When Singaporean food is mentioned, it’s usually humble hawker fare that comes to mind. If you’re fond of local flavours but want to experience them in a completely different way, mod-Sin cuisine might be just what you’re looking for. This contemporary take on Singaporean food sees local chefs experiment with reimagined and deconstructed local dishes while keeping its unique flavours. From pasta and burgers to Singapore-style ramen, here’s our list of the best mod-Sin restaurants to try these intriguing dishes.
1. Xiao Ya Tou
The colourful and delightfully kitschy Xiao Ya Tou certainly stands out among its neighbours in the hip Duxton Hill stretch. Its name, which translates to “little rebel”, is certainly apt as far as its menu is concerned. Here you can expect elevated takes on uniquely Singaporean dishes like lobster kueh pie tee, wok-fried wagyu hor fun and truffle duck fried rice making an appearance. If you’re here for drinks and need a couple of light bites, spring for the Angus beef satay or the moreish crispy otak-otak rolls – a specialty here. Vegetarians will also be pleased to know there’s a dedicated meat-free menu with Singapore-inspired dishes like veggie ngoh hiang, beancurd chips with mala mayo and mushroom dumplings stuffed with Impossible pork, turnip, mushrooms and cabbage.
6 Duxton Hill. Nearest MRT: Outram Park, Tanjong Pagar
2. Relish by Wild Rocket
It was at Wild Rocket that self-taught chef Willin Low first codified mod-Sin cuisine in 2005. “Twelve years ago, nobody knew what to call the food I was creating at Wild Rocket which was why we coined the label. Since then, mod-Sin has grown.” And despite the closure of the original Wild Rocket, chef Low continues his mod-Sin adventures with Relish by Wild Rocket which has been open since 2006. While it started as a burger restaurant, Relish now serves a varied selection of pastas, brunch items and sharing plates with Singaporean inflections. The roketto oyster omelette spaghettini for example, deconstructs the classic hawker dish and reimagines it as a spicy pasta. There’s also a fish collagen broth udon that draws inspiration from Singapore-style fish soup but is gussied up with premium ingredients like hand-cut inaniwa udon and handmade egg fishcake.
3. A Noodle Story
Founded by “hawkerpreneurs” Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham, A Noodle Story is one of Singapore’s pioneering modern hawker stalls and a recipient of the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand award. The dish that put them on the map is the “first and only Singapore-style ramen”, which takes cues from wanton noodles, a local favourite. The dish comprises of thin, springy noodles that are tossed with a blend of dark soya sauce and roasted dried shrimps which keep the dish’s flavour profile familiar. Rather than conventional char siew, the dish is topped with slices of pork belly chashu that have been slow-braised for 36 hours. The silky pork and prawn wantons are also made fresh daily. Where things get unconventional is the addition of an onsen egg and a prawn cake wrapped in strings of crispy Idaho potato.
7 Wallich Street, B2-32, Guoco Tower. Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar
This one-star Michelin restaurant is a modern Singaporean thoroughbred – for starters, it is located at the Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay, itself an icon of modern Singapore. Chef-owner Han Li Guang founded Labyrinth to showcase local Singaporean flavours and cultures while encapsulating his roots and memories growing up in Singapore. “The modernisation of local flavours cannot come at the expense of its authenticity,” the banker-turned-chef says, “And I strongly believe that the future of local cuisine lies in our past.” The 2022 dinner tasting menu, “Memories of Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre” features chef-owner LG Han’s take on local favourites like rojak, chicken rice, char kway teow and bak kut teh.
8 Raffles Avenue, #02-23 Esplanade Mall. Nearest MRT: Esplanade
Set in the hip boutique Warehouse Hotel, Po is a nod to both the cuisine of Singapore’s yesteryears and the fare that you’d find at your generous grandmother’s. It should be expected, then, that the approach to Singaporean food at Po is more on the classic and conservative side of mod-Sin, although the cuisine’s defining twist is still present, mostly in the use of elevated ingredients. The giant river prawns konbu mee, an elevated take on Hokkien mee, perfectly encapsulates this philosophy with its use of premium ingredients.
320 Havelock Road, Level 1, The Warehouse Hotel. Nearest MRT: Fort Canning
– ORIGINAL TEXT BY CELINE ASRIL
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.