By Grace Ma
Mar 25, 2021
WITH ITS MELTING POT OF CUISINES, Singapore is top choice for a whirlwind chow down from hawker stalls to fine-dining restaurants. But if you’ve been thinking more about the who, what, where and how of the food you’re eating in the city now, there’s a group of chefs and restaurateurs to thank.
Few knew about Singapore’s backyard ingredients—flower crabs, barramundi, curry leaves, butterfly sorrel, just to name a few—much less considered them Michelin-worthy until Chef Han Li Guang started plating them at his restaurant Labyrinth. Today, up to 90 percent of the restaurant’s menu features local produce in its dishes, such as The Labyrinth Chilli Crab and Oyster Plant “Ice Kachang.” And, in addition to just being named No. 40 on this year’s Asia’s 50 Best, Han’s trailblazer received the Sustainable Restaurant Award.
Mexican restaurant and bar collective The Loco Group launched Singapore’s first F&B Sustainability Council in the midst of the pandemic, and initiated the ecoSPIRITS Forest Program with the Green Steps Group, which offsets the carbon impact of beverage operations in more than 500 hotels, bars and restaurants across the Asia Pacific. Super Loco Robertson Quay recently debuted a menu where you can scan a QR code to view the carbon footprint of the dishes, which include regionally sourced seafood, vegetarian options and plant-based animal protein substitutes. Added bonus: for just S$6, you can adopt a tree to aid reforestation efforts in Borneo.
Hip hangouts such as Tiong Bahru bistro The Butcher’s Wife and the Privé chain of restaurants offer gluten-free and meatless options such as house-made cheese using local goat’s milk and honey, and some of the best vegetarian dumplings in town.
More mindful restaurateurs across the spectrum are joining the sustainability scene, so we’ve made a few trips to the latest to see how they are making dining out ever more thoughtful—and tasty.
Eco-friendly, local-pally burgers
It’s not just a burger when it’s from Mauro Colagreco, the Argentinian chef behind the World’s Best Restaurant, Mirazur. Certified B Corporations have a mandate to balance purpose and profits, and to try to make the economy more equitable for everyone in the supply chain as well as the environment. Carne is the only B Corp-certified burger chain in the world and Singapore is the first international outpost. Expect free-range, hormone-free, free-trade produce, grass-fed beef from an Argentinian family farm and local organic vegetables. The Singapore-exclusive Beef and Chimichurri Burger (S$24) is a savory hit, but the real stars are the crispy-fluffy Triple Cooked Agria fries (S$8.90) and the hearty Veggie Burger (S$16) with grilled portobello and charred halloumi cheese.
From S$16 for a Veggie Burger; carneburgers.sg
For a man who grew up hating vegetables, chef-owner Jason Tan, former executive chef at Corner House, does an incredible job making them as delightful as the name of his new Restaurant Euphoria at Tanjong Pagar. Nearly 30 kilograms of vegetables sourced from farms around the world go into making two liters of essence forming the backbone of his French sauces. The remainder are then sent to a compost vendor. Local ingredients include edible flowers and patin fish, “a very special fish with no muddy taste,” Tan says. “We also minimize wastage by carefully trimming any ingredients to maximize the usage.”
Six-course menu S$218 per person, beverage pairing S$118 per person; restaurant-euphoria.com
It’s easy to see why Chef Rishi Naleendra’s Sri Lankan restaurant Kotuwa has a one-month waiting list. Its flavorful homespun spread is a vibrant expression of locavore from regional seafood to market-bought vegetables, coconut and spice, and wines including biodynamic gems. What’s left doesn’t go to waste either. Beef cheek trimmings, sea bass bellies and chicken skin all go into making tasty staff meals. “I am picky about the ingredients’ quality, flavor, and being ethically and sustainably sourced,” Naleendra says. “I have always believed that we should use and consume responsibly.”
Approximately S$60 to S$80 per person, including one drink; kotuwa.com.sg
Eat good, do good with meatless alternatives
Move over tacky fast-food chains, the trending eatery at tourist attractions now is The Social Kitchen, which provides employment to disadvantaged individuals and their caregivers. The outlets at Gardens by the Bay and Jurong Bird Park are run by The Vegetarian Butcher, whose soy, lupine and vegetable-based meatless alternatives are used in Asian and Western classics such as NoBeef Rendang Shepherd’s Pie and NoChicken Truffle Alfredo pasta.
From S$11 for a main and a drink; thesocialkitchen.com.sg
Eat and shop plant-based options under one roof
Hong Kong-based Green Monday Group opened its first Green Common outlet in the Vivocity mall, providing the uninitiated with an inkling of how to replicate tasty dishes with plant-based products such as Beyond Meat, OmniMeat and mung bean-based Just Egg. The Omni Luncheon Fries (S$8), Gardein Crab Cakes (S$10) and the Omni Trio Shanghainese noodles (S$13) are among the delicious items that make for a guilt-free feast after a shopping spree.
Weekday lunch sets from S$17; greencommon.sg
Gourmet fun without the carbs and sugar
In a neighborhood of fancy food and edgy drink joints, Persea (pronounced per-say-uh like a genus of trees) is the sassy goody-two-shoes with keto-friendly dishes and zero-sugar cocktails. The chicharrons (puffed pork skins), barramundi and shish taouk (chicken kebab) are must-haves, and the adventurous should try the funky rosemary basque cheesecake made of blue cheese.
Approximately S$90 per person, including one drink; persea.sg