By Grace Ma
Dec 17, 2021
Ed. Note: Thanks to you-know-what, the last time we published Best New Openings of the Year lists – for Singapore and anywhere else – was 2019. So, throughout this series, you’re likely to encounter hotels, restaurants and bars that launched in 2020, included both to make up for missing them last year and as a hat-tip for persisting through the pandemic. Wishing all you wanderlusters happy holidays and best of luck getting back on the road and in the air to visit these places soon. – Jeninne
FOR THE PAST 20 MONTHS, Singapore’s F&B industry has had it rough. The city has spent a lot of time under “stabilization” restrictions, in which restaurants can only admit vaccinated diners in groups of two per table, with background music prohibited (baffling but true). So it’s also a bit baffling that anyone would want to open a restaurant now, but, luckily for us, there are always passionate chefs who resolutely soldier on to bring tasty nosh to bless our languishing souls. From wood-fired pizzettes paired with natural wines to refined modern Asian dishes, here are our favorite pandemic openings — the best new restaurants worthy of a foodie trip to Singapore.
Singaporean chef Ace Tan brings “progressive Asian cuisine” to the fore with AISA (a wordplay on “Asia” and an acronym for Art Invokes Senses Appetite), a 62nd- floor residency in CBD restaurant Stellar At 1-Altitude. The latest menu revolves around the four seasons and five Chinese elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Spring echoes in a trio of gamtae (seaweed) spring roll, pickled daikon, and scallop with ginkgo and leek crisps ,while a nourishing A4 Yamaguchi wagyu with tempura ginger chips and golden chives bring on the autumn vibes.
1-vu.sg/aisa; 5-course dinner from S$108 per person
Courtesy of Avenue 87 (3)
Its name alludes to the birth year of its Singaporean chef-owners Glen Tay and Alex Phan, who give a creative spin to local favorites in their tasting menus. The traditional Teochew taro dessert orh nee comes with rum-infused ginkgo nuts (if only we could buy them as snacks!) and olive oil caviar while the monkey-head mushroom hot pot was piquantly comforting with its intense bone broth with drizzles of house-made mala oil. We love it when restaurants are a twofer and here a new bar space on the second floor where you can sip some of the best classic cocktails as well as Singapore- and Asia-inspired ones completes the homey vibes.
avenue87.sg; 2-course lunch from S$36 and 5-course dinner from S$98 per person
Three-Michelin-starred restaurant Odette now has a casual sibling, and it’s a homey ode to chef-owner Julien Royer’s mother. Housed in a 1930s conservation building with gorgeous stained-glass windows (T+L tip: get a sunset booking), the restaurant in the trendy Dempsey area ticks all the boxes for a convivial gathering: comforting food, relaxing vibes and an extensive wine list that includes natural options. Go straight for the Mozambique Langoustine with dumplings and creamy broth, the ‘Claudine’ Bouillabaisse made more umami-y with the inclusion of carabinero heads for a local touch, and the Steak Tartare A La Parisienne with insanely well-made crispy fries. If you only have space for one dessert after all that, the ‘Pariterole’ is a divine Paris-Brest and profiterole combination in fluffy choux puffs topped with toasted, caramelized pecan praline.
claudinerestaurant.com; from approx. $120 per person
Courtesy of Firangi Superstar (2)
Travel- and jungle-themed interiors dotted with nostalgic framed photographs give diners a foreigner’s glimpse of India as they tuck into hearty sharing plates and uniquely spiced cocktails. Head chef Thiru Gunasakaran applies a taste of home and a whimsical creativity through dishes such as This is Not Aloo Gobi, a slightly sweet version of the common dry Indian curry with cauliflower prepared three ways (cous cous, florets and puree) and Salvador Thali, a nod to the Thali platter that contains many small dishes in bursts of tart, piquant and savory flavors.
firangisuperstar.com; à la carte lunch from approx S$75 and dinner from approx S$115 per person
Griglia Open Fire Italian Kitchen
The unadulterated goodness of Italy’s fresh produce on summer grigliatas (outdoor BBQ) is maxed out in this contemporary charcoal grill restaurant located in a conservation shophouse. Think eggplant parmigiana uplifted by a smoked caciocavallo fondue, lightly salted Hokkaido scallops and sweet white corn, and a wild Spanish turbot simply seasoned with EVOO and sea salt, accompanied by a zesty Almalfi lemon dressing. So fastidious is head chef Federico Schiraldi about authenticity that he even brought back sea water from Italy to brine the yellow tomatoes for his Spaghetti di Martino.
griglia.sg; from approx. S$70 per person per meal
Hortus and Mylo’s
Dig into vibrant Mediterranean-style sharing plates amid 20-degree-Celsius breeze in this restaurant located in the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay. The dishes are crowd pleasers, from a refreshing watermelon salad with moreish confit Greek olives to a tender lamb shoulder slow cooked in sweet spices and fruits in a beautiful tagine. Stroll down to the pet-friendly Mylo’s after that for pastries, coffee and home-made gelato in a range of unique flavors such as smoked maple bacon and Szechuan peppercorn-infused pineapple. Our pick: the affogato of vanilla and Himalayan pink salt gelato drizzled with espresso, honey, olive oil and fennel pollen.
La Bottega Enoteca
Courtesy of La Bottega Enoteca (2)
This 38-seat trattoria in eastern Singapore’s indie Joo Chiat hood is run by Italy-born Antonio Miscellaneo, whose previous Casa Nostra private dining concept had a year-long waiting list. Brick walls, medieval wooden doors and Italian piazza floor tiles bring on la dolce vita vibes. Get on the mailing list to know when bookings open then get counter seats stat to watch pillowy, leopard-spotted “Newpolitan” pizzas emerge from electric ovens with toppings such as house-cured anchovies and sausages. The pastas are equally hearty, so are must-order à la carte add-ons such as the melt-in-your mouth Iberico pork loin with Sicilian capers and superb fried Dolomite cheese.
labottega.sg; fixed menu at S$139 per person
Possibly the most exciting Korean fine-dining opening Singapore has seen in a while, NAE:UM—a literary reference to memories evoked by aromas—this is one of the best new restaurants that helps us get into the mid of the chef, as well. It serves dishes redolent of chef-owner Louis Han’s childhood food joys and professional gleanings from kitchens in the Middle East, Seoul and Singapore. His latest “Mountain Lodge” menu harkens to family hikes around his grandmother’s mountain home and hearty lodge fare, such as a savory naengchae cold dish of tender slow-cooked French chicken and chili dashi-braised Jeju abalone with fermented bean paste.
naeum.sg; from S$168 per person for 6-course dinner
Heritage cuisine maestro Damian D’Silva’s all-day diner in the eastern suburbs is the one to go for a tasty education on the Lion City’s multi-cultural culinary scene. Rempapa—a portmanteau of rempah, the Malay word for spice paste, and D’Silva’s reputation as a father figure in the industry—serves more than 50 dishes covering Chinese, Peranakan, Eurasian, Indian and Malay flavors, making it not just one of the best but also the broadest new restaurants in Singapore. Eat string hoppers the traditional way with a Sri Lankan chicken curry and tomato chutney, try bar snacks like fried Nyonya fishcakes (a D’Silva family recipe), and sample “New Heritage” dishes like the Seafood Curry Mee and Fried Chicken Curry Rice, made to entice a younger crowd to explore traditional spices. Leave room for the kueh desserts and add a cocktail or sake for some kicks.
instagram.com/rempapa_sg; from S$16 per person for a filling one-dish meal such as Fried Chicken Curry Rice
Courtesy of Revolver (2)
The nine-course Experience tasting menu is the best way to sample the flame-kissed dishes in all their Indian spice glory at this sleek copper-accented shophouse restaurant off Tras Street. Grab a counter seat to watch the smokey likes of tender Australian Magra lamb chops, lobster in pepper garlic butter and courgette flowers stuffed with paneer and green chili whisked from grill and tandoor oven straight onto your plate. Leave the wine pairing to the sommelier or try a Revolver cocktail—the cacao nib-infused bourbon with chocolate notes is delicious with desserts.
revolver.com.sg; from S$79 per person for a 5-course lunch and S$139 for 8-course dinner
Wild Child Pizzette
The 10-inch Neapolitan dough stars at this minimalist Japanese-style pizzeria will change your mind on many fronts—like the fact that kale can actually be delish, especially when it’s mixed with pickled onions and lemon in a garlic confit on a Cavolo Nero pizza. Don’t miss the fried Margherita or the pecan tart dessert topped with whisky gelato, and sampling characterful biodynamic wines and sakes is a must. After all, this is the new offspring of natural wines advocate The Cicheti Group., purveyors of some of the best rustic Italian restaurants in Singapore.
wildchildpizzette.com; from approx. S$50 per person for a meal
To read about more the Best New Openings in other countries around the region, see here.