Singapore’s first Michelin guide is just the start to an exciting new year of creative culinary developments, restaurant openings and trends. We’ve been busy casting our eye (and fork) on the local dining scene, so look no further foodies—here’s a cumulative list of what’s going to get hot in 2016.
1. Korean-fusion will be more of a thing
The Korean wave brings more than just basic bingsu and fried chicken to the dinner table. Just last month, Ko-Tex-Mex taco joint Vatos (South Beach, 36 Beach Rd., 6385-6010) opened its first outlet outside of South Korea at South Beach Quarter. Besides galbi rib tacos, another solid new outfit along Keong Saik offers progressive plates with Korean influences. Contemporary Asian restaurant Meta (9 Keong Saik Rd., 6513-0898) is helmed by South Korean head chef Sun Kim, who whips up fusion creations like wagyu tartare with egg jelly and Korean pear kimchi. But if simple, on-the-go cafe fare is what you need, then The Da Bang (52 Tanjong Pagar Rd., 6221-2007), an Australian brunch spot, has spicy breakfast items like kimchi and bulgogi panini.
2. Classic cocktails will get makeovers
Spirits best served in a snifter are even cooler now, with bars like Anti:dote (1/F Fairmont Singapore, 80 Bras Basah Rd., 6431-5315) resuscitating dusty old favorites like sherry and housemade bitters, and recently unveiled a new menu called The Revivals. At Gibson (20 Bukit Pasoh Rd., 9114-8385), the namesake is delicious and comes not just with the requisite pickled onion but also a smoked quail egg and a radish. Also jumping on the trend is a six-part cocktail series by Potato Head Folk. The Old Fashioned Series features six mixologists like Zdenek Kastanek (28 HongKong Street) and Jeremie Tan (Jekyll & Hyde) coming together in a collaborative modernization of the classic Old Fashioned.
3. The slow-low burn of American barbecue will continue
Here’s the start of a sweet new love affair with the good ol’ smokey grill. Firing up Texan-style meats in a no-frills, smoky corridor behind Boomerang is Decker Barbecue (#01-17 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay) by pit master Elliott Decker and Min Chan of Club Street Social—it may be a simple set-up with a small menu of beef brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs and turkey, but boy, it’s good. Red Eye Smokehouse (1 Cavan Rd., 6291-0218) is a new addition with a buffet styled spread of beef brisket, chopped pork, pork jowl and spicy Sriracha chicken wings, all on a rotating menu comprising 30 cuts of meat cooked on a smoker for eight to 10 hours.
4. Carnivores are gonna have a field day
A recent onslaught of meat-focused restaurants gave carnivores plenty to choose from. From charcuturie selections at Ash & Elm (1/F, Intercontinental Singapore 80 Middle Rd., 6338-7600) and Fifth Quarter (39 Syed Alwi Rd., 6291-1936) to grilled and roast meat specialists like The Carvery (7/F Park Hotel Alexandra, 323 Alexandra Rd., 6828-8880) and London Fat Duck (#B1-16/17 Scotts Square., 6443-7866), meat-focused menus are here to stay. One major highlight is the re-emergence of nose-to-tail dining—while it sure isn’t a foreign concept in Singapore, Dehesa (12 North Canal Rd., 6221-7790) by chef Jean-Philippe Patruno (of Quo Vadis fame), is worth your time only because it specializes in alternative cuts and offal with an elevated slant. Think crispy pig’s head, sauteed duck hearts and Iberico jowl. A few months ago, Lolla’s sister restaurant Lollapalooza opened up with a menu full of offal-centric goodies like roasted lamb hearts and corned veal tongue with salsa verde.
5. Dining events are cooler than ever
In addition to the persistence of dinner theater by the likes of Andsoforth (www.andsoforth.com.sg), dining events got cooler and cozier this year, starting with regular pop-ups from Bjorn Shen’s Bird Bird (before it finally opened a permanent shop on Ann Siang Road). Then, fusion restaurant Kilo (66 Kampong Bugis, 6467-3987) had a successful run of its Cooking Beats series this year, which brought together live music, food and the occasional chef-slash-restaurant collaboration. Kicking off 2016 is Meatliquor SIN’s Eats, Beats & Treats party (99 Duxton Rd., 6221-5343), happening on Jan 16 from 1-4pm. Like its past events, there are burgers, free-flow Champagne, a DJ set and even a goodie bag at the door.
6. There will be more tiki cocktails
Kitschy, fun and totally fruity—Don Draper wannabes will gasp in horror at the re-emergence of tiki cocktails and other slushed-up creations that come complete with paper umbrellas. Fresh! (#02-01 101 Jln Sultan, 8828-7084), Smoke and Mirrors (#06-01 National Gallery, 6384-5595) and even Hawaiian poke bistro Aloha Poke (92 Amoy St., 6221-6165) are offering these boozy drinks. On a more homegrown front, Kite (#01-01 53 Craig Rd., 9729-7988) and Ding Dong (23 Ann Siang Rd., 6557-0189) are looking to local classics like the Singapore Sling, Milo and even cough syrup Pi Pa Gao for inspiration.
7. Asian tapas are not going anywhere
They had a renaissance this year with places like Neon Pigeon (1 Keong Saik Rd., 6222-3623), this year’s hippest izakaya joints with a progressive menu of Japanese-Korean-European grub. Continuing the movement is Kite , a (mostly) farm-to-table, Southeast Asian-inspired outfit, which does locally-inspired, mod fusion takes. Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen (127 Telok Ayer St., 6423-0311), a yong tau fu eatery by day and gastrobar by night, champions a similar concept but with heartier dishes like Dali’s Pork Feet.
Burger Joint (photo credit: Paul Gooder)
8. Our fetish for burgers will only increase
We’ve been assaulted by a wave of fancy gourmet burgers that come with an even fancier price tag but next year, burger joint (www.burgerjointny.com), a gritty, nameless New York institution famous for its neon sign and unapologetic (and almost obsessive) focus on your all-American cheeseburger, will be opening its first Southeast Asian outlet here in the first quarter of 2016. The clincher? We heard they’re planning to price their burgers below $15.
9. Chef collabs will be less about celebs and more about camaraderie
Neon Pigeon had Knife Fight, which had chefs like Dan Segall (formerly of Fat Cow) and Bjorn Shen (Artichoke) pit their culinary skills against each other in a showdown witnessed by a panel of judges. Expect more of these in 2016. And, always ahead of almost every dining trend, Spa Esprit is currently hosting Lazy Susan (www.lazysusansg.com), a dining program with chef pop-ups across its restaurants—we first saw Haan Paclu-Chang from Toronto take to House at Dempsey with modern Southeast Asian creations.
10. Sharing bowls will be the new bottle service
Communal drinking isn’t just about downing a couple of beers with the bros—the formerly twee punch is back with a vengence. Swanky watering holes like The Black Swan (The Quadrant, 19 Cecil St., 8181-3305) and Rabbit Hole (39C Harding Rd., 6473-9965) are giving the high school party staple a reboot with choices like the Vice Chairman’s Vice (gin, chamomile, lavender syrup) and the White Rabbit Punch (gin, lavender syrup, chamomile tea, soda and pink grapefruit juice). And conveniently serving delicious Thai cocktails in pitchers is Bird Bird (#01-01 18 Ann Siang Rd., email@example.com), Bjorn Shen’s new fried chicken paradise.