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Singapore for foodies and drink lovers

Updated: Mar 27

Singapore for foodies and drink lovers

One of my favorite urban haunts is the cosmopolitan city-nation of Singapore. This article will focus on some food and drink experiences in the city. It tracks a business trip that coincided with cocktail week, in May 2018. This "report" isn’t meant to be comprehensive, so I’ll apologize in advance if I’ve missed some of your favorites.

No Singapore food article is complete without talking about street food, or more particularly, Singapore’s hawker centers. So, we might as well start with what they are – they are food courts, generally in center courts and along the perimeter of shopping centers. But some are standalone destinations. They’re found all over the city, but my favorites, mostly because of the sheer number of choices are:

The Chinatown Complex Food Centre (335 Smith Street) because of the excellent choice of local Chinese dishes at very reasonable prices. I went to Chinatown Complex with two business colleagues where we got lost in the maze of two hundred stalls and then ended up ordering enough food to put on a banquet. As we started delivering food to our table our neighbors were kind enough to move to an adjacent table so we could use theirs also. I think they were especially entertained watching us experience so many dishes for the first time. And.. the food was excellent. The oyster omelet, heng ji chicken fried rice, and laksa were dishes that have stuck in my mind.

The Newton Food Centre (500 Clemenceau Avenue) is an outdoor hawker center with over eighty stalls serving an excellent assortment of seafood and local foods. It’s a bit more expensive than the Chinatown Complex, but you’ll find the chili crab and barbecue stingray particularly yummy. A word of caution, some of the stalls are a bit aggressive about soliciting customers, especially the ones located close to the entrances. Politely pass these folks by and take a gander at various offerings before making your selection. You can thank me by email afterward – LOL.

If your culinary tastes are a bit more daring, you might wander down Geylang Road starting at around Lorong 3 and going eastwards into the twenties, to check out various restaurants. The Chinese dishes served are not westernized at all, and I can’t say I have loved everything I’ve eaten. I did have some excellent barbecued ribs, which you can find in many restaurants. On my recent trip, a friend and I had a meal of frogs with dried chili, frogs with white pepper and garlic, and porridge at Eminent Frog Porridge (323 Geylang Road). It wasn’t my favorite meal in the city, but it was worth the experience.

For burger lovers check out the jalapeno bacon cheeseburger, French fries, and vanilla shake at Burger Joint Singapore (115 Amoy Street #01-03). The entrance is actually around the back of the building on Gemmill Lane, so you’ll have to go around the alley and look for a neon burger sign – there won’t be other markings. For Spanish cuisine and tapas check out the very hip FOC (40 Hong Kong Street), which also has an excellent bar. For casual French, a stop-in at Ô Comptoir (79 Circular Road) is recommended.

The iconic Jumbo Seafood, with its three locations, offers excellent chili crab, and whatever the little rolls are called is a must-experience. One of my friends loves the “stinky rice” but I’ll leave that choice to you. Spago by Wolfgang Puck on the roof deck of the Marina Bay Sands Tower 2 is only available to hotel guests, but if you are a guest it’s a nice place for lunch. I particularly like the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu.

There a number of experiences I am omitting because of time and space – any string theory reference is purely coincidental.

If you’ve wandered into this post because of the promise of discovering new watering holes, I am here to tell you that Singapore has more than its fair share of excellent choices. For great mixology check out Antidote, in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel (2 Stamford Road). It has won many awards and has dispelled my prejudice against hotel lobby bars. It’s relatively small and can get loud, but it’s worth the trip. 28 Hongkong (not coincidentally located at 28 Hongkong Street) is a perennial cocktail week winner and is worth the trip after a nice dinner at FOC. And, if you’re already near Boat Quay, check out the only Chinese speakeasy I managed to find, Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (60 Boat Quay, above the Express Mart). It bucks the dark, ultra-chic, stereotype of speakeasy bars, for a well-light, almost communal ambiance with drinks I have never heard of. If you spend the evening drinking bartender’s choice drinks all night it won’t be a wasted one.

The Horse’s Mouth (in the basement of Forum, the Shopping Mall at 583 Orchard Road) was a very nice, a bit romantic, speakeasy with excellent drinks. They also serve food. The Spiffy Dapper (73 Amoy Street, Second Floor) looked like it was closed from the ground floor looking up. Luckily we ventured up the stairs to push open the beautiful, Indian motif doors, into a truly excellent speakeasy with a prohibition feel – they even play music from the 1920s and ‘30s. If the bar is not open, or at capacity, Amoy Street offers plenty of bars and restaurants to try out. And, to round out my report, the very trendy bar and restaurant area of Ann Siang Hill has a secret speakeasy that should probably be designated a national treasure – Operation Dagger (7 Ann Siang Hill). There isn’t obvious signage other than some unusual, hand-drawn markings with arrows on the walls, that lead you into a stairwell down into the basement of the building and into a bar that infuses everything and mixes unique, fragrant works of art that are meant to be drunk… uh, drunken…drank. I had the egg, which is a fantastic concoction with a bit of show to boot, while my bar-hopping friends ordered their own cocktail adventures. In all, the bartenders in each of the bars mentioned were excellent and friendly, and the drinks and ambiance were fantastic.

Singapore is dynamic and ever-changing. There are many, many more experiences to be had, and I look forward to new ones each time I visit.

Happy travels lah.

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