Kudos to the lucky few who’ve survived another rocky year in the F&B industry. We’ve seen plenty of closures, but with that means windows of opportunity for new openings. Multi-concept restaurant Me@OUE shuttered in March, but gave former employees Anant Tyagi and Chef Jeremy Gillon the chance to step out with their own restaurant. Michelin bigwigs Restaurant Andre and Joel Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa closed, but in their place sprang Restaurant Zen and Table65, just before 2018 ended too. It’s still too early to tell whether these name-backed newbies are worth their salt, but we’ll be keeping our eye on them in 2019.
So the cycle of openings and closures continues (next up: one-Michelin-starred Whitegrass and fine dining Malay restaurant Mamanda); and perhaps for the better, if it means we stay a constantly well-fed nation with options. From secret menus to stellar sushi and sophisticated takes on Southeast Asian grub, here are all the best restaurants that opened in 2018.
Claypots Full Circle
Melbourne import Claypots has officially come full circle with its first venture in Singapore—24 years after the founder was first inspired by our local claypot fare on a visit here. The gastropub on Amoy Street dishes out steaming small plates of Mediterranean grub, marrying influences from both Asian claypot as well as Turkish tagines. The local spices like sambal are one thing you won’t find at the chain’s other outlets in Australia. Don’t skip out on the seafood, particularly their juicy garlic prawn served with Turkish pide bread, and signature Moroccan Claypot stew.
Tibetan cuisine and ‘vegetarian’ don’t often go together, but Ganglamedo proved us wrong this year. The independent concept foregoes all mock meat for a wholesome, plant-based menu of hotpot soups and ingredients. Splurge on premium ingredients like the rare, whole Cordyceps flower—it certainly keeps you from remembering that there’s no meat involved in your hotpot; then wash it all down with freshly brewed Tibetan teas. Food aside, the restaurant’s decor alone warrants a trip down. You’ll feel completely at peace in the three-storey Chinatown shophouse, furnished like a Bali spa retreat and enveloped in soothing instrumental music.
Halcyon & Crane
The all-day cafe from the group behind Birds of a Feather has no qualms taking up a prominent spot in Paragon. And it shouldn’t—because its Sichuan-inspired brunch mains deserve to be seen and shared by all. Don’t be fooled by its polished exterior; the kitchen delivers on complex Sichuan spice from its sausage shakshuka to the mala-laced Eggs Benedict. Rounding out the extensive menu is an equally formidable drinks selection that boasts quirky concoctions like fruity coffees, digestif teas, and rich pandan-infused cocktails. Definitely one of the year’s more original brunch openings.
An expansion in the PS. Group’s portfolio, Jypsy builds on PS. Cafe’s aesthetic-meets-quality-food recipe to great effect. The decor beckons with its promises of an elegant coastal getaway, but you’ll likely stay for the fresh mod-Japanese plates that can rival any Japanese stalwart. Share the sushi and sashimi platters, ceviche and salmon belly tartare; then hog a bowl of the smokey unagi fried rice all to yourself.
This Hong Kong porridge institution climbed right to the top of our radar when news of its franchise here first dropped. Brought in by the Les Amis Group, the cosy eatery located in Shaw Centre serves up the same creamy “wok-hei” congee it first built its fame on—along with savoury steamed rice noodles (chee cheong fun) and Singapore-exclusive shaved ice desserts. Eight months on, it’s maintained its winding queues that bring to mind the bustling atmosphere of its original Mongkok market space.
Mythz & Myths
Should the craving ever hit, get your fill of Nordic cuisine at this experimental restaurant and bar by Chef Martin Wong (of Tess Bar and Kitchen fame). The sole eight-course dinner menu available is an explosion of French, Asian and Nordic flavours and techniques—such as using the same fermentation methods the Scandinavians harness to keep their food fresh throughout winter—starting from the intriguing glass pyramid amuse bouche to the mind-blowing main Hokkaido snow beef course.
Chef Fernando Arevalo’s Preludio can seem pretentious at first—what with its all-black-and-white secret menu—but the restaurant in Frasers Tower matches its presentation with flair in flavour. All storytelling, the undisclosed degustation menus take you on a journey each time, since you won’t know what you’re eating until it actually arrives. Before each dish is presented, the staff places a key ingredient in front of you for some self-sleuthing fun. But rest assured the pay-off for the suspense is worth it; the cuisine is decidedly modern European, and displays Chef Arevalo’s complex flavour profiles. In a saturated industry like F&B, novelty in experience is gladly welcome.
Bidding au revoir to a string of successful restaurant stints, Michelin-starred chef Jeremy Gillon recently stepped out on his own with a fine dining venture where he can call the shots. In a two-storey shophouse on Duxton Road, taste his French degustation menus that spotlight herbs from the French Alps. You’ll appreciate the creative touches, like how in a dish of foie gras French sorrel is turned into a sorbet to soften the heavy taste. From the smoky mains to the refreshing fruit-focused desserts, even down to the bread and butter, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dish you’re not impressed by.
You can expect a Japanese restaurant to make our yearly list, and Rizu deservedly knocked it out of the park. On offer are world-class nigiri sushi and signature rolls that play liberally with flavour—you can easily subsist on a meal of the mango lobster and eel and foie gras rolls alone. Pair these with the restaurant’s staggering selection of sake and you’re all set. It’s exactly what Duxton Hill ordered.
Squeezing in just before the year ends is Thevar, stylish modern-Indian grill from The Meta Restaurant Group. Head Chef Mano Thevar for whom the restaurant is named after whips up truly innovative small plates that mix European techniques and Southeast Asian flavours. Meats like the crispy pork cheek are expertly done (his time at Meat Smith was well-spent), though it’s the flavourful, creamy condiments that will keep you coming back for more. That, and the Butter Mushroom Naan that reinvents the butter chicken and naan combo as a mind-blowing vegetarian taco. It’s a masterclass in contemporary Indian cuisine, and a worthy contender to close the year.