For French, try: Jaan
Where? Swissôtel The Stamford, 2 Stamford Road
How high? 70 storeys
Twenty-nine-year-old Julien Royer, born into a family of farmers in central France, is a true talent, with a flair for organic ingredients (many flown directly from France) and an unconventional menu. Yet he is careful to not let the pendulum swing too far left. Each dish in the seven-course artisanal menu ($238) is creative yet satiating, such as the rare Sicilian trumbetta zucchini, served with a feather-light burrata, basil puree, black olive “sugar” and olive oil spheres that delightfully burst in your mouth like the freshest of roe.
From a competitive line-up of langoustine raviolo, confit Arctic char and Bresse pigeon, two dishes emerge as standouts. The 55 smoked organic egg (slow-cooked for 55 minutes at 64 degrees) is poured tableside from its shell onto a bed of creamy artichoke velouté, morels, porcini crumbs and Iberico de Bellotaslivers. The richness of the grilled escalope of Landes foie gras, served with pain perdu and a caramelised spiced mango and Pedro Jimenez sherry jelly, is balanced with hints of ginger and lime zest.
Sadly, fine-dining desserts can sometimes go too far out there to be truly enjoyed. But the choconuts 2012,a plate of layered sablé biscuits, peanut butter, chocolate, Tanariva mousse and house-made macadamia nut ice cream, is a grand end to a truly extravagant evening,
The dishes are seasonal, so anticipate a few tweaks next month to reflect the onset of autumn in France. It’s all the more reason to return to where I had one of the best meals that I have ever eaten in Singapore.
For Asian-French, try: Sky on 57
How high? 57th storey
The aptly named Sky on 57sits atop Marina Bay Sands. Lured by a crimson sunset against an imposing skyline, we stand mesmerised as chef Justin Quek (JQ), welcomes us to taste “the best of Singapore”.
We’re undecided whether to choose à la carte or the degustation menu $213++ (without wine) and $331 ++(with wine pairing), so JQ devises a menu for us with wine selected by sommelier, Joseph Chua. Easily swayed, we quaff Veuve Clicquot in anticipation. Fine de Claire oysters are indisputably tender and tasty, and sweet grapefruit jelly a perfect accompaniment. Next: JQ’s signature – foie gras xiao long bao in broth. Exceptional!
Impeccable table service impresses – attentive yet respectful, each course presented with flair and precision. More courses appear. Seared, succulent scallops with tender girolles mushrooms, followed by mouth-watering Scottish salmon with white asparagus and lobster emulsion. Maine lobster in black pepper sauce pays homage to pepper crab, JQ-style, before the culinary moment: Wagyu beef so tender it dissolves on touch, with Manjimup truffles. Speechlessness! Roasted white peach with champagne sabayon and the exquisite Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia provide a sweet yet light ending.
For traditional Asian, try: Peach Garden
Where? OCBC Building, 65 Chulia Street
How high? 33rd storey
Peach Garden is exactly how you would imagine a Chinese restaurant – luxurious Oriental décor, beautiful porcelain and round tables for family-style dining. The waitress suggested we try a set meal ($60) consisting of their signature dishes. In true Chinese style, we started off with small nibbles of roasted duck, pork cubes and chilled chicken in spicy sauce. While the chilled chicken (yes, it’s meant to be eaten cold) wasn’t to our taste, we gobbled up the juicy sliced duck and crispy pork cubes. Next up was the double-boiled shark’s bone cartilage soup,a creamy broth packed with nutrients.
Usually I’m not a fan of deep-fried fish, but we both agreed that the deep-fried fillet of sea perch with plum sauce stole the show. Covered with a thin, crispy batter, it had a flaky texture and a sweet-sour flavour. Another interesting dish was the stewed fish paste noodle with prawn in XO sauce. The noodles were similar in texture to udon and married perfectly with the slightly spicy XO sauce.
The dessert of the day was chilled jelly royale with julienne of coconut – a refreshing end to our meal.
For Italian, try: Il Cielo
Where? Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Road
How high? 24 storeys
Milanese Chef Bernardi Omar Gabriele is, of course, as Italian as they come, and joined Il Cielo just four months ago after five months at The Fullerton Bay Hotel. The other two best things about the place are French, however: manager Eve Lamy and sommelier Stephanie Rigourd, a strong-minded young woman who paired our eight-course degustation dinner ($160) with an eclectic procession of wines, the best of which were the Jacquesson Champagne (wot, no Prosecco?), a NZ Marlborough chardonnay, a barolo from Piedmont and finally a yummy Sicilian dessert wine. (Four paired glasses adds $80 per person.)
It’s become de rigeur for upmarket nosh-spots to serve an extra course at the front end and call it an amuse bouche: this was a sautéed scallop topped with lightly smoked foie gras. It was followed by a nicely creamy orbetello crudo (raw fish) with an inventive dressing of citrus granite, seaweed and cured lemon and then three-way foie gras: soup, crème brûlée-style and pan-seared.
Sensibly, a super-light abalone and crab ravioli with baby squid and green peas preceded a hearty Robbiolo cheese orzotto. New to me, orzotto is like risotto but based on barley, and this one was adventurously topped with sweet breads.
Chef Bernardi seems to have a thing for three-ways: the style popped up again in the chocolate sensation dessert: dark chocolate fondant, white chocolate ice cream and white chocolate mousse.
Verdict? An elegant menu, upscale service and attractive setting make Il Cielo a good choice for a special night out.
For Vietnamese, try: Nuoc
Where? Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road
How high? 12 storeys
I had no idea that there was a little garden oasis with restaurants on the top floor of Orchard Central. It’s a bit tricky to find but it’s worth the effort to get a different view of Orchard and Somerset Roads.
The extensive menu has plenty of choice for vegetarians and seafood and meat lovers. We started off with a selection of appetisers. I hadn’t expected the deep-fried Vietnamese spring roll ($16 for eight pieces) to be so deliciously meaty. Made with minced chicken, pork, crabmeat, black fungus and rice vermicelli, it was unlike any spring roll I’ve ever eaten. The fresh Vietnamese spring rolls ($5.50 each) came with a tasty soya bean sauce containing chillies and peanuts – I would have liked more fragrant Vietnamese herbs inside, though.
My favourite dish had to be the tri-season salad with prawn and pork ($23). The combination of prawns, sliced pork, lotus stem, kangkong stem, green papaya, onions, Chinese celery and Vietnamese herbs was delicious and healthy too… well, perhaps apart from the pork.
The stir-fried lemongrass chicken ($10, small; $16, large) had a lovely fragrant taste but could have done with a bit more sauce. One of the restaurant’s best sellers is stewed codfish in claypot ($30). Being stewed in a special caramel sauce makes it unusually sweet, but the tasty fish was cooked to perfection.
If vegetable-based desserts, made of yam or sweet corn, aren’t your cup of tea, then try the homemade coconut custard ($6). The coconut milk is infused with a pandan leaf, giving it a lovely green colour. The portion is nice and small – just what you want after a big meal.
For international flavours, try: Chef Daniels’s Kitchen
Where? Bugis+ (formerly Iluma), 201 Vitoria Street
How high? 7th storey (rooftop)
Daniel Koh has been cooking for nearly 40 years and is a veteran of the city’s dining scene. Three years back he launched his own restaurant, Chef Daniel’s Kitchen, where he is free to experiment and tinker in his quest to define modern Asian cuisine.
Despite it being on a rooftop, this is not a place to come for a view (unless you count the one from the ladies’ bathroom); rather sit indoors or alfresco and focus on your food journey. The menu is eclectic, offering a wide selection of Western-inspired and creatively named dishes, with a feature on different cuts of meat.
For appetisers, melt-in-the-mouth scallops on French bean salad ($22) come with a creamy vegetable dressing under a scattering of chicory lettuce. It’s tasty and visually interesting.
My husband can’t go past the Australian ribeye ($48) ordered rare, and cooked more or less to his liking. The meat is served as a set, with a salad starter (delightfully tossed and dressed by the formally attired waitress on a tableside trolley in a large spinning bowl), vegetables and dessert. Searching for fish, I find the grilled snapper ($32) on the entrée menu. It is actually a decent portion size of two fillets – cooked carefully in a light buttery sauce with tender julienned vegetables. We wash the food down with a half-carafe of the Australian house merlot ($48).
Throughout the night we’ve watched the efficient waiters busily wheeling trolleys and preparing cr ê pes Suzette. It seems a very European dish for Singapore, but Chef Daniel tells us people like it and he takes great care when making the pancake batter. We enjoy the strong orange flavours, and also share a small wedge of chocolate torte (part of the steak package), which is not too rich.
Equinox | 70th storey
Ku Dé Ta | 57th storey
Kuriya Penthouse | 12th storey
Mandarin Court | 35th storey
Salt Grill & Sky Bar | 55th storey
Stellar | 62nd storey