With Singapore potentially moving into Phase 3 at the end of the year and group sizes for walking, cycling and kayaking tours expanded from 1 November, the city-state seems to be on the road to recovery after battling the pandemic for close to a year.
For eateries and restaurants in Singapore, this recovery couldn’t have come fast enough. Many were deeply affected by the closures during the circuit breaker period, and even when Singapore moved into Phase 2, where dining in was allowed, the Covid-19 restrictions meant reduced capacity – a blow to the already struggling establishments.
Meanwhile, the annual 2020 Michelin Guide for Singapore was cancelled due to the long period of restaurant closures, as it meant inspectors were not able to assess consistency between visits. Usually the Bib Gourmand selection (granted to good quality eateries who offer very good value for money) is announced ahead of the main guide, but this has been shelved as well.
In the spirit of supporting local businesses and helping them get back on track, we take a look at Singapore’s 2019 Bib Gourmand list, which had 58 eateries, and highlight some worthy mentions you should pay a visit to today.
An offshoot of one-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Chef Kang’s, this nondescript noodle stall in Toa Payoh’s Jackson Square sells just three varieties: noodles with char siew (barbecued pork) and wanton; noodles with shredded abalone, char siew and wanton; and a plate of pork belly char siew (sans noodles). Nicely charred and fatty roast pork is the star of the show here, and it’s accompanied by springy, thin jook sing that are imported from Hong Kong. The finishing touch? Thick cubes of lard that add a satisfying crunch.
Despite its posh surrounds and lodgings within a luxurious black-and-white bungalow, this elegant café serves homely Peranakan food that’s comforting and delicious, thanks to the generous use of various spices and fresh ingredients. Dishes such as its sambal sotong, signature kueh pie tee with a homemade chilli dip; ayam buah keluak (chicken with black nuts and exotic spices); and otah klasik (a silky-smooth steamed egg custard with fish fillet that’s swimming in a fragrant broth of coconut milk seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices), are not to be missed.
Helmed by the chef Chen Kentaro, the third-generation owner of Shisen Hanten (its Singapore restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars), this Shenton Way eatery is decidedly more casual that its fine-dining counterpart. The eatery serves, as its name suggests, a signature dish of mapo tofu with minced meat in a spicy fermented bean paste, served with Japanese short-grain rice. Diners who prefer a non-spicy option can opt for the Nasu Don, which consists of a generous amount of eggplant and minced meat on rice. Noodle options are available, too, as well as sides such as braised pork belly and dumplings.
4. Hjh Maimunah (Jalan Pisang)
Long deemed a beloved option for those who love their nasi padang, it’s no surprise that Hjh Maimunah re-entered the Bib Gourmand list in 2019 (it was awarded in 2016 before losing the status in 2017). Diners can choose from a wide array of dishes displayed unpretentiously behind a glass barrier and get them served in a hidang style (small sharing plates), so you can get to try all the different rich and piquant flavours. Top picks include the sayur lodeh (vegetables in coconut milk), robust beef rendang, ikan bakar (grilled fish), bergedil and tahu telur.
It was reported that chef-restaurateur Teppei Yamashita (famous for his Teppei group of restaurants) was so impressed with unagi specialist Hiroki Nakagawa’s grilled unagi back when they met in Bangkok, that when he decided to open Man Man in Singapore, he invited Nakagawa to be the head chef. Given Nakagawa’s prowess in the kitchen, it’s no wonder that the restaurant drew long snaking queues when it first opened. Expect thick slabs of freshwater Japanese eel that are char-grilled to perfection and slathered with a deliciously sweet secret sauce, before being placed on a bed of rice with thick slices of tamagoyaki (rolled omelette). Feeling indulgent? You can jazz your bowl up with the addition of grilled Miyazaki Wagyu beef cubes.
6. Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon
Expect a long queue at this stall that is, contrary to its name, actually located within the morning market of Whampoa Makan Place. Various varieties of the beloved dish are sold here, such as fried or sliced fish soup that you can have served with bee hoon, rice or yi mian (thin egg noodles). If you prefer a kick to your broth, you can opt for the tom yam fish soup. They also offer fish porridge and seafood soup as additional options. The main draw, of course, is the fried fish bee hoon soup that comes with slippery, smooth white noodles in a fragrant milky fish broth that’s topped with pieces of crispy fried fish. At 91 Whampoa Dr, #01-46 Makan Place
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.