Thursday, November 13, 2008

Favorite Finds in Singapore

Several people have asked us for current Singapore recommendations. In no particular order, here are some places we think are worth a stop.

Loof: Hidden in plain sight on top of an office building right across from the Raffles Hotel is the bar Loof. It’s made up in seriously contemporary style with lots of gray steel and pop culture iconography, but the crowd and staff maintain a chill vibe (the self mocking name probably helps them avoid being too solemn about their cool). The roof-top setting hovering just above the street fray makes it an oasis in the midst of the bustling Raffles City area. A great place to start or end an evening.


331 North Bridge Road #03-07

Odeon Towers Extension Rooftop

Singapore 188720

+65 6338 8035

Cookie Museum: Located right inside the ultra-modern Esplanade, this odd little shop is awash in Victorian tea-time d├ęcor. They push pricey cakes and flower-painted cups of tea in an over-the-top vision of what English ladies might have enjoyed 100 years ago while back in London from the colonies. Most of that stuff looks quite good actually, but that’s not why we stop. What draws us back is the constantly shifting menu of dozens of different dainty but full flavored cookies. Many of them are classic interpretations of fruit and nut and such. But their baking crew also has a funky side that emerges in odd-ball flavor combinations. Tins of lavender or rose or lemongrass or sardine or curry cookies are stacked around the shop. Their tasting cart contains samples of everything in the shop, and the staff will walk you through endless permutations to find something that suits you. In our experience, the weirder the flavor sounds, the more our friends back home dig it. Our buddy AS found that the curry-almond cookies in particular made a perfect pairing with prosecco, and she demanded a resupply. Unfortunately, on this visit we found that flavor discontinued. We’re hoping the nasi lemak version makes the grade for weird-but-wonderful.

The Cookie Museum

8 Raffles Avenue,

#01-02/04 Esplanade Mall

Singapore 039802

+65 6333 1965

Din Tai Fung: When I was a kid, xiao long bao, the classic Shanghainese miniature soup-filled dumplings, were virtually impossible to find in the United States. Thus, to this day I get giddy at the prospect of digging into a steamer-full of these comforting treats. The Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung has a number of locations in Singapore these days, but my favorite is still the one in the basement of Paragon right on Orchard Road. There’s always a line, and it’s always worth the wait. While you wait, you get to watch hordes of masked chefs on the other side of the glass kitchen walls turning out numberless tiny dumplings by hand – a pinch of meat filling, a bit of broth, a twist of wrist sealing up the thin skin, and the little bundles of goodness are on the way. Yum, yum, YUM!

Here’s LG getting his dumpling on with good form.

Din Tai Fung - Paragon Shopping Centre

290 Orchard Road

#B1-03/06 Paragon Shopping Centre

Singapore 238859

+65 6836 8336

Maxwell Food Centre: Nothing presents everything that’s right about Singapore more concisely than a good hawker center. While lots of the best tend to be out in the residential suburbs, the one in the heart of Chinatown along Maxwell Road more than holds its own (as opposed to dummed down locations like Newton Circus). Go. Browse. Order anything that looks good. Look for vendors with long lines. Ask anyone eating something yummy looking where they got it.

Maxwell Food Centre

intersection of South Bridge Road and Maxwell Roads

Crystal Jade: We tend to give Pleen’s parents some grief for their unchanging loyalty to the dim sum at Crystal Jade’s Ngee Ann City location. Whenever they’re in town, they only seem to eat here. They never branch out. You can’t swing a dead cat in Singapore without hitting a dozen dim sum joints. Who knows what they might be missing!? Well this time round, we were determined to give other options a chance. We asked several Singaporeans friends about alternatives in the Orchard Road area. Surprisingly, a consensus quickly emerged. “Try the dim sum at East Ocean Teochew Restaurant,” people said. OK. Off we went to Scotts Road with our buddies L&NG. With all due respect to our recomenders, this was a wasted meal. The execution of the classic dim sum dishes lacked refinement. The quality of ingredients was clearly lower. Even without their impressive atmosphere and service, Crystal Jade is superior and worth the cost premium on taste alone. It’s all about the food. If you’ve got limited opportunities for dim sum, don’t waste them on an inferior competitor – head over to Crystal Jade and tuck in. Mom & Dad were right!

Crystal Jade Palace

391 Orchard Road

#04-19 Ngee Ann City

Singapore 238872

+65 6735 2388

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