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Jul 8, 2008 12:10 PM

Singapore? Buy the Makansutra?

I am going to Singapore for four days at at the end of July/beginning of August. The trip is really just an eating trip. I'd like to eat all the specialties....would anybody recommend that I buy the Makansutra guide when I arrive? How good is it, how much does it cost, and where do you find it?

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  1. Definitely! You can find it in any bookstore once you get to Singapore. I actually had one shipped to the US before my trip, but that was really overkill. I don't remember how much it cost, but the cover price is probably somewhere around $10 US.

    One thing I'd also recommend is to get a good map or a guide book with a good map of the city. Some of the places that are recommended are not easily accessible by the subway and require a cab or a lot of walking. The Makansutra assumes you know where all the neighborhoods and main streets in Singapore are, so tourists who aren't familiar with the city might need a map to help them tell the cab driver where to go.

    There are pretty extensive forums at the site and this board is a good resource as well for you to do a little pre-trip research on the stuff you should spend your time looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: huaqiao

      Great! Thanks for the advice. I can't's going to be four great days of eating!

    2. Is the Makansutra Guide only for Hawker Centres and the like or, it also reviews more formal restaurants? I've visited the website and, although it has loads of information, it seems it focuses mostly on street food/Hawker Centres. We are heading to SIN in a few weeks time (after a stay in Bali) and while we will definitely be visiting some Hawker Stalls, we also want to visit some sit down restaurants.

      I'll share my list, if you share yours............

      So far, we are looking at:
      Indochine, for the view mostly.
      Jumbo or East Coast Seafood for chili crab.
      Apolo Curry for Indian, or Ivory for Indian, at Clarke Quay.
      Graze, for Aussie type food and a great setting.
      Some place for great Chinese, not sure where yet.
      Some place for great Thai, not where sure yet (we miss the Thai food in BKK and are forever trying to find it).
      Some Hawker Centre visits, maybe at Glutton's Bay and some others.


      2 Replies
      1. re: comiendosiempre

        It focuses mostly on hawker stands and small restaurants. It's more a directory than a formal guide, though, as it lists the establishment, address, operating hours, and a small blurb. There is a small mid-to-fine dining section in the back, but the bulk of it deals with hawker stands and small-ish restaurants serving local specialties. For more formal dining, some searches on this board would be more ideal, I think.

        1. re: comiendosiempre

          Hi comeindosiempre:

          I will fill in the blanks on Chinese and Thai since you are not sure yet.
          For Cantonese restaurants, try Li Bai at Sheraton Tower or Lei Garden. I just came back from Manhattan, and both these restaurants are way better than any Cantonese restaurant in Manhattan.
          For Thai, I will recommend A-Roy Thai at Funan DigitaLife Mall.

        2. FourSeasons:
          Thank you. I hope you had some good meals in NYC. (Where did you dine?)
          As for the other spots I mentioned, do you give thumbs up or down to any of them?

          Also, one non food related question: we are traveling with our two pre teen children and want to know if the Zoo or Night Zoo is worth the effort. Yes, we like animals, and Zoos generally. But, which is the better experience? I imagine we won't want to go to both. Thanks again.

          13 Replies
          1. re: comiendosiempre

            Please help us keep the discussion focused on local chow. Discussions of NYC dining and zoos are beyond the scope of this board.


            1. re: comiendosiempre

              Hi com:

              I wrote a review on my trip to Manhattan, you can read on the Manhattan Board at .

              Indochine is a modern pseudo-Vietnamese restaurants; very popular with Western expatriates and tourists due to its hip and chic ambiance. I am not a fan though.

              Jumbo used to be my favorite restaurant for chilli crab, though on my last trip there about 4-5 months ago, I was thoroughly disappointed. But it remains very crowded and popular, you may have to wait for 20-30 minutes or more if you don't go early at the East Coast seafood Center. (I don't think they accept reservation but you may want to check again) Another alternative at the East Coast Seafood is Little Red House.
              Jumbo has a few branches, including another busy one at Clark Quaye which is a popular hangout place for locals and tourists alike. (sort of like your Soho, I guess) A few other well known chilli-crab seafood alternatives include No Sign Board at Geylang and Palm Beach at One Fullerton.
              As a long term resident here, I lament the declining standard of chilli crab over the years. Since it has been very popular with tourists, the seafood chains have overexpanded and commercialized to the extent that it is just a "commodity", if you know what I mean. It is still the must place to go for tourists. If I have to recommend, I will go for Palm Beach at One Fullerton or Little Red House at East Coast Seafood Center. But be sure to make reservation or be early. They are all very crowded.

              My own favorite Indian is Tandoor at Holiday Inn Parkview. There is quite an extensive write up on Indian food here, you may want to read it : .

              Have never been to Graze, not able to comment.

              There are too many hawker centers, so rather difficult to recommend one. It really depends which one is more convenient for you. The most popular one for tourists is Newton Circles; most popular for office workers in Business District is Lau Par Sat; more "authentic" convenient location hawker centers will be Maxwell hawker centre; an interesting "old time" (if you want to see how hawker centres look like in the 60s and 70s before Singappore become affluent) would be Hong Lim Food Centre in Chinatown. As to Glutton's Bay, it is an interesting one located at Esplanade with the same view that you get if you dine at Palm Beach at One Fullerton. But the place, I think, lacks history and more of a marketing gimmick. I personally have not tried any food there.
              And in every hawker centre, there are many food stalls. Only a few are good and the rest are just mediocre or bad. For most Singaporeans, you just go to one that is most convenient for you, or you will just try your favorite food stall. There is no such thing as the "best" hawker centre.

              Both Z are good, but Night is more unique. Actually, just remember the chilli crab at Night Safari is quite good when I had it 2 years ago.

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Thank you FS.
                If not Indochine, where else would have a similar view but with good food?

                As for the chili crab spots at East Coast Seafood Center, how far is that from Orchard Road by taxi?

                Will the Jumbo at Clark Quay have about the same quality of food as the original Jumbo?

                And, there is a new restaurant, I believe, in or right next to the Asian Civilizations Museum. I think I saw photos of it. Do you know anything about that? Good for only lunch, or dinner too? Thanks again.

                1. re: comiendosiempre

                  There are a few Indochine restaurants and bars in town, do you mean the one beside Asian Civilization Museum. And what type of view are you looking for?

                  When I wrote I am not a fan of Indochine, I am expressing my own view and my own preference to have authentic Vietnamese food rather than one that caters for Western crowd. I think you will like Indochine, like I wrote before, it is quite popular with the Westerners. I have only been once to the one beside Asian Civilization Museum; the food is ok, nice ambiance but you have to pay much premium for this sort of thing, if you know what I mean.

                  I do not know much about the new restaurant beside Asian Civilization Museum. Opposite the Museum lies Boat Quay, same concept as Clark Quay with many restaurants, but the consensus is that Clark Quay is a more interesting place. I would suggest it is better to dine there in the evening. The weather is cooler, and more relaxed. I can't recommend any there as it is not a place I frequent.

                  I know Indochine also has one restaurant at Orchard Road, right at the basement of Wisma Atria. I have been there once, again same type of comment. But instead of a river view, you get to watch people strolling at Orchard Rd. (equivalent to 5th and Madison Avenue in Manhattan). Indochina also has another bar at Clark Quay as well, I think called Forbidden City, not bad for a place to drink and chat with friends.

                  BTW, the Thai restaurant I recommended at Funan is walking distance (about 10 minutes, but beware of the humid weather here that you may not be used to) from the Museum. The mall there focus on electronic goods so you may also do the shopping there though may not be cheaper than NYC now with the strength of local currency.

                  Taxi from Orchard Rd to East Coast Food Centre is about 20-30 minutes drive, depending on the hours. If you want to go there earlier (let's say before 7pm) to avoid the crowd, you may want to note that the taxi ride will take more time due to rush hour (5:30-7:30pm). And the wait for taxi at this peak hour is also longer in Orchard Road area.

                  I had Jumbo at Clark Quay about 2-3 years ago and Jumbo at East Coast about 4-5 months ago, so the comparison may not be fair, but I had a more memorable dinner at Clark Quay. But again, this may not mean anything due to the different time period.

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Yes, the Indochine I am referring to is the one by the Asian Civilization Museum, I believe. The photos/references I saw said the view is of the Singapore skyline, all lit up, and is very impressive. Having said that, the food should trump the view. We actually were taken to an "Indochine-like" restaurant in NYC the other night and it was completely underwhelming. Is there someplace with a similar view?

                    On the Thai restaurant front, is there a more upscale Thai spot you like, that isn't in the mall? We would like to go to one for a nice dinner.

                    The Jumbo option at Clark Quay sounds very good. Along with chili crab is there another dish we should be ordering? The kids may try that but will want something more traditionally Chinese, or Asian. They love Asian food and we are in NYC Chinatown and other Asian spots in Queens often. (Unlikely they will pick apart a crab though, which means, actually, more for my wife and me.)

                    1. re: comiendosiempre

                      Hi com:

                      For alternative good view and good food, my personal favorite is China Club, but it is a members-only private club. They have really gorgeous 360 degree view of Singapore and pretty good Cantonese food as well. Sometimes, they do have special promotion deal with credit card companies, and I believe there is a special Overseas membership for short term visitors, so you may want to check it out :
                      Another option is Equinox at Fairmont Hotel. I have only been to the bar there, so not able to comment on the food. Very popular place for viewing.

                      Yes, A Roy is definitely not high end but really authentic Thai food. For upscale Thai, you may want to try Thanying at Amara Sanctuary in Sentosa Island, the much-hyped island with upcoming Universal Studio build across Singapore mainland. Again, I have never been to this branch but another Singapore hound klyeoh has highly recommended this place and you can always trust his review.

                      Just be mindful that Jumbo is not a Chinese restaurant. It is a Singapore seafood restaurant, some dishes certainly influenced by Chinese cooking but it is not something you will find in any Chinese city. I will recommend the Chlli Crab (be sure to ask for crab from Sri Lanka, more expensive but worth the premium), Baby Crispy Squids, Donut with seafood paste, Bamboo clams with garlic, Mussels with Chilli sauce, Kang Kung (a type of local vegetable) with belachun and Mee Goreng (basically Malay style freid noodle to end the meal). Many locals will order steam bun along with the chilli crab so as to dip the bun into the sauce for further flavor. This order is basically for 5-6 persons; but for family of 4, maybe you can do away without the Donut and the mussels. BTW, Clark Quay is just 10-15 minutes drive from Orchard, so it is a shorter drive than East Coast Seafood Centre.

                      I find the Chinese food at Chinatown NYC to be subpar though I have never been to Queens. Even the best Chinese restaurants in Vancouver or San Francisco, both cities better known for Asian cuisine in North America, are far below the standard offered in Singapore, so you should try them here. The websites of two Cantonese restaurants I recommended earlier as follow:
                      Li Bai:
                      Lei Garden :
                      You can have Dim Sum at Li Bai and a formal dinner at Lei Garden, or vice versa. If you are more interested in the premium seasonal food, you can even ask the manager to set up a tasting menu for your family.
                      If you are more interested in comfort food (such as noodle, congee), you may want to go instead to Ngee Ann City, a premium shopping mall at Orchard Road for Crystal Jade Kitchen (for Southern Cantonese style noodle) at the second basement or Crystal Jade La Mien Xiao Long Bao (for northern style noodle) on the 4th floor.

                      I hope my recommendation will help you on this trip.

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        That information is outstanding. I will check to see on the possibility of getting into the China Club. The Sri Lanka crabs too are on my absolute list. I actually want to try cooking them here at home but, I can't find what looks like a very good recipe. The fish monger here recommended Dungeness Crab for the dish, however. Also, we will be staying at the FS in SIN. They have a Chinese restaurant and I think our room comes with a dim sum lunch. Do you know anything about that?

                        And, while I'm asking questions, there is an Indian restaurant at Raffles. I assume it is very pretty but otherwise not so great? And, if we want to pick up some foodstuffs, sauces, etc., is the best option a food market in any mall? Thanks again.

                        1. re: comiendosiempre

                          The Chinese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel is Jiang Nan-Chun, and its dim sum lunch should be quite good, though not the best in Singapore (that honor goes to either Crystal Jade Palace in Ngee Ann City, Imperial Treasure at Great World City, or else Lei Garden at CHIJMES).

                          Some of Jiang Nan-Chun's past executive chefs had since gone on to scale greater heights - Albert Tse went on to helm China Blue in Conrad Tokyo, said to be the best Chinese restaurant in the city (it's awarded one Michelin-star); Jereme Leung went to Shanghai & started Whampoa Club, which still sets the trend for modern-Shanghainese cuisine; and Sam Leong, who is now with Tung Lok Group (Singapore's premier fine-dining Chinese restaurant group) and one of the best-known Chinese chefs in Singapore.

                          The Indian restaurant at the Raffles you're referring to is the Tiffin Room - the food is served buffet-style. The standards fluctuate according to the chefs (mostly recruited from Northern In dia) but are generally very high. It's quite a pleasant dining experience there, but I think you should try Royal China Chinese restaurant at the Raffles Hotel - their lobster noodles are quite good. It's run by the same people as the Royal China group in London (St John's Woods, Bayswater, Four Seasons Duck in Queensway, etc) and the Ping Sharksfin Group in Bangkok.

                          BTW, what foodstuffs/sauces are you looking for? The nearest supermarket to Four Seasons Hotel is Isetan at Shaw House (10 minutes' walk) or Jason's @ Tanglin Mall (15 minutes' walk). If you're looking for Indian spices & foodstuffs, go to Mustafa Centre in Little India - you can get EVERYTHING Indian there.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Hi klyeoh:
                            I have to respectfully differ from your opinion about the Chinese food scene here. My opinion is don't go to that Chinese restaurant at Raffles, it is terrible, including the lobster noodle. I went there once a few years ago and never want to go back there again. As to Imperial Treasure, I have found their attitudes to be rather annoying as they tend to focus on maximizing their profit margin rather to serve their customers. In my opinion, both Imperial Treasure and Crystal Jade have both over expanded and the quality has declined sincetheir heydays. I would agree they are still good but I would not rate them the best in town.
                            Have you tried Li Bai at Sheraton Tower? I think hands down it is better than Imperial treasure and Crystal Jade Palace. Better food, better sevice and more intimate environment as well.

                            1. re: FourSeasons

                              Hi Four Seasons, thanks for the heads-up on Royal China - its lobster noodles were very good when it first opened a few years back (and it was also the only place in Singapore where I could find British-Chinese style crispy duck)

                              Yes, I've always liked Li Bai. Definitely a top choice!

                          2. re: comiendosiempre

                            Hi com:

                            The Cantonese restaurant in the hotel you are staying is above average, certainly not as good as the two I recommended to you (or China Club as well) but it is acceptable. (and frankly still better than those I tried in NYC) Since you have a complementary Dim Sum lunch, you might as well enjoyed it. If you are staying over the weekend, you may want to try the Sunday brunch in FS. My family goes there 2-3 times per year, my daughter's favorite and include a few local dishes as well.

                            I am not able to tell you anything about the Indian at Raffles since I have never been there.

                            There are 2 supermarkets that are close to your hotel: Tanglin Market Place at the basement of Tanglin Mall that is popular with western expatriates. and Isetan at Shaw Centre, which is more popular with Japanese expatriates. Both are about 5-10 minutes walking distance to your hotel, so depending whether you prefer to source Western or Japanese based stuffs, you can just walk to your preferred market.

                            BTW, there is another upscale Thai called Patara at Tanglin Mall so that can be an alternative to Thanying a Sentosa.

                          3. re: FourSeasons

                            I've been doing research for an upcoming trip to Singapore, and thought I'd look into the China Club. I requested the application package for overseas memberships, and imagine my surprise when the fee was US$3000! As much as I'd like to try the place, I think I shall pass on the membership for now...

                            1. re: prasantrin

                              Hi prasantrin:

                              I have certainly "met" you many times at Japan Board. Yes, I am shock by the US$3,000 price tag too. China Club, being a private club, does not include the 10% service fee that is the norm in Singapore, so it is actually cheaper to dine there for members. But at US$3,000, that means you need to spend like US$30k for the saving...Maybe they are aiming for the corporate clients. Sometimes, they have some promotion with domestic credit cards, so I took advantage of that to access the club.

                2. Wow; outstanding information.

                  As for Sam Leong, the chef you mention, is he now cooking at a SIN Chinese restaurant or he also went to another city? We mostly eat Cantonese food but will try anything.

                  For food stuffs we want to buy, we are thinking of bottled or canned curry sauces, condiments and the like. Maybe some good curry pastes, red curry, Penang Curry, maybe some Malaysian items. We have two pretty good Little India's here in NY (which have excellent spice stores) so basic spices, and many imported items, I can get - and use frequently to cook with. But other, more different/special items, we can't find. Frankly, when we travel we generally walk down the food aisles and pick what seems interesting. We also give out such things as gifts to friends on our return.

                  I know that hotel restaurants have come a long way but it seems like SIN has many top ones. Thus, is it the case we should generally not be put off by the fact a restaurant is in a hotel? The Indian spot at Pan Pacific (Rhang Mahal?) looks beautiful on its website (nicer than most any NYC Indian), and seems to get good reviews. Thus, the fact that its in a hotel is unimportant?? I always get the feeling that when dining in a hotel restaurant you are surrounded by other tourists, or people who didn't want to venture outside their cocoon. And, have you been to Ivory Indian at Clarke Quay? It seems to have a good food, a pretty space and is in an area we will want to visit.

                  Patara Thai seems like a good option. I did some research on Thanying at Sentosa and it seems to get excellent reviews. Yet, most reviewers seem to say it is always empty and doesn't have much of a Thai feel, plus its 15 mins outside of town. The distance isn't a big deal but we don't really want to eat alone.

                  And, for just good pizza or Italian, is there a great spot (not fine dining) that we can just go to and relax? One more question: are wine prices in SIN prohibitive, or pretty fair? I assume Aussie wines are the best buy or that isn't necessarily true? Thanks again.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: comiendosiempre

                    Sam Leong is now Director of Kitchens at the Tung Lok Group in Singapore - I'm not sure if he still cooks as much as he's appearing on TV as a judge in some cooking reality show (Singapore's Top Chef) & such. He's also currently on Singapore Airlines' panel of consulting chefs (together with other top chefs like Tetsuya Wakuda, Santi Santamaria, Nancy Oakes, etc). Tung Lok has some pretty good restaurants like My Humble House (at the Esplanade) and Club Chinois (Orchard Parade Hotel, Orchard Road) where you can try Sam's creations.

                    If you want to buy bottled or canned condiments, go to Mustafa Centre's vast spice section. They even stock popular Penang curry brands like Alagappa's, which is almost impossible to find elsewhere in Singapore. I think Alagappa's the BEST curry powder I've ever tried anywhere.

                    The Prima brand (available in most supermarkets) make some good Singapore chilli crab mixes. The Hainanese chicken rice and Singapore Laksa mixes are also quite good.

                    You're correct about hotel restaurants in Singapore (or in Asia, by & large) - they tend to be tohe best options in town in many cases. Rang Mahal is quite good, as Manish Law's quite a perfectionist. It's not cheap by Singapore standards, but the service is excellent there - and reminds me of the elegant Indian-style fine-dining service you get in places like Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, or the ITC Maurya Sheraton in Delhi.

                    There's another Patara Thai in the Swissotel the Stamford Hotel/Raffles City. Another spot for fine Thai food is Sabai on the 4th floor of the mammoth Ngee Ann City mall right on Orchard Road. The chefs & many of the staff were formerly from Thanying.

                    If you want to have some good homey Italian, try Valentino's, Rifle Range Road(Owner-chef, Valentino Valtulina, ropes in his entire family to run the restaurant) for some great pastas.

                    Chef Mimmo at Borgo on Bukit Timah Road makes some great pizzas.

                    My personal favorite Italian restaurant is La Strada, Shaw House (it's just 10 minutes' walk from your hotel). Resident-chef Leandro Panza has left late last year, but his creations are still as good as ever.

                    Wines in Singapore tend to be priced much higher than what you'd pay in the US/elsewhere, and corkage charges are also quite prohibitive in restaurants.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      Thank you.

                      So, Rang Mahaal maybe should be the choice. Its obviously way more expensive than Little India restaurants but, I'm not sure if its that much more than some other upscale spots. Thus, maybe they are quite worth it.

                      My Humble House looks beautiful. The food is similar? Not only pretty but well prepared? Is it crazy expensive or equal to other spots of similar quality?

                      For curry pastes, the best I can often find here are the brand Mae Ploy, from Thailand. They are good but I know there are better. I will head to Mustafa's. We use a lot of curry powder (we make great curry chicken salad, with raisins and cilantro and curry egg salad, even the kids eat it).

                      One of the two Patara Thais will be for us. It is so very hard to get really good spiced Thai in NYC. The best (really only authentic) spots are in Queens, where we head often.

                      And, there is a restaurant called Graze, in Rochester Park, that apparently has lots of redone houses and the like. Have you been there? Or some place else in the Rochester area? It seems very interesting and we'd like to take a look there too. Thanks.

                      1. re: comiendosiempre

                        Graze offers fusion/Continental-style cuisine, but doesn't really have that "wow" factor to justify a trip to Rochester Park.

                        If you want to try something interesting (and with a view to match), opt for Il Lido (Sentosa Island) or the new Forlino's (Fullerton Hotel).

                    2. re: comiendosiempre

                      Hi com:

                      klyeoh has done a fantastic job covering all your concerns. I will just add my opinion as follow:

                      I think Singapore residents like to dine at hotel restaurants as well, so it is not really an exclusive place just for tourists.

                      I am not a big fan of Rhang Mahal. To be fair, I have tried the lunch buffet only once many years ago. I prefer Tandoor but it is not getting much response in the earlier Indian thread. I think another good option is Song of India at Scotts Road, closer to your hotel, about 5 minutes drive, and it has a gorgeous interior to match its expensive menu.

                      As to pizza or Italian, since I just came back from NYC, I think you might be disappointed by what is offered here. But I also understand you might want to go for your comfort food occasional after such a long journey, just like my attempt at Chinese food at NYC. Klyeoh's recommendation La Strada is good, within walking distance to your hotel and just right behind the Isetan department we talked eariler. My current personal favorite is Bonita at UE Square, which I review 2-3 months ago:

                      My Humble House at Esplanade has a pretty interior, but I think the chef tries to be too creative and lost the touch of the ingredients. Again, I think it is quite popular with the Westerners (who can easily accept the modern fusion interpretation of Asian food and tend to emphasize more on the ambiance). But for real Chinese food, stick to Li Bai, Lei Garden, China Club, Imperial treasure, or Crystal Jade.

                      The only restaurant I tried at Rochester is a Si chuan cuisine, I can't remember the name, but let's just say I never went back there again.

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        I absolutely agree with Four Seasons on Li Bai. It's definitely smart. In my opinions, they did the traditional dishes well, and with that foundation, their more "creative" ones are solid (unlike the typical innovations just full of flairs with no essence).
                        Crabs is the most dangerous thing to get near in Singapore. You would be bombarded with choices, chili crab or black pepper or white pepper or butter cheese or ... and you always would need Tiger to wash them down. A trip to Jumbo is a sure way to start a heartburn.
                        All jokes aside and back to the original questions, I wouldn't recommend you not buy the book, but I had done well without it. I speak Mandarin and Hokkien but I doubt that makes any difference in SIN. There are tons of food blogs online about Singapore food. It's a makan heaven indeed. Another thing is, I find the opinions are so widely different that you need to take every recommendation with a grain of salt anyway. It's highly personal. I have gone to a Makansutra awarded stall for Bak Chor Mee and just got disappointed. My girl friend doesn't even like chicken rice from Tien Tien (how how in the world is this possible ...) The bottom line is, try as many places as possible. My strategy is trying to walk as much as possible between eating. When in SE Asia, you should give up the 3 meal a day idea. Instead, walk and eat and walk and eat. Magically, you would eat all days without gaining much weight. :-)