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Apr 7, 2011 08:23 PM

Where to eat if you have 24 hours in Singapore?

Hello from Los Angeles!

My wife and I will be visiting Singapore for a second time in the next month, and we would like some advice. Our last visit was in 2009.

Unfortunately, we have only 24 hours in Singapore. But aside from customs, and checking in & out of the Mandarin Oriental, I plan on eating for about 18 hours (I am semi-serious about that)...

We would love to try many more hawker stalls, food courts, night markets, buffets, and even some high-end dining (if time permits)!!!

Our first visit to Singapore, we bought a copy of the Makasutra and enjoyed many of the hawker stalls, such as Hainan chicken rice at Tian Tian, and chili crab at Jumbo. We ate our way through the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. For this upcoming trip, I am looking for the best stalls for Teo Chew cuisine (especially Hokkien mee), Penang cuisine, koiptiam, kaya toast, and any other "must try" stalls of the moment...

Also, I am interested in trying Sky on 57. Is the food alone worth the visit? We have many "restaurants with a view" here in L.A. (and I also visit Las Vegas frequently) - But as a Chowhound, I am most interested in the food. Since we have only 24 hours, is Sky on 57 worth the time and effort (and stomach space)?

Also interested in eating at the buffet at the Grand Hyatt (Straits Kitchen, I believe it's called?) - Does it provide a nice "overview" of authentic Singaporean flavors?

Oh, and since Changi Airport is part of our travel plans, any good hawker stalls or eateries within the airport (especially open 24 hours)?

Sorry for the barrage of queries. As always, Thanks in advance!

Los Angeles 'Hound

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  1. To answer (some of) your questions:

    - best (and closest to authentic) Penang food to be had in Singapore is, surprise, surprise, a hotel buffet - the Princess Terrace at Copthorne Kings Hotel, Havelock Road. Besides a sumptious buffet which includes a rich (almost cloying) Nyonya chicken curry to be had with nasi kunyit (steamed turmeric-flavored glutinous rice), and one of the best chicken satays in town, you also get to sample some very authentic Penang Hokkien prawn noodles in soup, Penang laksa (sourish fish-and-tamarind-based soup with rice noodles, garnished with fresh herbs & vegetables), Nyonya kueh pie-tee (crisp pastry cups filled with jicama/shrimps/etc) and THE best selection of Nyonya kueh (desserts) in town;

    - Sky on 57, not really worth the visit if you're talking food alone, as their versions (though using superior ingredients) are really dumbed-down versions of hawker fare which you can get at a fraction of the cost (and MUCH tastier, too) at one of those ubiquitous hawker centres in town. Of course, you get air-con at Sky on 57 (a MUST in Singapore unless you intend to drown in your own pool of sweat during the course of the meal), service is nice, and the view is really to-die for! Sky on 57, besides their faux Mod-Singapore cuisine, also offers some continental/"Western" dishes, but you get tastier ones within the same Marina Bay Sands complex downstairs at Wolfgang Puck's CUT, Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne, Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza, etc., so why settle for something less?

    - Grand Hyatt's Straits Kitchen gives you a "nice" intro to Singapore's 3 main ethnic group's cuisine: there's a Malay section serving satays, BBQ spicy seafoods, Malay mee goreng (fried noodles), etc; a Chinese section with Hainanese chicken rice, Chinese double-boiled soups, chilli crabs (not very fresh crabs tho), and a variety of Chinese sitr-fries; and an Indian section (my favorite one) with lovely curries, tandoori items and a variety of Indian breads (naans, parathas, pooris, kulchas, etc). But Straits Kitchen is halal (no pork/lard) as it's located in Grand Hyatt, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei who requires all food to be suitable for Muslims. Somehow, Chinese food without pork does not taste quite authentic to me. If you want to go - do try and book ahead as soon as possible - get your hotel concierge to do it, as Straits Kitchen sometimes get booked out way in advance.

    - for kaya toast, try Ya Kun or Killiney - the 2 best chains, they have outlets everywhere, including in Marina Square where your hotel is.

    2 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Thank you, klyeoh! Your valuable advice has helped me much.

      If time permits, I shall try the Princess Terrace buffet.

      Here in L.A., we also have lots of celebrity chef-driven restaurants (including CUT, Mozza, etc.), so what I will focus more on in Singapore will likely be what Singapore does best: Hawker stalls & food courts!

      I did not know that Straits Kitchen was strict halal. Since I love pork, I can do without visiting it.

      Thank you for the climate control tips, as well. Air conditioning is not requisite to my enjoyment of good food. I have eaten fuul in 120 degree Fahrenheit heat in Southern Egypt, and I have chewed on frozen reindeer jerky in -35 degree Fahrenheit cold in Northern Finland. And I have had chili crab in 90% humidity in Singapore. As long as the food is good. :-)

      1. re: J.L.

        Eating chili crab outdoors in tropical sauna-like Singapore weather - you deserve a medal, J.L. :-)

        BTW, if you traipse over to the iconic Marina Bay Sands casino-resort (15 minutes' jaunt from your hotel on the picturesque Helix Bridge) - there's a relatively new foodcourt (opened last Dec 2010) on the basement level called Rasapura, near the large ice-skating rink. This foodcourt may have prices slightly higher than other Singapore foodcourts, but they have invited some well-known Singapore hawkers to set up branches of their stalls there, including the famous Sin Kee Chicken Rice from Margaret Drive, the popular 80-year-old Lau Di Fang curry rice stall from Jalan Besar, and the legendary Ng Ah Sio Bak-Kut-Teh stall from Rangoon Road (Ng Ah Sio once turned away Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang's request to dine there, because it's closing time!). So you can get to try some of the best & most famous Singaporean hawker fare, all in one spot!

        P.S. - Gerry's Grill from the Philippines have also set up their first ever branch in Singapore at Rasapura - lovely kare-kare, pinakbet, rellenong bangus, etc. The adobo-flavored rice is to-die for!

    2. There is a No Signboard Seafood Restaurant outlet at the Esplanade opposite your hotel if you want chilli crabs and other local seafood. The Esplanade has a few good restaurants in there including a Peranakan one which serves local Nonya food like bakwan kepiting, babi tempra and ayam buakeluak.
      There is an open air Makansutra food centre just next to the Esplanade if you want hawker food, although it gets pretty crowded and if you are okay with heat & humidity and greasy tables. You get a nice view of Singapore's CBD skyscrapers by the bay though.
      Or you can walk over to Raffles Hotel and then have chicken rice at Yet Con on Purvis Street, then kaya toast a couple of shophouses away at a Killiney Road branch.

      1. Forget about Sky on 57. It is a rip off for tourists. Food is not only expensive but taste average at best. Even if you want to go there for the view, just go there for late night drinking.

        If you are the more adventurous type and love to try the local scene, I would recommend for breakfast, venture for bar kut teh . And the one I will recommend to you is Ng Ah Siou . I think they close on Monday and open as early as 6am from Tue-Sun but do double check again. I would recommend you to request for the long rib (instead of the one in menu which is just short rib), which they will request additional $2 or $3. If you don't mind offal, order the pork kidney as well. Make sure you get youtiao (it maybe included) and you can perhaps add one more vegetable. If you are a big eater, you can ask for the pork leg (or knuckle) in dark soya sauce.

        For Hokkein mee, my favorites are quite far away from the tourists area hence not very convenient for you. One is Come Daily stall at Toa Payoh Lorong 1 hawker center and the other Ah Hock at Serangoon Garden (only opened at night). For Penang food, beside the one recommended by KLyeoh, you can try Penang Kitchen which is just beside Coronation Plaza. Again in residential area that require you to take a taxi.

        Instead, how about Nasi Padang or Curry Fish head for lunch? For Nasi Padang, you may want to check out Warong Nasir at Killiney Road, which is close to Orchard Road. Or for curry fish head, the most popular place are those opened at Race Course Road which the hotel concierge will recommend to you though my own favorite is Hooked on Heads near Thomson Road.

        For dinner, if you want to try Chilli Crab again, I would recommend Palm Beach at one Fullerton. It is way better than Jumbo (which unfortunately the quality has deteriorated over the years), and in my opinion, better than No Sign Board at Esplanade or Long Beach at Dempsey.

        2 Replies
        1. re: FourSeasons

          Re: Sky on 57 - trust FourSeasons to tell you as it is :-D

          1. re: FourSeasons

            I just remember, another very famous stall for Hokkein mee is Nam Sing stall at Old Airport Road Food Center. Go early before or late after lunch hour because the waiting time can be really long. (I waited for more than 30 minutes on last visit which I don't think is worth it so never went back again) But there are plenty of other varieties in Old Airport Food Center, which is quite a well known and popular hawker centre by itself. It is a good option for your lunch break. Just a 10 min taxi ride from your hotel.

          2. Thank you everyone! I plan to try as much as I can. Either my 24 hour period runs out or my stomach explodes, which ever comes first!

            18 Replies
            1. re: J.L.

              Hopefuly the former! Anyway, the trick to eating lots of types of Singapore food is to merely taste bits of each dish you order, and leave most of them behind (I know this may sound politically incorrect & cause wastage) - most Singaporean hawker food are high in carbs & they do tend to fill you up very quickly.

              BTW, if you want to have one last splurge in Changi Airport - Imperial Treasure's branch at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (linked to Terminal 3) serves good Cantonese dim sum, noodles & other Chinese/Cantonese classics. Their great rival, Crystal Jade Restaurant is located in Terminal 3 itself but they specialize in Shanghainese dumplngs & pulled noodles (Crystal Jade also has a branch in Terminal 2 which serves Cantonese food).

              All of Changi airport's 3 terminals are conveniently linked via the Skytrain so moving around is a breeze.

              1. re: klyeoh

                We are also in town for 24 hours. What do you think about Candlenut Kitchen for dinner?

                1. re: britinflorida

                  I think Candlenut Kitchen has terminated its lease at Neil Road on 21 Jan:

                  If you want to taste Peranakan cuisine, try:

                  - Guan Hoe Soon at Joo Chiat Place

                  - Ivins at Binjai Park

                  - Baba inn at Frankl Ave

                  - Peramakan at Keppel Club

                  - Peranakan Inn, East Coast Rd

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Not sure what we want. Something tasty and typical of Singapore. I'm not normally a buffet person, but do you think this is the best bet for one night? Any lunch recommendation? Clark's Quay or Raffles area?

                    1. re: britinflorida

                      Visitors to Singapore nowadays tend to make a beeline for either Marina Bay Sands or else Resorts World Sentosa, where the big boys (Robuchon, Savoy, Boulud, Batali) operate their Singapore outposts. Clarke Quay or Raffles Place do seem so yesterday.

                      Something atypical of Singapore - would you like to try Singapore chilli crab and other seafoods? If so, try No Signboard @ the Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay, or else Palm Beach @ One Fullerton.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Better than Straits at Hyatt? Yes to chilli crab!

                        1. re: britinflorida

                          Would second Palm Beach for Chilli Crab, was my favourite of three places visited last year for this dish (also tried No Signboard (good) and Red House (disappointing)).

                          1. re: britinflorida

                            Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt gives you a taste of S'porean Chinese, Malay and Indian food all in one place - although it's halal, i.e. pork-free, to cater to Muslim diners as the hotel's owned by the Brunei Sultan. Pork-less Chinese food is a misnomer to me, though.
                            The chilli crabs at Straits Kitchen is really awful - not fresh and chopped up to little pieces: gives you the wrong impression of what the dish should be. But then, Straits Kitchen is a buffet. If you must go, try and book early as it's popular, especially with large groups of conference guests or office parties. IMO, their Indian food section was the best.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Thank you I am getting more focussed now. We arrive from Rangoon late afternoon (18 April) and will stay one night at the Excelsior Hotel, Coleman/Hill Street. We will have already done foodie things in HK and Saigon and will continue from Singapore to eat our way to Bombay. Klyeoh has given excellent advice for HK and we will certainly have had our fill of Chinese pork there! We are looking for good Singaporean food for dinner. Next day I am thinking breakfast on Seah Street (kaya toast) and lunch at Palm Beach Seafood for black pepper crab before we will rejoin our cruise ship in the afternoon. So what do you suggest for dinner? BTW do you have any recommendations for Rangoon?

                              1. re: britinflorida

                                For dinner, I'd go to either Crystal Jade Palace restaurant in Ngee Ann City for some of the best Cantonese-Chinese in Singapore. Or you may want to try Taste Paradise in ION Orchard. Both restaurants need advance booking. You can catch an MRT subway from Raffles City to Orchard (3 stops only) to reach both ION Orchard and Ngee Ann City which are all linked.

                                Interesting that you're flying from Rangoon and staying at the Excelsior Hotel - it's right opposite Singapore's "Little Myanmar" (Peninsula Plaza) where I usually go for my fill of Burmese specialties like "Mohinga" (Burmese curried noodles).
                                I'd not been to Rangoon myself so can't help you there, but their food really suits Singaporean tastes: spicy, sour, sweet. Lovely noodles - both in soup form or pan-fried.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Really do not want more Cantonese after HK.The thought of Burmese curried noodles rings my chimes! Spicy, sour sweet, mmm... Would this work for dinner or is it a food court? If so, we could do Palm Beach for dinner and Little Myanmar for lunch next day??

                                  1. re: britinflorida

                                    Second thoughts we would like atmosphere for dinner. Maybe compromise on food quality. Do you know IndoChine on the Waterfront?

                                    1. re: britinflorida

                                      Indochine at the Waterfront has a great vibe & sophisticated atmosphere - yes, do consider that for dinner. Great views of the Singapore River and the CBD. I used to think the one in Singapore seemed too touristy, until I tried its branch in Hamburg, Germany, last June - which was waaay more expensive, and served food that's not too authentic. Now, I'd begun to appreciate the Singapore outlet - beautiful decor, great bar and better-than-expected Indochinese cuisine.

                                      Warning: the Burmese eateries in Peninsula Plaza are very casual, cafe or even canteen-like spots - catering to Burmese students and blue-collar Burmese workers in Singapore - so may not suit your idea of a meal out. The best eatery in there is Inle, which has 2 branches - the older, grittier one in Peninsula Plaza (which has a more "Burmese" atmosphere) and a more modern one in Marina Square which has a lighter, brighter "mall feel" to it:

                      2. re: klyeoh

                        Too bad Candlebut Kitchen is closed for the time being. I actually thought it is the best Peranakan restaurant in town now.

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          Candlenut Kitchen's closed?! When?!!!

                        2. re: klyeoh

                          i can confirm that candlenut kitchen has indeed moved out, unfortunately =(

                          1. re: akated

                            Sad - I wondered what brought that about - rising rent?

                            Malcolm Lee got his big break when Chubby Hubby blogged about his new Candlenut Kitchen restaurant then and gave glowing reviews - not a surprise since he's one of the first Miele Guide scholarship recipients (together with Lai Kit Yee from HK), and we know that Chubby Hubby was instrumental in setting up the Miele Guide.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              And in the US Anthony Bourdain recommended Candenut Kitchen. Thanks for all your help. I am all set now for Singapore and Hong Kong. Just waiting for replies to my CH query on Saigon ...