S and I are admittedly a little boring. When going out for a meal, we tend to prefer dining in familiar favourites than checking out new places. There’s a lot less risk. There’s nothing worse than shelling out hard-earned cash on an awful or disappointing experience. It’s so much easier to simply return to places where you know you’ll get good food and good service. It’s also a sad truth that for every new, great restaurant there are another half dozen out there that just don’t cut it.
That said, we do try to dine somewhere new every couple of weeks. Sometimes, we go to places because friends have recommended them highly. A few times, we’ll simply chance upon an interesting place. Some other times, we’ll check a place out because we know someone there — a manager or a chef, for example. And then there is occasionally a restaurant that, because of the buzz around it, is a must-try. Since I started this blog, S and I agreed on a simple rule. If a place doesn’t pan out, we don’t write about it. We only write about a place if we like it or we think it has potential.
Here’s a short list of four restaurants that S and I have recently discovered. Most are new; one is slightly older than the others. All are interesting places worth watching and trying.
Garuda Padang Cuisine
It’s always exciting to see what Tung Lok founder Andrew Tjioe has up his sleeve. When I heard that he was opening a nasi padang restaurant (and the group’s first halal restaurant), I was both curious and excited. Garuda Padang Cuisine, located in Cairnhill Place, is actually a franchise of a successful nasi padang restaurant that was started in Medan in the mid-1970s. For those unfamiliar with this kind of cuisine, it’s essentially rice served with a large variety of cooked foods, ranging from rendangs to curries. I dined at Garuda last week with my wife S and two friends. While it may be a little spartan, I like the all white and grey interiors of the large restaurant. I also enjoyed the food. Everything we ate was good. S and I liked that nothing was too spicy, which meant that we could really taste and appreciate the flavours in the various dishes we tried. And we tried a lot of things. Because the portions here are tiny, we ended up having to order a ton of food. Dinner worked out to roughly $34 a person–not exactly a steal, if you’re accustomed to the prices you pay for nasi padang served at a coffeeshop, but it’s pretty good value given that you’re dining in a restaurant. I liked the ambience (especially that it was air-conditioned) and the food was good. S and I will definitely be coming back and we hope that you too will give it a try.
Garuda Padang Cuisine
Cairnhill Place #02-01 (Ground Level), 15 Cairnhill Road, Tel: 6735-4111
Garuda has opened a newer, smaller branch in Vivocity already:
Vivocity #B2-28, 1 Harborfront Walk, Tel: 6376-9595
S and I had been told that Borgo was worth a visit by many friends. This tiny, homey Italian restaurant, nestled into a crowded little stretch of Bukit Timah Road, opened in the middle of last year. It’s almost embarrassing that it took us 6 months to try Borgo, but we’re really happy we finally did. Borgo is small and when it’s crowded, it can get a little ridiculously noisy. But the food is good. I’d even say it’s better than good. It’s not fancy fare though. Which is not a bad thing. The food here is simple, hearty and very tasty. I especially like the char-grilled homemade sausages. Amusingly, S prefered the chicken sausage while I preferred the pork one, which made it a cinch to share. I also like the cheese ravioli with “a light cheese sauce”. These were deliciously savory and filling. I’ll admit that S and I have only tasted a small range of Borgo’s menu. We’re looking forward to trying more dishes in the coming months. After all, I have a lot of eating to catch up on.
789 Bukit Timah Road, Tel: 6466-7762
Easily one of the prettiest new restaurants in town, Novus also has one of the best locations imaginable. Novus sits off the main rotunda of the newly renovated National Museum. The long, narrow room is divided in half. On one side is a sleek bar; on the other, on a slightly raised platform, is the bright, airy, and refined dining room. The food at Novus is elegant and contemporary. Aussie Executive Chef Dan Masters, German Executive Sous Chef Phillip Meisel, and their team are obviously highly competent at turning out beautifully plated and delicious European dishes. I really like the seared scallops with braised pork belly and chestnut puree. The pork was cooked to meltingly-soft perfection. The duck rillette is also very well-made. Another great dish — albeit a pricey one — is the slipper lobster served with slow-roasted veal. When I had this, the veal was prepared beautifully. Also good is the crispy-skinned seabass served with a little pasta, a saffron sauce and some rouille. I was impressed that the fish was tender, i.e. not the least bit overcooked. Also on the menu are three cuts of wagyu. I haven’t tried them yet, mostly because they’re priced rather high. (I am of course hoping I can sucker a friend into buying me lunch there sometime soon so I can order some.) Novus is a good place for a chic meal. It’s the kind of city restaurant that most cosmopolitan cities have several of, and which Singapore needs more of. It’s a good addition to our dining scene and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops over the coming months.
National Museum #01-02, 93 Stamford Road, Tel: 6336 8770
S and I are huge fans of Brasserie Wolf. So are several friends of ours. Sadly, it seems there aren’t enough of us (fans, that is). Whenever we eat at this traditional French bistro, we’re just one of a small handful of filled tables. In all the times we’ve been there, the restaurant has never been more than half-full. Which is a real shame. Chef Philippe Nouzillat delivers really good, authentic bistro fare. His French onion soup is easily the best I’ve had in town. And I love his confit of duck and his steak with fries and homemade Bearnaise sauce. The decor, unfortunately, is a tad cheesy and theme parkish, you know, more Disney than Paris. But the food is very, very good. And it deserves your support.
The Pier, #01-13, 80 Mohamed Sultan Road, Tel: 6835-7818