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Apr 14, 2014 10:36 AM

Singapore Eats - Researching Choices

I am looking forward to this trip greatly as I've heard of wonderful things about the taste and flavours of Singapore. I am coming on business so breakfast and lunch will be working meals in an office building. Thankfully I may have some time on my own for dinners. I am giving a stipend of $100 USD (so $120 Singaporean dollars) max. I think this would kick out most options of the luxury dinners at Marina Bay area.

I will be located in the central business section and won't have a car. If it requires a moderate trip and there is great food to be had, I don't mind spending time in a taxi ride! I'm looking for food that tastes great and if I use up all my stipend, even better!

So to my Singaporean CH'ers, I am all open to your suggestions. My Singporean colleagues gave me a list of places to eat and I've cross referenced them with ieatishootipost, hungry go where in addition to old CH threads. I'd like to experience one Hawker centre ... I probably have 1 night I can do this.

There's only 2 limitations in terms of food... no beef and there must be good dessert available (or at least nearby). My colleague and I are dessertarians at heart and he abstains from beef.

Potential options

- Maxwell Centre. I was told this place has the largest amount of good stalls. There maybe other better individual stalls but the food around in the other centres aren't as great. I was told to try Jing Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon, ondeh ondeh and tapioca cake from Xing Xing, Lim Kee Banana Fritters, freshly made tofu at Hoe Kee Porridge, Tian Tian Chicken Rice, and Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake. Seeing how there is a recently rescued Tian Tian thread about how this place didn't impress, maybe I should hold off the chicken rice and indulge in everything else?

- Tim Ho Wan Singapore. Being from Toronto, I have lots of great dim sum options within reasonable driving distance. I've experienced the HK Michelin dim sum and I savoured every bite. I've heard the baked pork buns are a must try here. I would go to the central downtown location. Great dim sum is always a must eat!

- Restaurant Ember. A colleague of mine goes here for his birthday all the time. He says it's the best European / Asian fusion restaurant in Singapore. Looks like it might be changing chefs though?

- Chui Huay Lim Teochew. This is another recommendation by a colleague. I've never had authentic Teochew in Toronto so I would love to try this and she said this was one of the good sit down Teochew restaurants.

- Artichoke Cafe & Bar followed by Overdoughs. Our colleague said the desserts are out of this world so this is a must try. It looks like the Baklava are worth a detour.

- Jumbo Seafood or Long Beach Seafood for seafood. We were told either one was a great choice and it fit out budget limitations. Looking at the web, they both seem to have their lovers and haters in equal amounts.

- Hai De Lao hot pot. My colleague always wanted to try Asian 'fondue' but never found a good place in the middle of the Midwest USA. So I'm hoping to introduce him to this! A Singaporean colleague told us this was the best one to the downtown area.

- Burnt Ends. I heard about this new Aussie style BBQ place and looking at the menu, it looks pretty great! Especially the grilled octopus.

- Teppai @ Orchid Hotel. I was told this has the best and best value omakase under $120 SGD. It seems the blog world agrees... what do you think?

I'm planning to head to Singapore in June so all your suggestions are welcomed! Hopefully my Singaporean Also, please recommend ANY restaurants you think is worthy of a visit. It can be Japanese (love sushi) or any European cuisine even.

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  1. First of all wishing you a good trip to Sgp. Some local feedback on the places you've specifically mentioned:
    - Maxwell Centre: Tian Tian is not bad for chicken rice (there may be better but that is a fairly subjective judgment depending on your personal preferences for rice, chicken & condiments) but I suspect all the hype has led to the disappointment for first-timers.

    - Tim Ho Wan Singapore: Standard is inconsistent, queues are long (except at non-peak hours like midday on a weekday). I think equally good or better dim sum (incl char siu bo lo bao) can be found at the usual suspects mentioned on this board, which also accept reservations e.g. Canton Paradise / Taste Paradise, Imperial Treasures...

    - Restaurant Ember: Yep chef is changing in May.

    - Chui Huay Lim Teochew: For the same money & equally comfortable setting, I would pick Imperial Treasures Teochew instead, they are generally more consistent. I find CHL is a bit hit & miss and fish is not always as fresh as it should be.

    - Jumbo Seafood or Long Beach Seafood: I think these are good choices for first-time visitors to Sgp who haven't had Singaporean seafood (chili crab, cereal prawns etc) before. Locals would probably go elsewhere (less accessible).

    - Hai Di Lao: I personally prefer J-Pot or Imperial Treasures Steamboat but Hai Di Lao is alright. A lot of the patrons are groups of young people so quite a lively atmosphere.

    - Teppei @ Orchid Hotel: It's definitely good value for money as far as omakase goes, but it's not refined in the same way that the top omakase in Japan would be, so it depends what you're looking for. Also, they're fully booked till Jul & any cancellations (released via their Facebook: are snapped up in minutes so if you want to try, join the line for lunch instead. Daily specials are posted on their facebook, the bara-chirashi don is generally popular also.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RipCurl

      Ripcurl... you have my thanks! Wow, you just gave me a lot of good information I would have never known or found on the net.

      From your insights, I think I will cross off Tian Tian my list but I'll still go to the Maxwell centre for all the other great options. I really want to try the kueh, oyster pancake, and fish soup!

      It looks like I will not be going to Teppei! Holy cow... booked till July. I see there is a relatively new option that is still good called Sushi Kou.

      I will be crossing off Ember and perhaps trying the native Perakan cuisine. I just saw Candlenut as a modern and good take on the authentic dishes. Also Blue Ginger is another suggested option to me.

      It seems Imperial Treasures brand is quite strong and if the queues are too long (and my time to relax is short!), I will be going there for dim sum. I was told the Jade in Fullerton was a good option for dim sum, Teochew, and steamboat! I wonder if they have a discount for multiple tries in a short period. :)

      I was told that of all the recent top 50 Asia restaurants, Gunther, Imperial Treasure Peking Duck, and Osteria Mozza are the most affordable so I'll see if these are worthwhile. It looks like Shinji, Tippling Club, Jaan, Les Amis, Waku Ghin, and Andre are all out of my price range by a fair bit ($400 pax!). Perhaps one of Les Amis more affordable restaurants would be a worthwhile trip.

      You have my thanks to help shape my eating adventures in Singapore. I hope to report back on your suggestions :)

    2. I hope you read my Three Days in Singapore post, below. Wherever you go in Singapore, IMO, you will be eating Food Service Tourist Food, some very good, much is indifferent. Just be aware of that. As a dessertarians, you omitted an important datum: do you like Durian? To those who do, no dessert excels the King of Fruit. If so, my ONLY recommendation on the entire island is to visit 101 Fruit, from my post.
      Aside from that, we liked the Chinatown Food Court better than Maxwell. The CFC has more selection than Max, as well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gastrobuck

        I did read your reviews and was hoping that my trip to Singapore's food landscape would be different. I enjoyed the bright flavours of Thailand and I hope to have a similar experience in Singapore. Tourist food that is modified to be less vibrant is not what I'm hoping to eat! If food is cooked with apathy, then you're right that it can be good but never delicious or a sensory memory.

        Thank you for letting me know about CFC. I'll put in my notebook as one of my potential hawker centre to visit. Do you recall if there is a fresh tofu fah stall or a sweet kueh stall like in Maxwell centre?

        About Durian, I enjoy it in mousse and ice cream. Being from North America, it is very limited to have good Durian. When I went to Thailand, I ate more mangos, lychee, mangosteen, custard apple, and rabutaan to last me years. I also went with a colleague who would turn green on the mention of Durian. :) If I can leave behind my colleague and head over to the Chinese Food Centre, perhaps I can take a small trip to 101 Fruit. Do you know if they offer small portions to try of each? Or would I have to buy a complete one?

        You have my thanks Buckley!

        1. re: Nevy

          Do you recall if there is a fresh tofu fah stall or a sweet kueh stall like in Maxwell centre? Don't recall.

          Or would I have to buy a complete one? A complete one. Tables selling shrink-wrapped portions are nearby on New Bridge Road, but they cost four times as much. May is the beginning of Thai durian season, so maybe Monthong durian will be available.

          1. re: Nevy

            Maxwell Rd Food Centre has the famous Xing Xing tapioca cake stall, which offers soft, steamed, yellow-hued tapioca cakes coated with freshly-grated coconut. It also offers "onde-onde" (known as "klepon" in Indonesia) which are little green mochi-like dumplings filled with rich, delicious palm sugar ("Gula Melaka"). You must come very early here - 11-ish(?) They sell out very quickly and the stall has an obscenely long queue by noon as the lunch crowd comes in.

            If you like durian, do *not* miss Puteri Mas' durian puffs. It's near the intersection of Joo Chiat Rd and East Coast Road in Katong - 10 minutes' stroll from 328 Katong Laksa, and offers singularly the *best-tasting" durian puffs you'll ever have:

        2. After reading a few more posts and blogs and having feedback from Gastrobuck and RipCurl, I think I have my list a bit more refined.

          I will hopefully be visiting one Hawker Centre. I love wontons and clear fish soup. I was told Han Kee at Amoy is a must try if I love fish soup. Also, I will have Chinese Food Centre as my back up.

          For dim sum, Imperial Treasure will be the first choice and worst case, I'll be dining at the Chinese restaurant at the hotel (I'm staying either at the Mandarin or Fullerton)

          For egg tarts, I will be heading to Tong Heng Confectionery.

          Laksa will be 328 Katong Laksa

          Teochew cuisine will be Imperial Treasures Teochew

          Modern takes on Perakan cuisine will be Candlenut or Blue Ginger

          General interesting restaurants will be Pidgin, Bar-Roque, La Strada, Osaka Ohsho, Nuvo, Din Tai Fung, Bistro du Vin, Folks Collective, Gunther's, and Long Beach Seafood!

          Desserts would include a trip to Alfero Artisan Gelato, Overdough, Canele, Artisan Bakery, Kim Choo Kitchen, K ki Sweets, Antoinette, and possibly a smelly trip to the Durian 101 fruit.

          I'm hoping to find a good place under $100 per person for Japanese (sushi place and cooked dishes), Thai, fresh tofu (savoury and sweet soup versions), oyster omelette, white version of Chai Tow Kuay, and any other restaurants or good eats!

          8 Replies
          1. re: Nevy

            For oyster omelette and white carrot cake, you can give Jackson's @ Old Airport Road Food Centre a try. He also does a mean Singapore-style fried koay teow.

            1. re: Nevy

              I'm really bad at keeping up with the Japanese dining scene in Singapore - I was about to recommend SUN Japanese Dining but found out it's just closed a couple of weeks back.

              It's sister-restaurant, SUN with MOON @ Wheelock Place, Orchard, is still open though. Very reasonably-priced (definitely < S$100 per head).

              1. re: Nevy

                You're doing Imperial Treasure Teochew instead of Chui Huay Lim? I think you'll experience a more "Teochew" atmosphere at Chui Huay Lim, where Singapore's Teochew community congregate if they want Teochew food. But getting a reservation at Chui Huay Lim is a real pain, and it's not as conveniently located as Imperial Treasure @ Ngee Ann City.

                Imperial Treasure has a Hongkong-inflected style of cooking - I liked the food there a lot, and they are very similar to dishes I'll have when I visit maternal my aunt/cousins in Hong Kong - they are Teochews ("Chiuchow" in Cantonese).

                Chui Huay Lim's style of cooking is more Singapore-style Teochew - quite close to what we get in Bangkok Chinatown, where majority of Chinese are also Teochew (called "Taechiu" there) - more rustic and quite similar to what we'll have in the Teochew's homeland: Swatow (Shantou) in China.

                Some of the dishes I had in Chui Huay Lim:

                1. re: klyeoh

                  Hello Klyeoh! You have my sincere thanks for the great insight you're sharing with me.

                  Imperial Treasure was suggested and changed from Chui Huan Lim. I am perfectly great with 'rustic' Chinese environment and so is my Indian counterpart. My US counterpart on the other hand... he is a bit more 'particular'. I think RipCurl suggested we try Imperial Treasure for Teochew. I think for us, good food, ~100 Singaporean Dollars per person and relatively easy to get to from the CBD area are our key criteria.

                  The Jackson suggestion looks amazing! I think I have too many Hawker spots to try! ha :) From reading several blogs and sites, it appears that some Hawkers close on the weekend and at 7 pm during the week. Considering we're working from 8 am to ~5:30 pm each day, I'm not sure if we can make it to all these great small centres. I have the 2 weekends of food opportunities but if they're not open, well, that's just unfortunate!

                  If I plan for a Sunday morning and afternoon to walk to all these Hawker places, would I be crazy? Would anyone join me? :D

                2. re: Nevy

                  Had typed a longer reply but it went missing so just some brief replies to your queries & a few more suggestions:

                  * Sushi Kou - not as good, for sure
                  * Imperial Treasures Super Peking Duck - you can do this and dim sum tog. Don't forget to pre-order the duck. Tippling Club and Jaan have good value lunches. Jaan more classical, Tippling Club quirkier.
                  * Imperial Treasures Teochew vs Chui Huay Lim - as klyeoh says, CHL is more rustic. ITT has a mixed Teochew & Cantonese menu (both generally good), more refined. I prefer ITT given same prices but YMMV.
                  * Amoy - If you go, try Piao Ji too (same floor as Han Kee). Pricier, richer soup vs Han Kee. I ask for add'l fish egg usu. Also Hoo Kee 'ba zhang' (glutinous rice dumplings).
                  * Egg tarts - Tong Heng is more rustic, shortcrust pastry. Dim sum restos usu do it w puff pastry, do try both.
                  * Bar-Roque - a bit pricey & not worth yr limited meals; Osaka Ohsho - I'd drop this, it's just fast food gyoza; Bistro du Vin - you can get better back home; Gunther's - yes if you hv the budget as set lunch is a far cry fr dinner
                  * Desserts - what type of desserts are you looking for? local (e.g. chendol, avocado shake, chinese tong sui), cakes, ..? the ones you listed above are all western-style cake / pastry places.
                  * Japanese (not sushi, you pay a big premium here vs Jpn since we import everything, unless you're more keen on cheap & cheerful) - Kazu (sumiyaki), Yazawa (yakiniku). 2 Japanese places that I would make time for if I was visiting with little time.
                  One add'l suggestion - do drop by Takashimaya's basement food hall and pick up Four Seasons durian ice cream (they use D24, skip the puffs), Waguri Millefeuille fr Flor, cake fr Rive Gauche, tea fr TWG

                  1. re: RipCurl

                    Hello Ripcurl! Once again thank you! I sincerely think the Singaporean community here is so helpful! I have 10 days in Singapore and it looks like I have more than enough places to try.

                    From the sounds of the prices, there are far better cuisine choices than Japanese cuisine in Singapore. I am from Toronto Canada and we have sushi at very reasonable prices (~$40 per person for a great mini omakase or large 30 piece platter). I think I'll save my stipend for other places.

                    It sounds like I really need to do the Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck! We have some decent to good ones in Toronto but I believe the duck in Asia is much tastier (or so I'm told).

                    Seeing how my US colleague may shy away from Asian rustic environment, we may go the Imperial Treasures route.

                    Thank you for the suggestion of the fish soup, I'll add that to my list to try. It's funny... most of the time in Toronto, I avoid line ups but it sounds like in the Hawker culture, the bigger the line up, the better.

                    It looks like I'll scratch Bistro du Vin and Osaka Ohsho as it seems to not be that great. I'll also drop Bar-roque from the list.

                    As an aspiring intrepid gourmet traveler, I am looking for any dessert! I love mochi and it sounds like kueh and ondeh ondeh are in the same family. I've had chendol before and also taiwain shaved ice. Since coming back from Italy, good gelato is something I always try to find. I heard of Alfero being 'authentic' so I'm eager to see if it's true.

                    I love the suggestion from the basement of Takashimayas! I have put that on my list now!

                    Any other suggestions on great food that are like Pidgin would be appreciated! I'll probably post my next draft of potential food with everyone's suggestion. I'm already salivating from looking at my disorganized list.

                    1. re: Nevy

                      No problem, there's many suggestions here to start with so will restrict myself to just adding that for sweet tofu you may also like Sichuan Douhua at the top of UOB Plaza (it's also a proper restaurant serving lunch / dinner but you can sit at the teahouse side to just have dessert) - and for savoury tofu, do try yong tau foo (I think there should be recommendations on this board or blogs).

                      Oh & by 'rustic', I meant (& I think so did klyeoh) the style of cooking, not the ambience. Chui Huay Lim is a proper restaurant so no worries that your colleague will feel uncomfortable. I'm sure whichever you choose btwn ITT & CHL you will have an enjoyable meal, it's more a matter of personal taste.

                    2. re: RipCurl

                      Great suggestions, just a pet peeve of mine -- Tong Heng doesn't do shortcrust pastry for egg tarts (which is my preference), they do a layered flaky pastry, not as thin as western puff pastry (which is what most dim sum restaurants use) but definitely not shortcrust.

                      I wouldn't bother with Japanese sushi unless you want to spend serious money (for mid range, you can get better elsewhere),

                      For a hawker centre, try Ghim Moh for my recommended trio of hakka yong tau foo, appams (hoppers), and char kway teow (friend rice noodles with clams). There's a decent viet stall as well.

                  2. shinji by kanesaka, if you want quality comparable to the top end places in tokyo. lunch is decent, $80-$120 per pax.
                    les amis lunch is also decent.. approx $50-$80 per pax

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lucil

                      Very good recommendation, Lucil. Shinji is currently my favourite Japanese restaurant in Singapore.

                    2. My flights are booked and I'm happy to say I have 8 dinners and 2 lunches to explore the gourmet delights of Singapore.

                      Saturday dinner - I may stick to the hotel restaurant because a 24+ hour flight would normally exhaust the heck out of me. If I stay at the Fullerton, I would try the Jade

                      Sunday lunch - I'm hoping to hit up as many places as I can...
                      - Amoy Centre for the fish soup at Piao Ji and Han Kee
                      - 328 Katong Laksa for lunch with Puteri Mas following it for Durian puffs
                      - In the afternoon, I'm planning to walk from the Fullerton towards Takashimaya for some shopping and also food discoveries in the basement.
                      - Wisma Atria is next to get some kueh at Subway Niche

                      Weekday dinners with business associates. I'm really hoping to influence to group to try some good food instead of familiar North American chain restaurants. My short list of choices are:
                      - Pidgin
                      - Gunther's
                      - Candlenut
                      - Imperial Treasure Peking
                      - Imperial Treasure Teochew or Chui Huay Lim
                      - Din Tai Fung
                      - La Strada
                      - Long Beach Seafood

                      Potential snacks if I can sneak away
                      - Special Yong Tau Fu
                      - Tong Heng Confectionery
                      - Alfero Artisan Gelato

                      Potential other dinners that were recommended by non-CH'er (any ideas if they're good?)
                      - Skyve Bistro
                      - Zafferano
                      - Diamond Kitchen
                      - Mykonos on the Bay

                      I wish I had more time to eat on my own so I can visit all the great suggestions. If there are more stand outs, I'd be happy to hear them!

                      I look forward to reporting back my adventure next month!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Nevy

                        Good list.
                        Did you say you're going to *walk* from Fullerton Hotel to Takashimaya? Don't. Not in Singapore's hot/humid weather. Just take an MRT subway ride from Raffles Place, which is 3 minutes' walk from your hotel, to Orchard station (4 stops). At Orchard MRT, you come up & there are exits to both Wisma Atria and ION Orchard, and pedestrian linkways connect both these malls to each other and to Ngee Ann City/Takashimaya.

                        1. re: Nevy

                          Diamond Kitchen @ Laguna? Interesting choice, it's rather off the beaten track but if you're going to be in the East Coast area then I think that's quite a good 'zi char' choice. I like the 'champagne' pork ribs. If you're going with a colleague who cares about ambience, do google for pictures of the place first & judge if you're ok.

                          Skyve, Zafferano & Mykonos I've never been but they give me the impression that you go as much for the ambience as the food, and they're a bit pricey for an everyday meal. Specific to Mykonos, I personally find every restaurant along that stretch of Sentosa Cove overpriced (Skirt excluded).