Fancy dinners for under $50 a person
IS THE slowing economy condemning you to a life of cafe dining? Fret not.
We scour the city for proof that it is still possible for two people to get a three-course dinner at a mid-range to upscale restaurant for $50 nett each.
Here are our top picks.
999.99 (Five Nines)
29 Keong Saik Road
You expect to pay more for quality, yet the prices are affordable, with the most expensive item on the menu being the $26 lobster gratin.
The kitchen is headed by chef Masano Saito, who began his career as a chef de partie in an Italian restaurant in Tokyo before moving to Stockholm, where he was the head chef in the Japanese embassy.
Our choice of meal starts with Mushrooms & Squid Ink with Toast ($9), which is literally as it is. The squid is lightly cooked and retains its crunch.
For the main course, go for the Rossini ($23), a piece of pan-seared striploin. It is topped with foie gras and a fairly generous serving of truffle with pomme puree and spinach on the side.
For dessert, try the Raspberry & Chocolate ($9), a flourless dark chocolate cake with raspberry cream and raspberry coulis.
Four Seasons Hotel, Level 2
To keep to our budget, we have to forgo the restaurant's famed Peking Duck. Instead, we pick a three-course meal that is nonetheless satisfying and leaves us fairly stuffed.
We start with four types of dim sum ($10): steamed shrimp dumpling with mushroom, crispy flaky pastry with black pepper beef, steamed scallop dumpling with crabmeat and shrimp, and baked flaky pastry with smoked ham.
Next up is Jasmine Tea Smoked Chicken ($14). The dish is served at the table under a glass dome filled with the aroma of smoked jasmine tea. The chicken pieces are tender and there is a slight sweetness from the jasmine tea.
Finish the meal with a serving of Hong Kong noodles with barbecued pork belly ($18) that is fired in a Mesquite wood-fired oven.
All diners get an amuse bouche to start the meal, and a palate cleanser at the end of the mains. The palate cleanser selection changes daily but it is always something sweet with a citrus tinge that works well as a dessert too.
The Naked Finn
39 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks
On a $100 nett budget, two people can share a sizeable serving of piquant rice vermicelli ($8) topped with sakura ebi for flavour, and go for a locally farmed mesclun salad with orange and cherry tomato ($12) as a safe bet for your vegetable fix. A more interesting alternative for the latter is the cold water spinach (or kang kong, $10), which is blanched for a nice crunch before being tossed in kalamansi juice.
For mains, share the sweet eight-piece farmed giant tiger prawns ($30) coated in salted egg yolk sauce, and the secreto iberico pork - a lean cut of meat that is grilled and served with a side of in-house dried solefish salt ($30).
Sum Yi Tai
25 Boon Tat Street
The interior of Sum Yi Tai looks like something you would see on the streets of Hong Kong - dim lighting and bar stools, with rows of (fake) roast meats hanging next to bottles of alcohol.
The food, however, is a bit more familiar to local tastebuds. This modern Chinese tapas bar serves dishes such as crispy salmon skin ($12) coated with salted egg and a touch of lime zest for acidity, alongside more traditional dishes such as mui choy pork belly ($24), like the one your grandmother might make at home.
A main dish to share is the Singapore fried rice ($24) where the "secret" ingredient is curry powder added to the mix of prawns and char siew.
It is a heavier meal than it sounds, so to end off, you could get a simple chilled lemongrass jelly with mixed fruits ($6) as a light dessert to refresh your palate before you leave.
39 Syed Alwi Road
Dining at 5th Quarter is not for the faint-hearted. But worry not. You may put yourself in the capable hands of chef Drew Nocente, who has a knack for making odd cuts of meat and flavours work well on a plate.
Start off with the Lardo, Truffle honey and Chilli ($8), made up of slivers of translucent melt-in-your-mouth fat well complemented by spicy fennel seed crackers.
A good follow-up is the outlet's most popular dish, the Salt 'N' Pepper Tripe ($10). Even those who can't stomach innards might enjoy this crunchy snack, which is sous vide for 12 hours before being fried with togarashi powder.
A tender eight-hour braised Beef Tongue ($12) served with crunchy fried shallots proves to be a little more potent but still tasty, with the help of some charred pickled onion and wa-sabi mayo. The charcoal-black Hamachi collar ($28) with soy meringue and fennel works as a good main to share.
1 Scotts Road, #02-10/11
Spanish food usually means tapas and paella, and that's no different at La Taperia - a Spanish restaurant by the Les Amis Group. A meal here is definitely more wallet-friendly than at its French counterpart downstairs, and you can share a couple of tapas, a paella and even a dessert.
Some suggestions for the tapas are the Croquetas de Jamon ($15) - croquettes filled with buttery mashed potato, bechamel and chunky bits of iberico ham, or a sizzling pan of Gambas al Ajillo ($20) - prawns cooked with garlic, chilli and extra virgin olive oil for a peppery kick.
Alternatively, you could have the hearty Huevoes Estrellados con Patatas ($18) which is simple fried eggs with chorizo, red peppers, mushrooms and crispy straw potato. While our choice of paella, the Chistorrado de Pollo ($30), is a little less impressive - salty grains and somewhat flavourless chicken - its portion is definitely more than enough for two.
THE BUSINESS TIMES