On the food trail of Singapore restaurants

From the Boathouse's rooftop bar, Prelude
Despite that so much information about Singapore’s food and dining scene is on the net, it’s sometimes hard to decide on new sit-down places to eat which are both exciting and fit the budget. The result for many is a restaurant rut. “That’s just missing out on opportunities,” says Desi Wentink, Director of DiningCity.com. “People need to pull themselves out of that rut and try something completely different.” Which pretty much sums up DiningCity.com’s mission of defining a broader middle and upper-level go-to restaurant market throughout Singapore. 

DiningCity.com is one of Singapore’s premier on-line restaurant reservation services, with up to 90 fine dining establishments currently on their roster and more being added weekly. “We carefully select restaurants who meet our quality and service standards,” explains Wentink. "If they don't make our grade, they don't make the list." The on-line site includes photographs and menus to give diners a clear idea of where they are going before they get there. “It eliminates the uncertainty,” says the business’ thirty-something Dutch Director.

A fleet of BMW's took us to great food
But DiningCity.com doesn’t stop there. “To help people discover new restaurants we started  Singapore Restaurant Week, where twice a year diners can try out unfamiliar restaurants for a minimal investment.” Restaurant Week participants – including some of Singapore’s newest and best eateries – offer premium three course menus for a fixed price ($35 for dinner; $25 for lunch). Bookings are made through a designated site (www.restaurantweek.sg) which offers real-time reservations with a minimum of ease. It’s been done in Europe and the United States, and even here in Singapore when, last March, more than 24,000 bookings were made in the one-week period. This year is expected to be even greater.

To give an idea of just how terrific discovering new restaurants during Singapore Restaurant Week is, DiningCity.com recently took a few of us on a food tasting trail of three often overlooked establishments. “Restaurant week is a time for exciting discovery of great food and service.” Wentink explained in the back seat of one of the several BMW 745’s which whisked us between venues.

Desi Wentink & Garibaldi Chef Roberto Galetti
We started at Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar (36 Purvis Street) where chef/owner Roberto Galetti indulged us with sea scallops in a pool of cauliflower purée topped with a dollop of smoked caviar, and accompanied by a gentle truffle/pumpkin soup. The smooth and balanced flavor of the sweet pumpkin, earthy truffle and tickling cream paved the path for perfectly cooked scallops, sweetened by its cauliflower bath and sharpened with the delicate pop of caviar. Combined with a Torres Fransola Sauvignon Blanc 2008 provided by Culina, the starter was a masterful flavor experience and a teaser to just how good the restaurant is.

Novus chef Stephan Zois
Next was our unknown destination for the main course. We pulled through the gates of Singapore’s magnificent National Museum and to the doors of NoVus Restaurant and Bar, where European cuisine is honed to a modern edge (93 Stamford Road in the National Museum). Tempting as it was, I by-passed the smoked duck confit with potato gratin and wild mushrooms, and the celeriac of wild mushroom and cannelloni fondant, opting instead for Berkshire pork belly. It rested luxuriously on a fluffy bed of saffron risotto, perfectly ocher in color and with a perfect balance of texture and wetness. The pork was moist and rich and melted luxuriously in my mouth with almost no chew. Accompanying it was a careful mélange of tiny seasonal veg and a kerchief of Joselito ham adding depth with its subtle saltiness. And as if reading my mind, Chef Stephan Zoisl rested a wafer of pork crackling atop the masterpiece to add that porky crunch that I so deeply craved. Culina’s recommended 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by Ruffino Lodola Nuova was a perfect partner.

We ended the evening overlooking Marina Bay and the spectacular downtown skyline from Prelude rooftop bar at the Boathouse (Waterboat House, 3 Fullerton Rd.). A savarin of  caramelized apples with vanilla ice cream, accompanied by Ruffino Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti 2006, made for a sweet close to a sweet night of dining discovery.

I asked Wentink if she had experienced any disappointments with restaurants participating in prior Restaurant Weeks. ““Diners in Singapore know the difference between good food and a scam so the restaurants roll out the red carpet for them,” she replied. “But there was one place that skimped on the discounted menu in our first Restaurant Week. They quickly realized their mistake and begged us to be included in the next one, at which time they blew everybody away!”

Singapore Restaurant Week will run from 9 to 16 October 2011 with nearly 100 participating eateries. Bookings can be made online from 21 September 2011 at www.restaurantweek.sg. In the meantime, click over to DiningCity.com to get a head start on some of the great restaurants you've never been to.