level33, marina bay

good fusionish european dining high up in the financial district – this is the first time I’ve done a full meal here, and it was a good one. it’s on the pricey side, but at least the dishes were pretty stellar, and the muscato and beers are reliable.

plus, you very seldom have the option of starting dinner in an air-conditioned, comfortable place (it’s far too hot for an entirely al fresco meal these days), before proceeding outdoors to a fantastic view for some dessert and a sip of something-something.

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saveur art, ion orchard

I’ll start off with the best photo in this series, to make a point – it all looks gorgeous here, but I feel like the flavor fell short of expectation (both from reviews and looks).

this is the upmarket version of the much-lauded saveur restaurant in bugis, which is known for low-priced french cuisine – I didn’t like that one either, and this place strikes me the same way: the prices are low for a reason.

I don’t doubt there’s a strong selling point in making what is a typically expensive cuisine more accessible for the masses, and the food isn’t so subpar that you wouldn’t eat it – but I do think the prices are low because the portions are small, and the flavors are muted just because there doesn’t seem to be much in there to provide that flavor you’d expect.

so, not bad, but I feel like the hype can be attributed to the lower prices more than the food – and if you aren’t restrained by budget so much, I would recommend going somewhere else.

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pizzeria mozza, marina bay sands

one of my favorite italian places in singapore, for the buzzy-loud ambience, the good food, and the sparkling environ of marina bay sands. I know there are dissenters out there that don’t think the pizza is authentic, find the dishes overpriced, and judge the place too trendy – and you are might be right.

but there is something to be said about a kitchen that dishes out good food (I measure by taste rather than authenticity), with a modish, young outlook on dining, and isn’t actually that expensively-priced – located as is in perhaps the most expensive mall in singapore.

I like it, anyhoo.

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manhattan bar, regent singapore

just how gorgeous is that bar? a stark contrast to jigger & pony just a post before, this place is all darkly-lit elegance and chichiness, filled with beautiful, dressed up people. it’s firmly adult, which is to say that there’s a calm about here that’s very beguiling to this old soul.

an upmarket whisky bar in the regent singapore, there’s also a wide menu for your choice of inebriation. there’s also quite a bit of intriguing-sounding food on the menu, though we didn’t have the stomach space for any of it. we did nibble a little on that complimentary bowl of popcorn, but it was a little stale from having sat out too long.

but everything sounded delicious – both drinks and food – and can I just say, this place knows details. my minty cocktail came with the cutest striped paper straw (so retro), and my partner’s more sophisticated glass held some crazy-fancy ice. LOOK AT THAT FANCY ICE.

it’s not cheap, but there’s a price to pay for such exclusivity and gorgeousness. the regent is a pretty old hotel, which doesn’t raise expectations, but you get to the bar, and it is this sleek, elegant box (you’ll know what I mean when you get there) lined with a cellar on the exterior, and tall black doors opening up to the perfectly-lit bar.

one of my favorite bars, for sure.

The Manhattan
Level 2, Regent Singapore
1 Cuscaden Rd
Singapore 249715
tel +65 6720 8000
$$$: 30-60 per person

candlenut kitchen, dorsett residences at outram park

lovely, delicious peranakan food at this modern restaurant along the perimeter of the dorsett residences. modern isn’t necessarily what you think of with peranakan – and neither is it something you think you’d want to hear, but the food is properly executed with finesse, and it comes dished out in a style you’d associate with european dining.

I’m very impressed with this place – it feels very much like a polished version of what was someone’s grandma’s kitchen, with dishes that taste both nostalgic and refined. service is both friendly and ready, and we finished our meal with a lady who was sharp and just prickly enough to feel like you’re dealing with a true peranakan aunt.

it’s also convenient, and reasonably priced – really, you couldn’t ask for more.

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imperial treasure teochew cuisine, ngee ann city

this place remains a favorite (oh, hey look!, photog improvement). we eat at an imperial treasure outlet every couple of weeks or so, returning for the consistently good chinese food and the still-reasonable prices.

this place has the best of both modern and traditional chinese restaurant-ing – chefs that know how to do a serve-up of well-timed (both cooking and dishing), well-seasoned dishes that taste traditional enough to be familiar (nostalgia is that little x-factor in flavor) but are dished up in modern, minimalistic ways by wait staff that can banter like the best of your solicitous (but eccentric) aunts.

I genuinely cannot remember any dishes I didn’t like here (knock on wood!), though are some particularly stellar choices amid the above-average menu.

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les amis, shaw centre

before we start – les amis has long been the stronghold of bankers and businessmen, and all the suited-like. the place has a reputation for consistency and assured service – and rather surprisingly value-for-money lunch sets (with options to go much more expensive, of course). it’s an institution in this genre of fine cooking – and lord only knows why it took me so long to get here.

but now that I’ve been – it lives up to its reputation of pleasant fine dining without being particularly outstanding (I hear it’s pretty consistent in this regard) – and if you can look past the intimidatingly quiet space filled with suits and sparsely laid out tables, you’ll get a decent (and more, perhaps) meal at this bastion of the local fine-dining scene.

I have instituted a tradition of doing a big lunch on my birthday every year – and this meal celebrated my first quarter-century. I eat with higher expectations than normal – primarily because it’s a celebration – so everything matters: service, food, and ambiance (especially since I relax the usual additional clause of price).

and did les amis pass? pretty much – though it certainly didn’t beat my previous year at jaan. the food is decently – and might I say, perhaps technically – perfect, but there was nothing particularly surprisingly or wow-ing; service is efficient if a little intrusive, since they belong to that class where waiters are aloof and almost slightly standoff-ish (how they manouevre around my photo-shooting also tells me a little of their skill); and the restaurant is lovely, if a little too cold (feel rather than absolute temperature) to be celebratory.

I expect this plays up to their clientele – who might be there for their version of a quick lunch and want to be left alone, or are there to intimidate/ impress, and for whom food is rather a means than an end (even if their means garner a higher standard than most).

we took their lowest-priced lunch set to see what it brought us – with the supplement that came with our dish of scallops.

the bread basket arrives with an array of carbs that brought variety rather than any particularly impressive taste – the sugared orange brioche was best. this was followed by a foie gras mousse-type with mackerel and my garlic-spicy gazpacho – small portions but well judged so, for it tempered the strong flavours (and richness of the foie gras). oh, and our amuse bouche was a deviled egg livened up by plump ikura – perhaps the most surprising dish (though still a deviled egg).

two scallops in their shells made up the best part of the meal – seared lovely and topped with soft chopped mushrooms and a lovely jus – and were definitely worth the extra.

and our mains of a shrimp-topped pasta and seared beef continued the theme of good-but-not-special – it’s all decently done, as the photos show very well, but we still waiting for the oomph (so ephemerally delivered by the scallop course).

dessert was a play on mangos – a shortbread base topped with ripe cubes and puree, as well as a thick mango lassi topped with pistachios. pretty good – but there was such a savoriness about the tart that completely defied its status as dessert (and made me have an ice cream later for my sweet tooth).

and to finish it all, we were brought a complimentary dish of madeleines and lemon curd – utterly delicious. buttery, crusty, and soft with fine crumbs, these are spectacular specimens of the french confectionary.

this is a tempered review if nothing else – I would certainly return, though most likely only if I weren’t paying – because I like my food (especially when expensive) to be spectacularly good, or at least interesting. but it well deserves its status as bastion of fine-dining traditions in our tiny country – and would serve your purposes best (if you find them aligned to those of busy businessmen).

Les Amis
#02-16 Shaw Centre
1 Scotts Road
Singapore 228208
tel +65 6733 2225
$$$$: 100 (onward) per person

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imperial treasure teochew cuisine, ngee ann city

long before we discovered imperial treasure shanghai, we had already learnt to love this place here. the dishes are different, but the accolades are the same.

while the previous restaurant was rather exotic, this place does it for us when we want truly good, refined cantonese food – which is all at once classy and nostalgic at the same time. gorgeous space, fantastic food; I’m really just repeating myself here, aren’t I?

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imperial treasure shanghai cuisine, orchard

great food, great ambience, great new restaurant from one of my two favorite restaurant groups in singapore (paradise group being the other).

this is a new one, like I’ve said – focusing on shanghai food, duh – and I do rather like how they have these themes/ genres/ regions associated with each one of their restaurants. it makes for such varied eating, especially since many chinese restaurants are mostly a variant on cantonese (nothing wrong in itself, but variety is lovely).

shanghainese food is a little stronger in flavor, sauces are darker, dishes are saltier, garlic makes a significant appearance, and it’s all good.

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