as one of the best restaurants in the world. The ambience, the service, the attention to seasonal food are just a whole world apart. And you think you can expect to pay Iggy's price in Per Se!!! That is like you are expecting to pay Iggy's waygu burger at MacDonald's price!!!

              Go and check Jean Georges and Daniel, the 2nd/3rd best to Per Se in NYC. Their 6 courses tasting menu is likely in US$140 range, more in Iggy's range. But go and compare the food quality, ambience, and service. Would you rather pay the same price and have Iggy's or Jean Georges? BTW, Jean Georges is a Michelin 3 stars and Daniel 2 stars. I am not sure if Iggyy's is qualified for 1 star, maybe yes, may be no. I am not saying Iggy's is no good, it is certainly one of the best, if not the best in Singapore, but certainly I don't think it is even at Jean Georges level yet. For the same price, I would think JG has better value.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                It's 650 total converted at 1.45. 500 usd total plus 28% tax and tip. which is pretty much 650 total for 2. which at 1.45 translates to roughly 1k sgd. 1.36 is the interbank rate. if you go to Per Se tomorrow you're not going to get that rate. mostly likely you'll be getting a retail rate or closer to 1.41. regardless it's a point in time. last year at this time we were at 1.55 and there's nothing to say that we won't go back. so i think it's best to not use what the interbank rate is right now but more of an average from the past year (last year the average from May 14 2007 to May 14 2008) is 1.4584).

                1. re: Hot Chocolate

                  Go and read your own post above, you clearly earlier wrote " is about US$640 per person..." and now it is "650 total for 2". That is a huge difference whatever exchange rate model you used!!!

                  Whatever it is, if you think it is "value for money", then I am happy for you. Just spend more money here.

                  But for people who have lived here for decades instead of last 2 years since Dec 06, we certainly think we get much better bargains many years ago.

    2. I like pepper crab much more then chili crab tho i tend to just order the chili crab sauce on the side...what's your favorite place for chili crab other then: No Sign Board, Jumbo, Long Beach? I tried 60s east seafood which was really nice and had a great outdoor chill atmosphere...any other places?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Hot Chocolate

        For me, the best pepper crab place in Singapore is Eng Seng in Joo Chiat Place/near cnr with Still Road. Food's fab, but no ambience to speak of.

        My personal fave for chilli crab is Hua Zhu in Queen's Rd, off Farrer Rd.

        1. re: Hot Chocolate

          I don't like Pepper crab.

          The standard of chilli crab in Singapore has gone way down hill over the last 5-10 years. All the big chains over expand to cater to the tourists, and they don't pay attention anymore to the quality of the food. Just focus on high turnover, more business, more profit. And I don't understand why No Sign Board and Jumbo are still full all the time...

          The crab I eat in Singapore are not even chilli or pepper crab anymore. They are for tourists. The good local crab dishes are found in Ya Kwang Dai Pai Dong at 709 Geylang Road (for Crab Tang Hoon) and Sin Huat seafood restaurant at 659/661 Geylang Road (for Crab Bee Hoon). Both are still hole in the wall with the bosses personally cooking and serving the dishes rather than becoming part of a corporate food business for business/tourist market. The boss of Sin Huat has attitude problem though and price not cheap there, so I actually prefer to walk a block away to Ya Kwang.

          Or if you are willing to splurge and price is not an issue, then go for Alaska king crab with salted egg at Sin Lee Chinese Cuisine at 47 Neil Road.

          1. re: FourSeasons

            Give Hua Zhu a try, FourSeasons. The reason I liked the place was because its chilli crab does have the classic sweetish tomato-ketchup-chilli-egg taste from the 1970s/80s, unlike the ultra-spicy chilli-belachan-laden versions dished out by most places nowadays (Jumbo, Red House, Long Beach included).

            Sin Huat's crab-bee hoon doesn't appeal as much to me nowadays - I find it too oily, and much preferred Ya Kwang's lighter version.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Hua Zhu is a new name to me. Just google, notice it is a cze char style restaurant. May try there when I am in the mood for chilli crab then. Thanks for the recommendation.

              Sin Huat has a few good dishes though. I actually have not returned back there for last 2 years, but the frog leg steamed with chicken essence was good, gong gong (a type of whelk) is good.

              Ya Kwang, maybe it is still new, still needs to redefine itself. Its crab tang hoon is pretty good, its Penang char kway teo, oyster omelette, kway chap are all good too but they don't mix well with each other. It tries to mix cze char and hawker food together, which I find it a bit odd.