A major incentive to braving the crowds in Chinatown during the Lunar New Year period to either, soak in the spirit or do last minute CNY shopping, is the opportunity to drag the entire family to Chir Chir at Chinatown Point to indulge in some fried chicken goodness after the sticky deed is done.
Chir Chir opens up their third outlet in the bustling region of Chinatown, dishing out crowd favourites such as their Nest Snow and Korean styled spicy chicken wings to the eagerly awaiting public.
My favourites include the Crispy Fried Chicken ($26.90), nothing fancy or over the top in its notion with just crispy puffed up skin to boot and irresistibly moist and succulent flesh that puffs a smoky sigh of relief when the golden hide is breached.
CE LA VI. The ostentatious establishment that occupies the 57th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands, was where I partook in a lo hei that I deem the most 'HUAT' of the year. Mainly because, you can't get any higher than that in terms of elevation. The seemingly transparent act of tossing yu sheng from a vantage point garnering enough luck to power me for the whole year, or so I hope.
The iconic rooftop location houses a energetic club that promotes the pursuit of pleasures as well as a fine dining establishment on the other side, sporting floor to ceiling window panels for some unparalleled views of the city skyline. This Lunar New Year, CE LA VI rolls out a lavish Asian inspired meal with the over-indulgent option of wine pairing; a somewhat mandatory choice when exposed to peer pressure from the opulent settings.
There is a lot going on at Rise and Grind Co, a slightly claustrophobic yet seemingly cosy space in a boxed up settings just a literal, stone's throw away from the main plaza. In this space, the kitchen takes precedence with an endless bustle of activity behind stove tops, and the smell of fresh ground coffee adrift. Dishes meander between wildly innovative and 'the safe choice' with a particular homage paid to Asian cuisine.
As most of you would already know, Rise and Grind Co. is one of those cafes which I would never bad mouth. Cussing under my breathe at the numerous pop-ups that have proven to be empty vessels financed by carbon copied concepts, brilliant decor and not so outstanding fare that leaves a burrow in your wallet whilst digging deep for reasons to make a return visit. Thankfully, Rise and Grind Co falls out of that category, settling in a particularly fond nook and cranny of my heart.
In the orange-cast skies of dusk, Verre coaxes its victims to take the plunge. Take a leap of faith into its laps of burgundy red and crisp white luxuries. Although, it's steel cut edges and modern angular approach are not particular heart-warming or appealing to those seeking a piece of familiarity without hints of cold office politics. But in all due respect, food was an immaculate display of perfection, each course revealing more elaborate tricks in its wake. Service even more so, restrained and meek without the need for constant affirmation. Here, the wine flows freely, judgemental stares, a little less so; so, sit back, whip your hair to the side, and enjoy the thrills and spills of the cuisine served up by kitchen maestro, Masashi.
As earlier mentioned, the first place (in my books) for this year's Lunar New Year menu has been allocated to Szechuan Court in Fairmont Hotel. Coming in a close second is Mitzo's prosperous delights. Well-know for its vibrant decor, plush interiors as well as its progressive Cantonese cuisine, backed with an innovative cocktail program, Mitzo has always been a firm favourite for me when it comes to Asian dining - here, the double-boiled soups are a hit and roast meats are utterly divine. However, Lunar New Year provides some unexpected twists and turns with specialities such as the Pearls of Prosperity Kingfish Yu Sheng and the Superior Lobster Fortune Pot sounding like they are fit for royalty and looking every bit the part.
You can tell when a restauranteur's choices are based on cold market calculus and when they're driven by passion. Bridge is governed by the latter principle, it's picturesque plates backed by modern techniques and solid fare never once attempting a hard sell on its diners. Reason being, it doesn't have to, you're convinced the moment you dig into your seabass that dinner is going to be more than meets the eye.
Start the game small with their Octopus ($16), thinly sliced and perforated with a subtle umaminess from kombu, shallot chutney and citrus sorbet accompanying the pretty stack. Point to note, Bridge does an insanely shrewd move of naming their dishes strictly after the main ingredient use, no jargon here means the decision making is a whole lot easier, with the rest of the listings optional for diners to digest.
Award winning restaurant, Bacchanalia has since 'cleaned up its act' after moving from the mysterious and moody hangout in a Masonic hall in Coleman street to Hong Kong Street in July 2015. Sporting drastically modern vibes, for a change, with the kitchen transported into the dining room, the connection between chef's work and diner's gluttony for excellent fare is further strengthened.
Still, looking past the metamorphosis, the same tenacity lies in the skills of the chefs; and no doubt, Bacchanalia would be your best bet for a special occasion meal. In fact, my birthday privileges scored me a lovely Gin and Tonic inspired sorbet dessert complimentary from Chef Ivan Brehm after pleasantries were exchanged at the end.
But rewinding back to lunch, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the affable price tag of their 3-course set lunch. At $48 per pop, this buys you a remarkable insight into innovative top-notch food, in the running for a Michelin star (I hope). Book ahead and maybe, just perhaps you'll be granted a Chef's table, right alongside all the tussle in the kitchen. Otherwise, there's always the tables straddling the busy service counter and kitchen pass or the larger, more aloof unit in the deeper end.
Imagination worth the added price? Now, that's worth debating over at newbie cafe 20F Speciality Coffeehouse located along Foch road just right beside a Pig Organ Soup institution .Yes, so an unhosted tasting would mean a mandatory partaking of their illustrious Duck and Waffle combination. I'm sorry, but I can't hold out against the lure of a rendition that debacles my love for chicken and waffles.
Entering the shady alcoves of the cafe, the back premises offering several twists and turns in terms of ambiance; things could get interesting, I thought. In fact, the rest of the meal did unravel in a fun sort of way. In ways that those who love cafe cuisine wish would happen more often in Singapore.
Second part of the quick picks features a medley of wallet friendly options, once more. Depicting some amicable halal certified establishments for group gatherings, and pish-posh settings in Palais Rennaisance for private meetings; then of course, there's no special occasion needed for breaking in the burgers - and Wolf tends to those unfussy cravings all too good.
Let's begin the tour with a trip down to North Bridge road, popular ramen stall located along Short Street in Rochor has recently expanded their territory to rope in the consumption efforts of the Muslim community. It's clever positioning in the Arab street precinct together with its recent granting of its halal certification, clearly a clever plot and not a mere coincidence. It is 10pm at night and the stall is flooded with throngs of hungry diners, the patchwork of ethnicity in the room a sure win sign that they've done something right.
Eating on a budget doesn't need to swear off tastiness and border on mediocrity. Here are some of my quick picks for lunch/dinner spots that would be great catch-up spots with friends or even a less romantic deviant for a weekday date night.
First up, Koji, a name synonymous for delightfully engaging chirashi don bowls amidst some pretty tight circumstances. Yes, squeeze your way past the backed up chairs against the wall surrounding the middle island of frenzied chefs and pent up frustrations, and you'll be rewarded with a superfluity of fresh seaward bounty.
Belgian Beer Cafe
Rostang at the Atlantis
Almaz by Momo
Le Pain Quotidien
Lime Tree Cafe