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Jul 24, 2010 08:49 AM

Chowdown in Singapore

I am organizing a chow dinner for Singapore-based chowhounds on this first week of August. As per the guideline set up by the moderators, all discussion, scheduling and RSVPing should happen off the boards. My email address is posted on my profile . So far 3 chowhounds have confirmed they will attend the dinner. We are hoping other active chowhounds will join us so please email to me if you are interested. Budget will be around Singapore$100-150 range per person.

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  1. More details on the chowdown: it will be held on August 4th (Wednesday) at Alba Italian Restaurant (35 Keong Saik Rd), helmed by a Japanese chef who was trained in Italy before he moved to Singapore. Alba is newly opened a few months ago and getting rave reviews from serious foodies; it focus on Italian cuisine with heavy influence of Japanese ingredients. We have requested for a special tasting menu price at Sing$98++ (exclude drinks) per person.

    It would be a great opportunity for active Singapore-based hounds to finally meet, chow and have fun talking about their passionate topic: food. In the past 3 years, similar event had been organized annually by "CharlesYu" in Hong Kong. "Klyeoh", "Sg_foodie" and I will attend this dinner; we look forward to finally meet other active hounds.

    Just to remind again that RSVP has to be done off the board, so if you are interested, please email to my address that is posted on my profile.

    28 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        Thanks, FourSeasons, for organizing this Chowmeet. And it was great to catch up with fellow Hounds sg_foodie and tingting.

        Our menu last night:

        Japanese river fish with lemon sauce
        Slow-cooked Hokkaido scallop with ham & garlic-flavored butter, and tomato-garlic sauce
        Pasta with minced beef in tomato sauce
        Tube pasta with spicy Italian sauage in cream sauce
        Tenderloin with fresh vegetables
        Dessert of the day: Molten chocolate cake with white chocolate ice-cream.

        Chef Seita Nakahara was from Yokohama. Very earnest young chef. For me, the two pasta dishes were well-executed, leaning more towards Italian country-cooking than Japanese-Italian fusion I expected when I first stepped in there.
        And I quite like the shards of white chocolate hidden in the vanilla ice-cream.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Wish I was there!!!!
          Come to think of it, I have to start thinking of our annual Hong Kong Chowmeet this coming March?! How time flies!!

          1. re: klyeoh

            Thanks for the review! Hope to join you guys for the next Chow meet. I'm going to fiftythree for the first time this Friday. Excited and very curious since I've heard both raves and horrible reviews

            1. re: aj84

              Yes, we can do another Chowmeet soon, aj84. I liked fiftythree more than Alba, but we're comparing apples & oranges here. Whilst Alba strives towards fusion Italian (with Japanese influences thrown in here & there), fiftythree is more inventive with its borderless molecular cuisine - I'm still hoping for some "Singaporean" touch to its innovative dishes though - deconstructed chicken rice or fish-head curry, perhaps?

            2. re: klyeoh

              Many thanks to FourSeasons too here. For a newly transplanted hound (from SF board) I have a lot to catch up - both local favorites and those in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, etc etc. I now have a list of must-tries.

              I liked the pastas as well. Wasn't too sure about some pieces in the starter. & wished there were one less scallop (maybe it's just me).

              1. re: Ting Ting

                Great to catch up with you, Ting Ting - do call on us anytime you need dining tips in S'pore especially.

                With regards to the scallop - my exact sentiments. Sometimes, less is more :-)

              2. re: klyeoh

                I was not a fan of the first pasta Tagliolini Bolognese. The rest were good but not so memorable. I agree: I was expecting more Japanese ingredients but the chef did tone down his Japanese influence. I think that is because he is new to this area and was not sure if the Singapore crowd will readily accept this style. But anyway, I am going back there again this weekend and have spoken to Chef Seita to revamp his degustation menu with more Japanese ingredient for my foodie friends. He will prepare Hiramei carpaccio, Hamaguri as the next appetizer, pasta with Uni (sea-urchin) and lightly cooked Isaki fish. Expect to be more interesting than what we had.

                @aj84: hope you will enjoy Fifty-Three. But I think most of those who gave rave review went for the dinner menu, and those that gave thumb down went for the lunch meal.

                @Ting: 2 scallops were fine with me.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  I think you all ate enough to last me a week. I'm so envious!
                  Japanese-Italian food - you're not talking stuff like Italian Tomato (which used to be in Singapore) kind of food, right? The type where octopus eyes stare at you from your pasta. Ha-ha!
                  But seriously, those dishes do look superb. Trust FourSeasons to unearth such gems around Singapore.

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    I'll be going there for dinner. When I e-mailed the restaurant for reservations and to get a copy of the menu, I didn't expect the chef himself to reply. I thought that was a nice touch.

                    The menu for tonight is:

                    Mud Crab and Gooseberries
                    Fresh Almonds

                    Lobster and Tongue
                    Textures of Apple

                    Raw Sweet Shrimp from Japan
                    Wild and Cultivated Coastal Herbs

                    Carroll's Heritage Potatoes and Wild Yam
                    Coffee and Parmesan

                    Charcoal Grilled Iberian Pig and Black Garlic
                    Stems of Vegetables and Wood Sorrel

                    Mara des Bois Strawberries and Green Peppercorn

                    Chocolate and Jerusalem Artichokes
                    Mango and Mangosteens

                    1. re: aj84

                      3 dishes were exactly the same as what I had last time, and another 3 similar ones (chef changes certain ingredients mix).

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        I finally got around to posting pictures and review of FiftyThree on my blog. In a nutshell, I had a great meal and I would go back again. Not all the dishes were home-runs for me, but a good number of them were absolutely memorable and most definitely all had unique flavor combinations and presentations.

                        Visit for a full review.

                    2. re: FourSeasons

                      I went back to Alba again to host a dinner for a group of friends. Prior to the dinner, I requested Chef Seita to prepare the dinner with more Japanese ingredients; we also added an additional dish for the main course. The outcome turns out to be more impressive than the Chowdown we held earlier, though there was more pain on the wallet at $138++pp for 7 course meal.

                      First course started with Carpaccio, I requested for Hiramei fish but Chef Seita was not satisfied with the hiramei that his supplier supplied in the morning, so he turned to Ishidai and Hamachi fish instead. More Japanese influence on the second course with pan fried hamaguri (Japanese clam), hotate (hokkaido scallop) and parma ham with garlic butter sauce. We then have 2 pasta dishes: Spaghetti pasta tossed with sea urchin uni and risotto with porcini mushroom. We also had 2 main dishes: Grilled Isaki served in Balsamic reduction and Roasted Lamb rack with mustard sauce. And end with a a dessert. All the dishes were served in small size and we were full at the end of the meal.

                      Overall, I am satisfied. All the dishes were delicious, more creative and well executed, especially compared to my first visit. I think I will return to this place again.

                      1. re: FourSeasons

                        Wow! Sounded great and yummy! You planning to post photos on facebook?!

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          High accolades indeed from FourSeasons who'd visited most of the top Michelin-starred places in Tokyo. I'm sure the young Chef Seita can only improve further - not surprised if one day, he might return to Japan & earn his stars there.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Alba is not Michelin standard; it certainly is not as refined as Aroma Fresca or Aso in Tokyo; not as delicious as Piccho or La locana del pittore in Hokkaido. The quality and varieties of ingredients it sourced is not top-notch; in fact, Chef Seita complained about he can't even source acceptable quality of Hokkigai yet. But it is refreshing to have a new restaurant in Singapore that focus on Italian cuisine with Japanese character. And the standard is quite good; but if you expect Michelin grade, then you maybe disappointed.

                            1. re: FourSeasons

                              hey fourseasons,

                              i cant see your email on your profile page, i'm a new user here in CHOW, how do i contact you?

                              1. re: gloke

                                The chowdown event is completed. I will post my email address again should I organize another chowdown in future.

                                  1. re: FourSeasons

                                    was wondering, have u tried shinji by kanesaka??? waiting for ur review before anything....

                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                      let me know if you're organizing one at the beginning of october. I will be visiting Singapore for the first time and I'm a huge foodie (from Montreal).

                                      1. re: mak2k

                                        Do keep in touch & update us on your upcoming trip. Always a pleasure to meet up CHs visiting S'pore.

                                        For a start, maybe you can also tell us what kind of food you're looking for, any specific dishes, etc. Main cuisines here are Chinese (Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese & Hakka are the main ones), Malay, Indian (Northern Indian widely available but you shouldn't miss Southern Indian, especially vegetarian, are fantastic as Singapore-Indians are mostly Tamils), Portuguese-Eurasian, and Peranakan-Nyonya (a hybrid-fusion Chinese-Malay cooking unique to S'pore & Malaysia).

                                        Singapore also has quite good Italian & French food, but not-so-good Spanish, Mexican, Vietnamese. Japanese restaurants are abundant - and of various price ranges. Korean food's also widely available. Brazilian churrascarias are very popular. Greek restaurants are non-existent. German food are mainly Bavarian.
                                        American chains range from top-range Morton's to Main Street usual suspects like Applebees.

                                        1. re: klyeoh

                                          Thanks for the info! I've started to do my research. Since my trip spans on 3 weeks (1.5 weeks will be in HK), I'm mainly focusing on where to eat in HK (which is a job on its own! i knew there were alot but DAMN! ahha) right now, but I'm slowly starting to look at SG food. My way of travelling is on the line of "do what the locals do" so I obviously want to try local food (so i'm expecting to try the chinese/indian/malay fusion) . Coming from montreal, Western food isn't even on my list. I noticed through out the web (and friends) that going to food hawker centers is the way to go rather than restaurants, which is very different for me (in Montreal, food court/hawker is the equivalent of eating at mcdonalds hahaa)

                                          My sg friends (and after watching tons of sg drama) told me to try the following:

                                          laksa assam
                                          chilli crab
                                          laksa curry
                                          hainan chicken
                                          roti prata

                                          1. re: mak2k

                                            Strange recommendation from your friend to try assam laksa in Singapore - that dish is from Penang, Malaysia. The version in Singapore, except perhaps the one in Copthorne King's Hotel in Havelock Road, are pretty tepid compared to the ones you can get in Penang.

                                            Chilli crab - ah, now you're getting warm. Go to any of the top seafood restaurants in Singapore like Long Beach, Red House, Palm Beach, No Signboard, etc and you can find good chilli crab. My favourite is from Red House in UDMC Seafood Centre at the East Coast Parkway.

                                            Curry laksa - they probably meant either curry chicken noodles (Hong Lim Food Centre) or the Katong laksa variety (at East Coast Road in Katong, of course).

                                            Hainanese chicken rice - the best ones are Boon Tong Kee at River Valley Road, Wee Nam Kee at Novena Ville, Nam Kee at Upper Thomson Road, Tian Tian at Maxwell Food Centre (good luck with the lunch queues here!) and Five Star Chicken Rice in Katong.

                                            Roti Prata - Zam Zam Eating House in Kampung Glam opposite the Sultan Mosque, The Prata Shop at Upper Thomson Road or the famous Thasevi in Jalan Kayu.

                                            Lastly, when your friends told you to try "curry", tell them to be more specific! It's like telling someone who's visiting Japan to "try sushi"!!

                                            1. re: M_Gomez

                                              I just came back from my 3 weeks asia trip and I have to say, i had a BLAST with singaporian food. I am coming back to Montreal with an addiction to kaya toast and prata (prata bomb is seriously the BOMB!). My cousin brought me to tons of places. Here are some of the highlights

                                              - Chili Crab at Palm Beach (apparently i was frowned upon by my hostel staff for going to an expensive place)
                                              - Katong Laksa at Best Katong Laksa (something like that i forgot the name.. i have a picture somewhere in the 1000+ pics i took)
                                              - Prata (various places)
                                              - Kaya toast at Ya Kun
                                              - Tulang, gong gong, black carrot cake at newton hawker center
                                              - Chicken Rice at Yet Con Hainanese Chicken Rice
                                              - Durian stall in geylang

                                              that's all i can remember for now. But I had a very memorable time in Singapore. I can't wait to come back and eat more!

                          2. re: klyeoh

                            Does Alba have a website? I tried looking on Google but got directed to the Le Nicolas webpage instead. I'm thinking of trying out Alba but would want to see the menu first. Or can we email the chef directly?


                            1. re: aj84

                              I don't think Alba's got a website. Fellow CH FourSeasons called the restaurant (Tel: +65 6224 1501), spoke to the chef, and they faxed/e-mailed a copy of the menu over to him.

                              Alba occupies the space of Les Artistes Bistrot, which was related to Nicolas Le Restaurant (which is only 2 doors away), but the current owners have bought out Nicolas Joanny's share. That's probably why when you Googled, you landed onto Nicolas' site.

                        2. FourSeasons, any chowdown in Singapore anytime this year? I met klyeoh the last time he was back here on National Day and I think he's back again towards the end of September.

                          Have you tried Osvaldo Forlino's No Menu at Boon Tat Street? He cooks the best pasta in Singapore.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: M_Gomez

                            I will be there for a few days in October so I'd love to know about a chowdown if there is one. My plan is to eat and eat while I'm there. And visit my family, of course. And then eat some more. :)

                            1. re: M_Gomez

                              No planning of any chowdown this year. Too few hounds in Singapore. CharlesYu's annual chowdown in Hong Kong attracts around 10 hounds, just the right size for such event. The above event here last year only attract 4 hounds, two of whom already left Singapore, and the other very passive now in Chowhound.

                              Yes, I have tried No Menu just once. I was actually quite disappointed since so many rave about it. Maybe it just wasn't my day. I prefer the pasta at Gattopardo, Cugini and Mozza.

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                FourSeasons, I must try No Menu the next time I'm down in S'pore. I really enjoyed Osvaldo's (Maxwell Chambers), so am really surprised to hear that it's closed!

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  klyeoh- Call me when you're down in Singapore next week, ok? My husband and I also want to try No Menu. We liked Osvaldo Forlino when he was cooking at Il Lido, then Forlino's, and then Osvaldo. I guess he ran out of names for his restaurants, so now call it "no menu" pula :D

                                2. re: FourSeasons

                                  FourSeasons & M_Gomez...
                                  Can't believe there are too few hounds in Singapore! We're four Hounds from Los Angeles (FS, hope you enjoyed your trip). We're swinging through SIN 22 OCT & 23 OCT. Was last in SIN a little less than two years ago and lived in Taglin as an expat the late 90's. If you want to plan a chowdown, we're in. You can email me at

                                  1. re: revets2

                                    Hello revets2, I don't think I'm up for a chowdown next weekend, but do let me know if you want any dining tips although, having lived here before, I'm sure you have already made a list of what you want.

                                    And Four Seasons, I have not heard anything from you about your LA trip, was the food good? How's the dining experience there compared to Singapore's.

                                      1. re: FourSeasons

                                        Thank you, Four Seasons. It certainly looked like you had a great time in Los Angeles. Your adventures especially communicating with LA Chowhounds made for a good read.
                                        I couldn't stop laughing about one of the LA guys who wrote "Singapore (the greatest food city on Earth". Excuse me while I cry into my laksa, HAHAHAHA!

                                        But the funny thing is, when I was in LA a few years back, I did thought that, hey, I'm sick with all this driving around for long distances and having mass-produced food in chain restaurants. LA's Chinese food is either in grotty Chinatown restaurants or small neighborhood Taiwanese-owned cafes which served the worse Chinese food I'd ever had in my life. I then thought to myself: I MISS SINGAPORE!! The convenience of getting food, the ease to get around, etc etc.

                                  2. re: FourSeasons

                                    If you happen to organize anything between dec to feb, put me in the list too cos i am interested. :) haha. i am studying in melbourne but i would be back in kl between dec to feb. :)

                                3. No one organizing a Singapore Chowdown this year?! I read that there's a HK Chowdown happening.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: M_Gomez

                                    The HK Chowmeet just happened - thanks to NilesCable who took the trouble to organize it, and it's wonderful to hear about the enthusiastic support from HK-based Hounds like PhilD who made it possible!
                                    Why don't *you* organize it, Martha? And get in touch with other S'pore-based Hounds?

                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                      I 2nd the idea. Just moved down here from Shanghai and would enjoy a chowdown.

                                      1. re: epeter03

                                        I'd love to join too if there's a meetup!

                                        1. re: akated

                                          Last chow meet here 2 years ago was too underwhelming, only 4 turn out. Too much work, too few participants. By comparison, the HK chowdown organized by CharlesYu tend to have around 10 participants.

                                            1. re: Julian Teoh

                                              I am in Sing 2nd week Aug and may be abl to free up a night.

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                PhilD - keep in mind that Thursday 9 Aug is Singapore's National Day, a bank holiday, and many Singaporeans may take Friday off to have a long weekend and go out of town. Just in case you're making a business trip there.

                                                1. re: klyeoh

                                                  I've moved home to Singapore so count me in if there's a chowmeet here. Still catching up on all the new restaurants in Singapore!