This year's foodie highs and lows

ONLY DOWNSIDE: Chef David Pynt at Burnt Ends, an eatery specialising in roasts and grills. The food is glorious but its no-reservations policy during peak hours rules out corporate dining.
This year's foodie highs and lows

YUM: At Bacchanalia, the hamachi is cured in citrus fruits, and served with pickled starfruit and garlic, dehydrated melon and walnut praline.
This year's foodie highs and lows

UNUSUAL: Cream of Bak Kut Teh from LE Restaurant is a fusion creation. The floury soup may not go down well with diners.


    Dec 23, 2013

    This year's foodie highs and lows


    Hot Hatch

    Hashida Sushi takes the top spot in a plethora of new sushi bars that opened in Singapore this year. Helmed by chef Kenjiro "Hatch" Hashida, the Mandarin Gallery eatery is the first overseas outpost of Hashida Tokyo - run by Hatch's father Tokio for the past 40 years.

    Thanks to a partnership with a Singapore investor, the Singapore Hashida offers a winning package of quality sushi, good value for money and an impressive designer set-up that makes you feel like you're in Tokyo.

    Seafood supreme

    The Naked Finn's fashionably ramshackle plastic shack in the art enclave of Gillman Barracks well deserves its indie reputation for serving pristine seafood from around the world as simply as possible, so all you get is the clean, unadorned flavours of the sea.

    One of the year's best dishes is also to be found here: owner Ken Loon's take on local prawn mee is a potent brew of amaebi and dried sakura ebi fried in olive oil and simmered in pork stock for seven hours, eaten with rice noodles and lightly grilled Spanish gambas (prawn) carabinero.

    Tim's the Wan

    Three branches on and the crowds still haven't lightened - complain all you will but there's no denying that when it comes to bo lo buns, pan-fried radish cake and fluffy ma lai ko (steamed sponge cake), it is hard to top Tim Ho Wan.

    In fact, it's even better now that it's invested in equipment to standardise the consistency of the Hong Kong Michelin-starred dim sum eatery's specialities. Yes, it's a pain to get in but those buns are well worth it.

    Night light

    We thought it would be a pretentious concept, but NOX - Dining in the Dark changed our minds with its heartfelt concept of showing empathy to the visually impaired. Save for loudmouthed fellow diners, the experience of being served by blind waiters in pitch-black surroundings is novel and almost inspiring. And the food is pretty good too.

    Comeback kid

    Poster boy for Peranakan cuisine Malcolm Lee brings back his earnest approach to heritage cooking at his new digs Candlenut kitchen in Dorsett Residences. While not a super-stickler for tradition, Lee's youthful spin breathes life into classics without straying too far.

    He may bend the rules a little with the likes of chendol panna cotta and buah-keluak ice cream, but so long as he keeps the faith and maintains the standards, he's a talent worth supporting.

    Pastry chef to watch

    Les Amis' Cheryl Koh may not be a household name but the low-profile pastry chef has been creating memorable desserts since September when she and French chef Sebastien Lepinoy took over the kitchen of the French dining stalwart.

    One has yet to come across another dessert that can beat her candied whole mikan (Japanese orange) filled with panna cotta, sorbet and Earl Grey jelly.

    Hedonistic charms

    Ostentatious decor and clubbiness aside, Fat Duck alumnus Ivan Brehm and his team have pulled together the right combination of forward-thinking originality and comforting familiarity in Bacchanalia, with highlights like raw hamachi lightly cured in starfruit and citrus juice, for a refreshing take on ceviche.

    Happy endings

    What a lovely lot of good a humble bundle of wood can do as chef David Pynt proves at Burnt Ends - part of the Unlisted Collection's little empire of restaurants in the Keong Saik neighbourhood.

    With two wood-fired kilns that heat up to 200 and 800 deg C, Pynt's must-try quail eggs have a delicate smokey aftertaste and runny yolks deliciously snuggled within, while the grilled leeks with hazelnuts unleash a glorious buttery fragrance in the mouth.

    The only downside is the restaurant's annoyingly strict no-reservations policy during peak dining hours - an instant no-go for corporate dining.


    Jamie's Not Italian

    Many a home cook will swear by Jamie Oliver's easy-peasy recipes, so it's a mystery why the chefs at the much-hyped but totally underwhelming Jamie's Italian can't seem to follow the same methods.

    Despite its vibrant, kitschy-cute decor, the 210-seater in VivoCity is strictly for die-hard Oliver fans.

    Fishy concept

    The political correctness of eating fish while a school of its live relatives swims beside you in a large glass-encased aquarium is just one of the reasons keeping us from going back to Ocean restaurant in Resorts World Singapore.

    But, mostly, it's the lacklustre food supposedly designed by former Iron Chef Cat Cora. Maybe it's got better since, but when your last meal there left you more shell-shocked than an oyster which didn't expect to be shucked, you can understand our misgivings.

    Weird food

    We're all for thinking or cooking out of the box, but when a chef goes so far left field as to add thickener to bak kut teh and call it cream of bak kut teh, you're not sure whether to ask for yu tiao to dip into it or just turn green at the thought.

    This floury soup at LE Restaurant and Asian Tapas Bar is just one of the few failed fusion creations that detract from what is otherwise a decent Chinese restaurant. Makes us wish that restaurants would be wary of following trends for trends' sake and just stick to what they know best.

    Adrian Ling's bak kwa ham and cheese dish at local fusion restaurant Pidgin is a rubbery testament of the "truffle oil makes everything better" fallacy, while a bowl of tau suan comprising razor clams and mung beans in a too-salty, dill-scented starchy soup has us wondering exactly what he had in mind.

    However, props are due for working plenty of local produce, such as Pulau Ubin oysters and locally bred quail and frogs, into his recipes.