It’s no secret that my wife and I are big fans of Chef Willin Low and the Modern Singaporean food he’s been pioneering for the past 9 years through his restaurant Wild Rocket. Fans of Willin’s, including us, were rather distraught last year when he announced he was closing down this flagship eatery in search of a new location. After a few months of looking around, however, he decided that his original location on Mount Emily Hill was better than anything he’d seen. And so, instead of moving, he renovated the old space, re-opening with a brand new look last week, and with the very notable addition of a dining bar, at which Willin has begun to serve a new 8 course degustation menu.
Singapore’s hardest working chef, Ryan Clift, has moved his ultra-chic bar-cum-fine-diner into 3 shophouses in the heart of Chinatown. With the move, he has also reprogrammed his offers. While the old space offered 42 seats around a “C” shaped counter, the new Tippling Club has separated the drinking area from the dining. The bar, located at the restaurant’s entrance, seats 32 people while the dining room seats just 22. Gone also is the all-counter seat dining configuration for diners. You now have a choice to sit at proper tables or at one of eight bar seats that face the pass (i.e. the area from which food is inspected before being sent out into the dining room) and the main kitchen.
The one and only time I tried checking out Michelin-starred dim sum specialist Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong was a complete bust. My wife and I had tried stopping by the original Mongkok branch for an early breakfast before a full day of appointments. Unfortunately, the line was simply too long and after a little more than 30 minutes, we had to hightail it back to Central, sans dim sum.
Singapore is currently enjoying quite the culinary renaissance. It feels like there are new restaurants and cafes opening weekly. And to be honest, I can’t even keep up with all these new places. Unfortunately, judging from my dining-out experiences over the past year, far too many newbies prize style over substance, i.e. while many of these new eateries look great and attract a growing pride of local hipsters, the reality is that their food is often both mediocre and very expensive. One restaurant that opened this past year, however, whose culinary program has continued to impress me is Bacchanalia, located (oddly enough) in the city’s Masonic Hall.
One of the restaurants that people keep asking me if I’ve tried is Jamie’s Italian. Ever since Jamie Oliver opened his eponymous casual Italian eatery here in Singapore, there’s been an almost non-stop buzz surrounding it. The fact that most customers have to wait in line (for often over an hour) — only a tiny fraction of tables are available for reservations (online) and I’ve been told that the next available table is in 3 months — has obviously helped to build the hype. Well, last week (and thanks to a buddy who was able to score me a table), my wife S and I, plus two friends, were finally able to try this much-talked about restaurant.