On the selections for the top five Miele Guide Restaurants in Singapore in 2013, Min Yan wrote in Lifestyle Asia: “At the top are almost the exact five that made the list back in the 2011/2012 edition. And the year before that. Save for new entrant and now top spot-holder Waku Ghin, and the falling from grace of Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine, The Miele Guide’s pickings for the five Singapore-based restaurants clinching one of the coveted top 20 spots amongst their Asian counterparts remains largely the same. Are we that short on variety of choices (could this be the same country that reportedly had over 300 new restaurant openings in a year?), or are we just getting lackadaisical and perhaps, inherently biased towards the existing titleholders? The Miele Guide is now retailing at S$24 (USD 15) on www.mieleguide.com and all major bookstores in Singapore. [Source: Min Yan, January 23, 2103, Lifestyle Asia]

No. 1: Waku Ghin (No. 2 in Asia; unranked in last edition): Just 25 guests are admitted for each seating at Waku Ghin, and they are ushered from one dining room to the next where chefs prepare food for each group personally. It’s this unique intimate, bespoke dining concept that propelled Japan-born Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s European-Japanese fine-diner to this year’s Miele Guide top spot. Price range: S$400 for the 10-course degustation menu. Only two dinner seatings at 6pm and 8:30pm. Waku Ghin, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands, +65 6688 850

7Waku Ghin was recently ranked 39th on the coveted 'World's 50 Best Restaurants' list. The name 'Waku Ghin' is derived from two Japanese words: ‘Waku’ means to 'arise' (like water pouring forth from a hot spring) and 'Ghin' means 'silver', which is Chef Tetsuya's favorite color found throughout this stunning restaurant. That same personal imprint and attention to detail is also on exhibit in the main dining room which seats 25 guests per seating, for an exclusive view of the Singapore skyline.

No. 2: Iggy’s (No. 4 in Asia; No. 1 in last edition): Title-holder for best restaurant the past two years takes a little tumble this year, falling to fourth place in Asia and runner-up locally. No matter — it still takes home the 26th place on the S Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2012, and retains plenty of fans of its interpretations of its modern European cuisine. Price range: S$85 for lunch to S$275 for the gastronomic menu. Iggy’s, The Hilton Hotel, 581 Orchard Road, Level 3, +65 6732 2234, www.iggys.com.sg

No. 3: Les Amis (No. 10 in Asia; No. 19 in last edition): Singapore’s favourite, and most recognizable French restaurant does itself proud this year, climbing nine spots to squeeze in with the cool kids in the top 10. In addition to its contemporary European menu, Les Amis is also well-known for its award-winning wine list and impressive wine cellar. Price range: From S$68 for a three-course lunch, to S$300 for a seven-course degustation menu. Les Amis, Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road, No. 02-16, +65 6733 2225, www.lesamis.com.sg

No. 4: Restaurant Andre (No. 11 in Asia; No. 2 in last edition): Chef Andre’s self-coined Octaphilosophy works brilliantly (if a little austere) in concept and execution but leaves much to be desired if you’re looking for a meal that’s more food than edible art. But fans of Restaurant Andre know what they’re getting themselves into, after all. The eponymous restaurant falls from its No. 2 spot to No. 11 in Asia this year. Price range: From S$68 for a three-course lunch to S$288 for an eight-course dinner menu Restaurant Andre, 41 Bukit Pasoh Road, +65 6534 8880, www.restaurantandre.com

No. 5: Tippling Club (No. 12 in Asia; No. 10 in last edition): Reviews for Tippling Club have always been a bit of a mixed bag (some find their high prices a tad hard to swallow, while others liken it to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in the UK), but whatever the case, the loyalty of their fans to its molecular cuisine – cocktail dining concept have enabled them to hold on to their mid-list position. Price range: From S$55 for a three-course lunch menu, to $415 for a gourmand menu with wine pairing, Tippling Club, 8D Dempsey Road, +65 6475 2217, www.tipplingclub.com

Celebrity Chefs in Singapore

Daniel Boulud: Despite being raised in France and trained by renowned French chefs, Daniel Boulud made his name as a culinary master in the New York dining scene instead. From chef to chef-restaurateur, Daniel is renowned for adding his signature touch of contemporary and seasonally inspired French cuisine to the restaurants bearing his name. And it will be no different with the opening of DB Bistro Moderne, his latest venture at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. db Bistro Moderne is Chef Daniel Boulud's renowned re-interpretation of the Parisian classic. Among his many achievements, Chef Boulud is credited with elevating the simple burger into an art form. This is what sets db Bistro Moderne apart, new takes on old classics, the perfect fusion of sophistication with pure and simple pleasures. You can look forward to a carefully tailored wine selection to compliment Chef Daniel Boulud's cuisine and philosophy. With over 400 labels spanning every major region from which to chose, you will find just the right wine for any occassion. Signature Dishes: 1) The db Burger; 2) Cape Grim Farm Tasmanian Cote de Boeuf; 3) Seafood Platter; 4) Assiette Lyonnaise; 5) Tarte Flambee. [Source: yoursingapore.com, Singapore Tourism Board]

Mario Batali: Lack of interest was the reason Mario Batali pulled out from culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Yet today, he is the creative force behind one of America’s most successful restaurant empire. Author of eight cookbooks as well as host of Iron Chef America, Mario has his sights set on Asia. His popular LA-based Italian restaurants – Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza will be launched at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Located in Los Angeles and now Singapore, Osteria Mozza is the creation of Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton. The heart of the restaurant is a free-standing fresh mozzarella bar, where a wide array of dishes— highlighting imported bufala mozzarella, burrata and burricotta cheese—is prepared nightly. The extensive menu features artisanal salumi, fresh homemade pastas, and seafood, meat and game dishes cooked on a wood-burning grill. Osteria Mozza's wine list boasts over 700 selections from across Italy, including offerings from Joe and Mario's wineries in Friuli and Tuscany. Signature Dishes: 1) Grilled Octopus with potatoes, celery & lemon; 2) Burrata with bacon, marinated escarole & caramelized shallots; 3) Orrechiette with sausage & Swiss Chard; 4) Grilled Quail wrapped in pancetta with sage.

Scott Webster: Creating culinary masterpieces is Scott Webster’s way of promoting the freshness of Australian produce. His keen understanding of Australian ingredients adds a touch of uniqueness to his signature dishes. Matched only by his extensive experience heading kitchens in prestigious restaurants and hotels around the world. The opening of Scott’s new restaurant, OSIA at Resorts World Sentosa, has been fondly described as a re-birth of his famous London outlet of the same name. Not to be missed is OSIA’s interactive open kitchen concept which displays a wide array of fresh ceviche, including perennial favourites like oysters and other crustaceans. If you’re feeling adventurous, request to be part of the exclusive Chef’s Table, where you’ll be constantly surprised by the Chef’s ingenuity and cutting-edge gastronomic expertise. To marry the exceptional cuisine, select your favourite label from the comprehensive list of New World wines found in Osia. You can also look forward to trying indigenous ingredients unique to Australia such as wattle seed, a type of seed from the acacia tree, quandongs, a tangy and refreshing desert peach, and lemon myrtle, a flowering plant commonly used for its healing properties. Head on down to Osia and enjoy indoor or alfresco dining, or simply unwind by the bar with drinks and tapas.

Celebrity Asian Chefs in Singapore

Justin Quek: Before Justin Quek was billed as one of Singapore’s most distinguished culinary exports, he started out as a kitchen apprentice in France. Life there was hard, but the gruelling training paid off. The illustrious chef went on to set up innovative French eateries around the world such as Justin’s Signatures in Taipei and the luxurious Le Platane Restaurant in Shanghai. In 2010, Justin marked his homecoming with Sky on 57, a new venture that sits majestically on the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark. Signature Dishes: 1) Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao; 2) Fresh mushroom cappuccino; 3) Roasted crackling suckling pig, yuzu pepper sauce. [Source: yoursingapore.com, Singapore Tourism Board]

Susur Lee: Regarded as one of the ‘Ten Chefs of the Millennium’ by Food & Wine magazine, Susur Lee rose to fame with his eclectic style of Asian-French fusion cuisine. During the late nineties, Susur took the gourmet scene in Singapore by storm as the Executive Culinary Consultant for the TungLok Group in Singapore. And he is set to do so again with his new restaurant Chinois by Susur Lee at Resorts World Sentosa's Hotel Michael, a joint venture with the TungLok Group. Amongst the 90 dishes in the menu are new and exciting offerings such as Braised Shredded Abalone stuffed in Crab Claw topped with Sea Urchin Sauce, Roast-marinated Baby Lamb Loin served with Sichuan Eggplant Stew and Oven-baked Fillet of Cod with Sautéed Egg White.

Tetsuya Wakuda: When Tetsuya Wakuda travelled to Sydney at the age of 22, he brought along with him an undying love for food. It was this passion that motivated him to hone his flair as a chef. And it was this culinary flair that inspired the establishment of one of the world’s most celebrated restaurants, Tetsuya’s. His new restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, Waku Ghin, will be the only outpost to the Sydney restaurant that is famous for requiring reservations months in advance. Chef Tetsuya is the first person appointed Sake Ambassador outside of Japan, making his selection the best in the world. Signature Dishes: 1) Marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar; 2) Australian wagyu with wasabi and citrus soy.

Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon and Wolfgang Puck in Singapore

Guy Savoy: As one of the legendary pioneers of “Nouvelle Cusine”, Guy Savoy is renowned for sparing no expenses to stir the human senses with his culinary creations. The revered chef expresses his pursuit of gastronomic perfection through his passion, keen selection of the finest ingredients and exquisite presentation. Today, he looks forward to creating exceptional dining experiences for patrons of his newly opened Guy Savoy restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Selecting only the finest ingredients, Chef Guy Savoy prepares and serves with an uncompromising awareness of what makes a dining experience truly exceptional. This is what earned the prestigious Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris three Michelin stars. Chef Savoy has profound respect for his carefully selected ingredients. Flavors are gently coaxed so that every bite of food makes a statement. His technique is best exemplified in his signature dishes, which create an exquisite mix of aromas and flavors that will tantalize the senses of guests at Guy Savoy. Signature Dishes: 1) Artichoke and black truffle soup, toasted mushroom brioche and black truffle butter; 2) Crispy seabass with delicate spices; 3) Chocolate fondant with layered praline and chicory cream. [Source: yoursingapore.com, Singapore Tourism Board]

Joël Robuchon: Bestowed the prestigious title of the ‘Chef of the Century’ by the Gault Millau guide, Joël Robuchon picked up 26 Michelin stars with restaurants he set up all over the world. Add to that, he also mentored distinguished chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines. The revered chef made his debut in Singapore by opening three eateries at Resorts World Sentosa – Joël Robuchon Fine Dining, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and The Pastry Shop and Lounge. With 21 restaurants spanning 10 countries globally, Joël Robuchon, 65, is the world’s most decorated chef with 26 stars in the 2010 Michelin Guide.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon will feature a convivial atmosphere, where chefs will cook in a central kitchen in full view everyone, and you will be able to watch the succession of dishes, and to compose your own meal according to your own desires. With attentive service, warm and casual ambience and impeccable cuisine directed by Joël Robuchon, you will get to enjoy high-quality cuisine in a friendly, elegant and cosy atmosphere.The menu offers all the great classics to taste in small, tapas-style portions and a large choice of carefully selected wines available by the glass. A combination of intense and delicate tastes, Robuchon is all about making food look and feel natural, turning simple ingredients into world-class dishes. The spirit of hospitality here, fostered by the interaction between you and the chefs, is also delightfully distinctive. Indulge yourself in this exquisite dining experience. One you’ll definitely fall in love with.

Wolfgang Puck: A legendary name in the world of fine dining, Wolfgang Puck redefined the culinary industry time and again with his innovative style of cooking. Wolfgang honed his skills in some of France’s most notable restaurants before striking out on his own to establish his very first restaurant, Spago, in California. To date, he has opened over 20 fine dining restaurants and will be bringing CUT, one of America’s top steakhouses, to Singapore – at Marina Bay Sands. CUT is Chef Wolfgang Puck’s modern take on the American steakhouse. Hailed as one of the top three in the United States, its signature menu features a smart, sophisticated selection of the finest cuts of beef. Signature Dishes: 1) Bone Marrow Flan, Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley Salad; 2) American Wagyu / Angus “Kobe Style” Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho; 3) American Blue Crab & Shrimp “Louis,” Spicy Tomato-Horseradish; 4) Sautéed Dover Sole “À La Meunière”, Preserved Lemon, Parsley.

Singapore’s Food Hawkers Help Keep Inflation in Check

During the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “I believe it is the simple food hawkers who keep their prices low in adverse conditions, something that exerts a major, repeated impact on every family. Recently, I was attracted by a queue in front of a suburban hawker stall that was selling breakfast at a price I thought had long been extinct in Singapore. An overhead sign reads “Economic Beehoon (rice vermicelli) @ S$1.60”, a simple, nutritious dish that included a fair portion of vegetable and an egg. During these harsh times, with the cost of living at a 26-year high, vendors who sell food at this price are few and far between. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, December 20, 2008 //\\]

“They have become Singapore’s new unsung heroes. The majority of their peers have followed the trend and raised prices to as high as possible. During these trying times, hawkers who go that extra mile to help their regulars keep costs down are a heaven-sent to Singapore’s middle class. Their biggest fans are, of course, the lowest 25 percent of the nation’s poor, who earn less than S$1200 (RM2900) a month. Half of them make no more than S$900 (RM2180). The people who queued up for a simple, cheap breakfast that morning – avoiding other costlier dishes – were mostly low-income earners. A few, however, were white-collar workers. //\\

“I can’t raise the price. Many of my customers can’t cope with an increase,” said the vendor. Because the prices were kept low, he had to sell more to maintain profits. Hawker food is what is making life more tolerable for the Singaporean family struggling with the high costs of electricity, food and public transport. Official statistics show that despite spiralling costs, the majority, or 65 percent, of hawkers had kept to their prices. Almost every worker, businessman or student eats at a food centre or a coffee shop every day. It’s become the culture. His income is affected by what he is charged for food. This makes the hawker, and the average S$2.50 (RM6) working meal he charges, a central figure and a decisive factor in the fight against inflation. //\\

“Thanks to these vendors, a thrifty Singaporean who eats out twice a day needs to spend no more than S$8-S$10 or RM19.40-RM24.20 (plus drinks), among the lowest of all the global cities. And those who can keep a meal down to S$2 (RM4.85) are gaining recognition these days as the new heroes. A local reporter who made a study of Singapore’s hawker scene wrote: “I just don’t know how they can still afford to do so in this age of inflation and uncertainty. “But there are some kind-hearted heroes out there who can still dish out a mean bowl of prawn noodles at S$2.” //\\

Food Poisoning from a Food Stall Kills Two Singapore Women, Sickens 137

In April 2009, food poisoning killed two Singaporean women and sickened 137 others. News agencies reported: “A Singapore woman has died, another is in a coma and 111 people have received medical treatment from food poisoning linked to a single street food stall, health officials said. A 57-year-old woman died after eating last week at the street stand selling Indian rojak, which is usually a combination of fried seafood and egg with gravy, the Health Ministry said in a statement late Monday. [Source: Agencies, April 7, 2009]

Another woman, aged 59, is in a coma and 27 people have been hospitalized with severe abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea after eating at the same food stall, the ministry said. A woman who was two-months pregnant suffered a miscarriage after falling sick from the contaminated food, the Straits Times reported. Customers who fell sick said the gravy tasted strange, the Straits Times reported. [Ibid]

The next day Associated Press reported: “A second woman has died this week in Singapore in a mass food poisoning case linked to a single street food stall. The country's Health Ministry said the 59-year-old woman died Wednesday, a day after the death of a 57-year-old woman who had eaten at the same food stall. Some 137 people who ate at the stall last week have been treated for severe abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, and 37 of them have been hospitalized. The ministry said two of the cases have tested positive for a bacteria found in raw or partially cooked seafood. The food stall has been shut down. [Source: AP, April 8, 2009]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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