Totally Diggin' Em 2016
2016: what a year for local foodies you’ve been. I mean, the Michelin Guide awarded a fair number of local eateries a coveted spot in the Bib Gourmand list; cafés continued popping out all over the island; and restaurants, both local and international, have been upping their game with better and badder dishes. And of course, being a huge fatty myself, I’ve tried my very best to eat my way through this fantastic year.
Now that it’s all coming to a close, here’s a round up of places or dishes — not in any order of merit — I’ve found most impressive this year. Not a definitive nor exhaustive list for sure, given that I've honestly not had as much time (nor appetite) as I'd like to explore even half of the new spots this year; but simply a list of what has made my 2016 belly a very satisfied round one.
A POKE THEORY
Fantabulous poke & even better premium sides
I’ve had a phobia of sashimi for the longest time (a serious case of overate-till-I-puked) and nothing managed to get me back in on it — till A Poke Theory. Some strong raw fish game they’ve packed in that seemingly tiny store of theirs. The fish are always fresh and meaty; flavours, though a mere handful, are extremely flavourful and intense; but the cherry on top has got to be their extensive range of premium toppings that get no less attention than their poke. Gotta try their Spice Roasted Cashews and Crispy Salmon Skin if you pop by — life changing stuff I swear.
27 Boon Tat Street
For all the #cheeseporn pull of your dreams
Let’s not forget A Poke Theory’s alter ego, Alter Ego. There are so many things about this place that’d caught my heart, it’s hard to narrow down on just a handful. Poke's fantastic for one, having A Poke Theory set the tone way up high. But if eating healthy ain't up your alley, their greasy, sinful grub will definitely steal your hearts (and clog your arteries). Way up on everyone's list of favourites is their Grilled Cheese with Shortrib (S$14): two slices of fluffy white bread, stuffed with handfuls of gruyere, taleggio, and braised shortrib, then liberally buttered on both sides and toasted to golden, sublime perfection. If that hasn't gotten your tongues waggin', their epic Pizza Fries (S$14) (yes, that's fries as the base of a mound of mozzarella and pepperoni), legit Chilli Cheese Dog (S$14), or addictive beer nosh Fried Chicken Skin (S$8) outta do it.
8 Raffles Avenue
Esplanade Mall #01-13D
Malted choux puffs that blow your mind
I like choux puffs and a killer cream filling, but I've not had one quite like this. Choux pastry is flawless: crisp crunchy exterior, with insides that are as fluffy as they still hold their shape. Tear in, though, and you'd find generous fillings of smooth, creamy, luscious custard just pouring out, screaming decadence at its finest. They've got 4 flavours: Malt, Chocolate Malt, Earl Grey, and Matcha. Malt's hands down my absolute fave, but I'm guarantee any of the other flavours would be nothing less than satisfactory. Last I heard they've taken choux puffs off their menu, but for the love of all that's good in this world, I pray that isn't true.
175 Bencoolen Street
MEET & MELT
Their Raclette Cheese Toast — and all things toast-y really
Flavours aside, Meet & Melt probably owes most of their success to their knack for latching onto the right trends at the right time. Especially cool when you consider how the owners are actually an old couple in their 60s! These mighty Instagrammable dishes are largely spearheaded by their oldest son, and Meet & Melt's been the people to bring us a whole lotta toast-related creations, one of their latest (and bestest IMHO) being this ultimate Raclette Cheese Toast. Seriously generous blanket of cheese — melted right on the spot mind you — on their already genius golden toast. The toast itself is a force to be reckoned with, and combined with all that cheese? Dayum girl.
2 Orchard Link #02-33/34 *SCAPE Singapore 237978
NOSHERY AT NOSH
The unlikeliest Yakitori Salmon Rice to fall in love with
If you thought good brunch were all eggs, sausages, and whatnots, you're about to be proved wrong. This Yakitori Salmon is definitely not your typical brunch item, but has always been one of my favourites when dining at Noshery. A generous slab of salmon, executed perfectly boasting a crisp skin and pinky insides, glazed with yakitori sauce, then served over a bed of coconut rice and finished with Vietnamese caramel. Fantastic fish aside, the coconut rice (think uber fragrant nasi lemak) was immensely addictive. So if you're heading down over the weekends, you know what you shouldn't miss out on.
9 Rochester Park
A hearty 30-Day Dry Aged Angus Beef Burger
This was a mega huge surprise. Fluffy, well-toasted and charred rosemary garlic buns, a thin but unmistakably flavourful parmesan crisp, refreshing tomato salsa, and oh holy moly a huge Black Angus patty. It's really a simple dish without any fancy schmancy tricks, but that and how each component's perfected's what makes it so good. Keeping it simple let all the ingredients and flavours come through in every bite, which is seriously all that you need with a patty this well-seasoned and cooked.
3 Temasek Boulevard
#01-514/515 Suntec City Mall
FAT LULU'S KITCHEN & DESSERT BAR
Really just everything on their inventive 'brunch' menu
I say 'brunch' cause a weekend lunch there is so unlike any other experience, there just has to be some way to distinguish it from the countless number of brunch spots out there. Fat Lulu's first and foremost an Asian BBQ outfit, so this translates to a 'brunch' menu that's really quite unique: think a Croque Tambi (S$18) that tastes like a hearty otak sandwich, Lamb Meatballs (S$23) with crushed papadum, and chili sauce on your Fried Chicken with Pancakes (S$22).
297 River Valley Road Singapore 238338
Hainanese Chicken Rice Risotto — say what?
Probably the dish I was most apprehensive about, only to find myself falling head over heels in love with it.
Creamy, coconutty, al-dente rice ✔️
Tender poached chicken (skinless thank God) ✔️
Spicy and tangy chili sauce ✔️
With that sweet soy-ish sauce, I'd call this more of a soy sauce chicken rice — though for its insane flavours I'm really not complaining. Call it whatever you'd like, but there's no denying that this is one fantastic interpretation of our local favourite.
30 Bali Lane
BOTTLES & BONES
For unique grain bowls complete with fab roasts
The grain bowl trend rocketed to insanity this year, with every other restaurant/café throwing one or two into their menu. We've tried as many as I could, and Bottles & Bones was the only one that we've been steadily returning to all year. Not cause others aren't good — Grain Traders is still one of my all time faves — but that B&B's variety of toppings are just so unique and ingenious it's hard not to fall in love with them. 4 roasted protein options, 4 base options, and an extensive range of sauces (orange tarragon/buttermilk ranch/spinach pesto dressings) and toppings (truffle/olive/togarashi/masala crumbles) just sealed the deal for me.
30 Raffles Place
#01-42 Chevron House
Sweet Potato Bread and an epic Bread Porridge
So many things worth talking about at BOCA, but these two items are (I believe) absolute must-tries. The first is what I reckon to be the best bread I've had so far. THE. BEST. BREAD. There may be a lot of better known dishes at BOCA like their pasteis and café steak, but this severely underrated Bolo Do Caco (S$5) was my fave over lunch today. Soft, fluffy, slightly chewy, simply slathered with garlic butter and lightly toasted before serving. And if you think that bread can't taste better, wait till you give their Bacalhau (S$28) a go. Just imagine: a loaf of crusty homemade bread, soaking and simmering in a rich prawn broth, till it absorbs all the flavours and breaks down into this mushy, moist 'porridge'. May sound a tad exotic, but trust me, with a silky egg yolk mixed in, it's the most comforting ang moh breakfast ever.
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
Think the old McGriddles, made better by like a million times
Hidden in the corner of Galaxis at Fusionopolis, this spot is pretty quiet if you pop by any regular day, with a simple brunch-like menu that doesn't seem all that enticing. And indeed every dish you can easily wave aside, but for this you'd better grab a seat and build up an appetite for. 2 insanely fluffy stacks, hugging a sunny-side up in its belly, crusted with melted grilled cheese then topped with huge slices of candied bacon. This was...shockingly mind-blowing.
1 Fusionopolis Place
A fabulous Fig French Toast
I've made no secret of my disdain for Ninja Bowl's flailing grain bowls, and this dish was the sole saving grace of our brunch experience there. The toast itself is exemplary: charred and crisp on the outside, moist, wet, and buttery on the inside. It doesn’t stop there — the flavours too were stellar, and perfect for those with an aching sweet tooth. It's not all rainbows and butterflies of course: the pickled-plum honey tasted more like infused sugar syrup, and the toast was overly moist on the insides, lacking that fluffy cloud-like sponge that would’ve made it fantastic. Still, commendable effort on the whole and definitely one French toast that's stuck in my mind this year.
15 Duxton Rd
A serious all-star burger
From the fluffy, soft brioche buns boasting sexy grill marks, the surprisingly sweet semi-dried tomatoes, to the moist and lean patty, nothing about this Chimichurri Steak Burger fails to please. A lean steak pattie, topped with melted sharp provolone, bacon, pickles, caramelised onions, and that enticing sunny side up. The flavours were bombastic and rich, every ingredient doing its part. If you've been following my social media platforms you'd probably realise how often I've raved about this burger — it's THAT good.
115 Amoy Street #01-02
Amazing flavoured lava croissants — and a stellar salted caramel
One of the biggest food trends of the year, Antoinette's series of lava croissants caught my heart through and through. The croissant base is in itself is to be reckoned with: always crisp, buttery, with those light, yeasty layers melting into doughy goodness that transports me straight back to an early morning in France. Put that with creamy flavourful custards and you've got yourself a winner. Special mention to their Salted Caramel Croissant that's got, in my books, the perfect salted caramel filling.
30 Penhas Road
*For other locations, see here.
WANTON, SENG'S NOODLE BAR
A great example of what our new age hawkers are capable of
Thick slices of crisp and charred aburi char siew, slabs of roasted siu yok, silky shiitake shrooms, and meaty pork wantons — all these fantastic ingredients plonked on a bed of humble and seemingly ordinary noodles. You can call them hipster wanton noodles for sure, but when you've got such premium, well-executed and flavourful ingredients, together with perfectly-cooked does-our-hawker-fare-justice noodles, chili, and free-flow (yep you're reading this right) lard, I wouldn't be too fast to dismiss them. Noodles are honestly really well-seasoned and super tasty, so this bowl was pretty flawless to me. But in all honesty, they got me at free-flow lard.
52 Amoy Street
Stellar Japanese soft serve creations
This list can never be complete without Matchaya. Sure they've got their share of naysayers no doubt, but I for one am a huge fan of their soft serves. So thick and creamy I'd call them gelato, so intensely flavourful one'd think they're the direct liquid counterpart of the actual ingredients themselves! My favourite thus far has been their Goma run. The dense cake and fluffy delicate black sesame cream makes their Goma Roll a great tea cake to share, and the show-stealing Goma Soft Serve was just thick, rich, and exactly what I'd imagine my fave 芝麻糊 softserve-ified to be.
12 Gopeng Street
#01-72 Icon Village
Thank you 2016, it’s been a helluva fattening ride.