SIN­GA­PORE’S TOP 20 RESTAU­RANTS

In our in­au­gu­ral bid to dis­til a year’s worth of amaz­ing feasts into a list of 20 ex­cep­tional restau­rants, we’re again re­minded of this is­land’s uniquely di­verse din­ing scene. Don Men­doza pon­ders the defin­ing spirit each one has helped af­firm

T. Dining by Singapore Tatler - - Top 20 2018/19 -

For more than three decades, T.din­ing by Sin­ga­pore Tatler’s Best Restau­rants guide has as­sessed and re­flected the rapid growth Sin­ga­pore’s cel­e­brated din­ing scene con­tin­ues to en­joy—rep­re­sented once again in the list of more than 220 restau­rants that made the cut this year.

What’s more, given the volatile na­ture of the in­dus­try, we felt that a more con­cise list of 20 of the year’s top per­form­ers—restau­rants that de­liv­ered ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ences while dis­play­ing the po­ten­tial to of­fer more—was in or­der.

Join­ing T.din­ing’s in-house team, which in­cludes dig­i­tal din­ing ed­i­tor Dudi Aureus and my­self, is a panel of re­view­ers (page 70) who are our di­verse group of re­li­able palates and ex­pert ap­prais­ers of the food and bev­er­age scene, and who tasted and rated this edi­tion’s se­lec­tion with us. Each restau­rant is scored based on key cri­te­ria, from the set­ting to the food, and, more im­por­tantly, is judged on its abil­ity to stand out from the pack.

The es­tab­lish­ments on the Top 20 list have been de­ter­mined to of­fer that and more. In short, while a restau­rant can per­form bril­liantly on pa­per, mak­ing the Top 20 re­quires it to ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions and sur­pass its fame.

Our re­view­ers were en­cour­aged to in­clude ad­di­tional notes not cov­ered by the scor­ing ma­trix; these have helped us short­list the top per­form­ers. With no fi­nal scores to in­flu­ence them, re­view­ers were fur­ther tasked to se­lect 20 restau­rants they felt were most de­serv­ing of in­clu­sion and to share fur­ther ap­praisal of their qual­i­ties. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion and vot­ing, we are proud to re­veal our de­fin­i­tive list of restau­rants that, in short, blew us away.

CAP­TUR­ING THE ZEIT­GEIST

Ex­pect­edly, the list also cap­tures the unique va­ri­ety of world-class din­ing we’ve man­aged to squeeze onto this tiny is­land. Even if what you re­ally want is an el­e­vated yet gen­uine ex­pres­sion of con­tem­po­rary mi­cro-sea­sonal Ja­panese fare in a re­laxed kappo-style set­ting, there’s at least one restau­rant that does so with an al­most fa­nat­i­cal at­ten­tion to de­tail. It’s also the rea­son why Esora (page 129) is our Best New Restau­rant this year, led by the tal­ented Shigeru Koizumi, whose ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes a re­cent stint at Sin­ga­pore’s mod­ern-french cham­pion Odette (page 138), which is not sur­pris­ingly also part of our in­au­gu­ral Top 20. Pun­dits such as vet­eran food writer An­nette Tan feel the lat­ter sets the stan­dard for fine din­ing here. She says the fact that Odette’s food is pro­duce-driven is ev­i­dent in the smart, cre­ative and de­li­cious way the kitchen cre­ates its dishes.

Equally fine ex­am­ples such as Jaan

(page 132), led by Kirk West­away, and Ja­son Tan’s Cor­ner House (page 128) con­tinue to blend fine din­ing’s en­dur­ing el­e­gance with an imag­i­na­tive un­der­stand­ing of mod­ern gas­tron­omy. This year, West­away broke the mould and in­tro­duced his take on Bri­tish cui­sine in a stud­ied ex­pres­sion of the sea­son’s best, though not how a typ­i­cal Brit would see it, while Tan’s gas­tro-botan­i­cal cui­sine style qui­etly con­tin­ues to im­prove—though not as much in com­plex­ity as in taste.

MOD­EST INDULGENCES

The point is that many of the city’s best din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences echo a pow­er­fully hon­est cel­e­bra­tion of the gas­tro­nomic ties that bind. It’s a re­fresh­ing shift away from the main­stream and a favoured ap­proach of many of to­day’s culi­nary rebels, the likes of “cross­roads cook­ing” mae­stro Ivan Brehm of Nouri (last year’s Best New Restau­rant, page 137) and

Sun Kim of mod­ern French-asian marvel Meta

(page 136)—and not for­get­ting Sri Lankan-born Rishi Naleen­dra, who cham­pi­ons con­scious mod-aussie cui­sine at Cheek by Jowl (page 126). An­other win­ning im­port from Down Un­der is rene­gade Dave Pynt of mod­ern Aus­tralian bar­be­cue restau­rant Burnt Ends (page

125), which is ar­guably the most cel­e­brated restau­rant of its kind this side of the con­ti­nent.

Com­ple­ment­ing this de­fi­ant fac­tion of toques lead­ing a new era of chef-driven restau­rants is An­drew Walsh, whose first ven­ture as a chefowner, at Cure (page 128), of­fers more than cre­ative fine-din­ing fare in a ca­sual set­ting; new dishes like his beet­root tartare with blood or­ange and potato bread, as well as the en­sem­ble of sum­mer toma­toes with goat cheese dumplings and pesto pre­pared ta­ble­side, re­flect a grow­ing fo­cus on plant-based menus, mi­cro-sea­son­als and, quite pos­si­bly, a resur­gence of the bistron­omy con­cept.

It’s an ap­proach that has worked well in a mar­ket ob­sessed with value, as it does for chef-restau­ra­teur Beppe de Vito of Braci

(page 125), the vet­eran chef’s in­ti­mate twoyear-old ca­sual-luxe open-kitchen con­cept in which pro­gres­sive Italian cui­sine thrives the way the Puglia na­tive en­vi­sions. An­other pair of stal­warts en­joy­ing re­newed at­ten­tion af­ter a stylish facelift are clas­sic French fine­din­ing restau­rant Gun­ther’s (page 131) and Can­tonese favourite Jiang-nan Chun (page 132), which is un­der new Chi­nese ex­ec­u­tive chef Tim Lam, who took the helm last Novem­ber.

COS­MOPOLI­TAN AP­PEAL

A fast-grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for lo­cal flavours, cou­pled with the need to safe­guard and in­no­vate Sin­ga­porean dishes, has kept the spot­light on a few cus­to­di­ans of lo­cal her­itage foods and flavours. The qual­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion found at Na­tional Kitchen by Vi­o­let Oon

(page 137) is un­de­ni­able. And Mal­colm Lee of

Can­dlenut (page 82) is ap­ply­ing new ideas to tra­di­tional Per­anakan fare, as he be­lieves in­no­va­tion is key to en­sur­ing that the cui­sine stays rel­e­vant in an in­creas­ingly fickle mar­ket. So is Han Li Guang of Labyrinth (page 134), who’s con­fi­dent that mod-sin­ga­pore cui­sine will soon find its place on the global stage. Of course, no amount of choices will keep us from fre­quent­ing Cut by Wolf­gang Puck (page 129) for some of the best steaks money can buy, ex­pertly grilled over hard wood and char­coal.

Al­ter­na­tively, din­ers are also lap­ping up the op­por­tu­nity to dig into prized pro­teins that are sus­tain­ably sourced and served with a mild Mediter­ranean flair—com­fort food reimag­ined for the af­flu­ent and cos­mopoli­tan diner—at

Ori­gin Grill (page 100). A restau­rant’s abil­ity to com­mand im­pec­ca­ble in­gre­di­ents at your ta­ble is one of its biggest draws, says an­other sea­soned food and drinks pun­dit, June Lee, who re­called some of the best-qual­ity Alba truf­fles she can re­mem­ber hav­ing at Tet­suya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin (page 147), which prides it­self on be­ing able to metic­u­lously source its seafood and wines, pre­pared and served ex­actly as they should be. That’s of­ten also the pride of any top-class sushi-ya, as with Sushi

Kimura (page 144) and Shinji by Kane­saka at

The St Regis (page 142). It’s about the of­ten­over­looked as­pects, such as serv­ing the right pro­por­tion of rice at the right tem­per­a­ture, so that the flavour of the ex­pertly sourced and pre­pared fish is am­pli­fied, raves pro­fes­sional wine and food geek Henry Hariy­ono. It’s amaz­ing how many restau­rants don’t get these ba­sic fun­da­men­tals right—and so, we rightly ap­plaud those who ex­cel at them.

CRAFTY EL­E­GANCE Mod­ern kappo-style restau­rant Esora (above); Grandma’s Fish Maw Soup by Labyrinth’s Han Li Guang (op­po­site)

DEFIN­ING VALUE While more con­sumers are see­ing the value of ca­sual-luxe con­cepts like two-year-old Braci (left), many can’t get enough of a restau­rant like Waku Ghin (above) and its abil­ity to bring the finest in­gre­di­ents to the ta­ble

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