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Aug 5, 2009 06:56 PM

Matter of Pride- expat Sg needs a great restaurant recommendation in Singapore!

Hi all, I've been reading Chowhound for years now. As a singaporean, food is my essence/soul but I've always been looking for food abroad. I've not lived in Sg for 6 yrs now and have lost touch with the good western restaurants, everytime I'm back I will had for the old favs I crave my popiah, laksa, pepper crab etc.....

Here's the situation, I've a few friends who've moved to Sg from HK and in their minds think HK western - italian, french, modern food is better than Sg.. i completely disagree and I've eaten at Amber, Robuchon, Caprice , DD etc.. so I think/hope i know what I'm talking about... The price u pay in HK is exorbitant.

I'm going to be back for 1 wk and want to show them Singapore western restaurants but in a nice setting like Rochester, Dempsey. Can u imagine eating outdoors in HK, the pollution will kill you before the food arrives!!!

So I"m looking for a great recommendation for a restaurant in either Rochester or Dempsey...
Keppel and Sentosa are out due to logistics....

I've heard Graze is good but friends tell me standards have dropped so right now i 'm really looking for recent and good recommendations..

I know it might sound silly but living in HK and hearing so many xpats rave about 'high end' quality in HK and then saying Sg lacks it just drives me mad.... We have beautiful lush environments and I think the overall experience is important too...

I dont want to bring them to Les Amis nor Iggy's as I would like to show them modern yet casual fun places..

Hope you can help and sorry for the lengthy post!

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  1. Confession: I actually agree with your HK friends, and liked HK fine-dining restaurants more than S'pore ones ;-)

    But if you want to offer your HK friends something different - Margarita's at Dempsey has Mexican which are more authentic than those I find in HK.
    White Rabbit has a nice, airy "cathedral-like" decor, whilst PS Cafe offers nice greenery whilst you dine.

    Other options: Forlino's at One Fullerton's nice. Graze is actually not that bad, but their cooking's inconsistent - if atmosphere's wha you're after, then yes, go for it.

    1. Sorry to say this but I think your HK friends are probably correct...

      I have not tried anything good yet at Dempsey...the place seem to me to be a place more for ambiance rather than food tasting so not able to recommend anything.

      Dempsy: I like Culina, I go there for lunch a few times, never disappointed. It is cozy, casual and not too expensive.

      You probably should try Fifty Three; I think that is the best fine dining place in town now:

      A few other choices for fine dining would be Gunthers, Nicolas. For Italian, I like the pasta at Cugini.

      2 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        wow really... maybe I've been away so long I'm biased...

        I love Iggys and Le Nichols and Gunthers but this trip was hoping to show them something in an outdoors environment.

        Right now Fifty Three, Forlini's, Cugini are my top bets as everyone says its good and I've yet to try any of these.

        Four seasons, whats the food at Fifty Three like? What style? I checked the website but there's no mention of a menu.

        thanks for the great suggestions and I'm personally so looking forward to my cheng teng....its a comfort food for me!

        1. re: julialim

          Julia, like you, I lived in HK (mainly Macau, actually) for decades before returnning to dear old Singapura. I also have HK/Macau friends & relatives who'd come a-calling. They'd inadvertently (to my chagrin) complain about S'pore food - this no-good-lah, that-no-good-lah. My brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are the worst.

          But in the last 20 years at least, our dim sum & Cantonese cooking standards have improved - thanks to people like Crystal Jade & Tung Lok.

          I still visit HK/Macau 2-3 times a year, visit relatives, stay with my sisters, play mahjong with my friends, casino-hopping in Macau, and makan at the best eating places in HK and Macau.

          The last few years, I noticed HK & Macau's food scene have pulled ahead of Singapore's. The service standards there have improved by leaps & bounds, whilst Singapore's have only slowly moved up.

          If you look at the 1970s, there's not much to choose between HK's Jimmy's Kitchen or Landau's, as compared to Singapore's Shashlik. But now, I don't think there's an equivalent of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon or Pierre in Singapore. Italian restaurants in HK have always been much, much better than Singapore's, they have access to better food sources, and their chefs are just that much more competitive.

          But there are a few places here in S'pore which my HK/Macau relatives and friends grudgingly admit are "comparable" to HK/Macau spots:
          - they can never get enough of Iggy's
          - they love Eng Seng black pepper crabs in a big way, although I don't think sweating in a hot, dank spot like Eng Seng in Still Rd is your idea of outdoor eating, ha ha

          Not sure if you're aware of the thick smog/haze blanketing Singapore right at the moment. If you are to fly back to Singapore this weekend - outdoors is the last place you'd want to be. We're currently worse than HK in pollution index, thanks to slash-burn farmers in the region.

          If you want to bring your friends to Rochester Park, do try Cassis. I was there once, and it was great!

          My favorite spot in Dempsey is PS Cafe for their big cakes & wonderful Caesar salad. Watch out for their daily specials on the board - that's what I'd go for.

      2. Hi Julia, sad to say this proud Singaporean in me agree with most ppl here that HK fine dining is better than home, at every price point. There isnt even a decent steakhouse in singapore that justifies a repeat visit, unlike the excellent Steakhouse @ Intercon in HK. I am speaking from having been to HK countless times a year and eating out in SG quite regularly. Most of my HK frens are actually more excited by Jumbo, Eng Seng, No signboard than the high end western here. But if you must, I've had good experiences with Petit Au Salut and Mietas, Angelo Sanelli's venture after Michaelangelo's.

        Happy dining!

        7 Replies
        1. re: Kiedis

          Being a fellow Singaporean who's lived in HK and Tokyo, I sort of get what julialim is saying....HK has the big names but I find the quality doesn't justify the price (compared to Tokyo), whereas in Tokyo and Singapore, you have a better selection of mid-tier restaurants that you can go regularly. Obviously, ultra high end restaurant choices are more limited in Singapore. For example, I would rather go to Les Bouchons in Singapore for a simple steak (I know what I'm paying for) than paying through my nose for a steak in HK (e.g The Steakhouse at Intercon or BLT or Ruth Chris) which are all neither here nor there.....I would much rather go to Dons in Tokyo for the best steak (which is well worth its price), or go simple at Les Bouchons and skip the pretentious steak offering in HK.

          1. re: muttley

            Hi muttley:

            I live in Spore but travel to HK and Tokyo regularly. Julialim specifically asked for a comparison of western food between HK and Spore, not HK and Tokyo. Yes, I would agree that Tokyo's fine dining is even more impressive than HK but that was not her question. She also specifically mentioned a few big names in HK as the benchmark, so obviously the comparison is also vs the big names in Spore. Value for money is not what she is looking for. Whether Dons at Yen 30,000 pp is worthwhile is at the eye of beholder; some people are happy to spend US$100 for good steaks that are better quality than what you can get at Les Bouchons.

            1. re: FourSeasons

              hi fourseasons, agree that tokyo was probably off topic (i have recently been to numerous steakhouses in hk and was so disappointed that i have sworned off steaks here and rekindled my memory of Dons....). however, i thought that julialim asked for recommendations to modern yet fun and casual places in sg, not equivalent high end places that she listed in hk....i thought that was just her stating her opinion of them.....nonetheless, all the recommendations listed are most helpful for my future trips home.

              1. re: muttley

                Notice u are new in Chowhound. Where do you live now? I have never been to Dons. It was on my radar screen, recommend it to a friend, who somehow was not blown by it. He just said one go there just for good steak; he lament there are not much other varieties to interest him further. And it was super expensive, he complained. So I am having second thought about visiting there. I still can get very good steak at part of the omakase set at other places (for example, Ryugin, Ariona, Koju), and I am a regular of yakiniku as well. But still have not step into Dons yet. You think I miss something?

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  I live in HK now and spent 4 years in Tokyo prior to moving here. Tried both Dons and Goria and they are quite different from the beef at Ryugin. Between Goria and Dons, Dons is better value at 25-30k for 400g vs Goria at 40k for approx. same size - both are done in a similar fashion i.e. charred on the outside (which is very different from Ryugin). I agree that the variety is lacking at Dons but I don't have a problem with that - I'm there just for the steak. I made the mistake of having appetisers at Goria and sharing the steak with a friend and I was left totally unsatisfied. At Dons, we skipped the appetisers and ordered two 400g steaks (they had 2 selections that day), finishing with deserts and we were totally happy - the total bill was similar to Goria.

                  I've not tried the others you mentioned - Koju was on my list but never got round to it. IMHO, Ryugin, Koju and the like will be remembered for the entire dining experience and variety of tasty treats, whereas Dons will be remembered just for the steak. I think you should give Dons a try when you crave a nice steak and nothing else.....

                  1. re: muttley

                    Thanks for the reply. Appreciate your comment. Good that you were "off-topic"...:-) Knowing that you lived in Tokyo for 4 years, I can understand now even Intercon at HK do not satisfy your taste bud. I am a regular at the HK and Japan Board so it would be nice if you can make some contributions there as well. Too few Singapore members here, unfortunately, but it is growing!!! A Toronto CHer named CharlesYu may plan another chow dinner in Hong Kong, perhaps next March; would be good if you can join us.

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      sounds like fun....found some other posts of yours on the japan board and i think we have some common hunting ground, especially for yakiniku.... went 4 times during my last trip!

        2. club street is interesting.
          l’angelus is a personal favorite. decent food (french), decent wines, decent service. birkenstocks are not allowed (my kind of place). my humble house is comfortable and tasty. maybe a tad goofy in a theatrical sense but that's part of the charm.

          1 Reply
          1. re: steve h.

            Agreed - L'Angelus is simply divine! Pity that the Club St/Ann Siang Hill area have lost their lustre somewhat in the past decade or so, what with the emergence of:
            - Dempsey Hill,
            - a newly-refurbished Clarke Quay,
            - Robertson Quay/Mohamed Sultan Rd,
            - Rochester Park,
            - even Bukit Pasoh/Keong Saik Rd/Teo Hong St.

          2. Coincidentally, friends from HK were here last week and yes, we did all the hawker food rounds and a couple of dine-dining places. What's interesting, and of relevance to this topic - he really enjoyed PS Cafe for the fun casual vibes and lush greenery/chill-out ambience. The food was reliable, as always, and he commented that the whole package deal was something very difficult to find in HK. My friend and his wife are both in the food/travel/fashion business and they pretty much know their stuff, so it was nice to hear that we have a little slice of something different to offer.