Believe it or not, there are perils to working as a restaurant reviewer. You encounter meals that leave a lot to be desired and, of course, there’s the inevitable weight gain. While we need to pack extra time in the gym, the upside is a veritable treasure chest of food memories from some of the best restaurants in the city.
Though all of the establishments in the new edition of Singapore’s Best Restaurants made the cut in terms of quality, there were a few that made a lasting impression to our reviewers. Here are the highlights.
One-Ninety Wood-fired Steaks & Seafood
Back when I was a hospitality management student in Temasek Polytechnic, an internship placement at the Four Seasons Hotel was the Holy Grail—seniors and lecturers all raved about how their excellent training programme birthed the most amazing service staff. Fifteen years later, I finally understood what they meant.
I dined with my husband at One-Ninety and we were both blown away by our waiter Tim, who took such great care of us. From giving us a sample portion of a bread dish we wanted to try to getting me warm water for my scratchy throat, Tim was the epitome of the perfect waiter—he was sincere, anticipated our needs, and was personable without being obtrusive. It showed me the heights hospitality professionals can soar to when they are empowered and passionate.
One-Ninety Wood-fired Steaks & Seafood |Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Blvd, S(248646) | 6831 7671
Crystal Jade Prestige
The Crystal Jade Group is well known for their signatures but Crystal Jade Prestige, one of their fine dining restaurants, has delighted me with something other than their delicious food.
From the moment we entered the restaurant, we were treated like special guests. The staff members helped make each diner feel at home, and more impressively, they were able to sense when guests need help, jumping right in before a request was made.
One of my guests, an elderly lady with arthritic fingers, had a little problem with a piece of beautifully roasted duck. Before any of us could help, one of the waitresses hurried over and cut up the pieces for her. All of this was done with the most welcoming of smiles. My elderly guests couldn’t stop talking about the service (accorded to them throughout dinner) all the way home!
Crystal Jade Prestige | 8A Marina Boulevard, Marina Bay Financial Centre, 02-01, 018984 | 6509 9493
I was lucky enough to try Odette for the first time last year, and everything about my experience was superb. The staff greeted us like friends they haven’t seen in years; I wouldn’t have been surprised if they gave us a hug. They led us to booth seats right in the centre with a perfect view of chef Julien Royer and his team working their magic in the kitchen.
Out of the eight-course menu, the smoked pigeon and the landes foie gras—two of his signatures—were served with much fanfare and really delivered in terms of flavour. The wines were also carefully hand-picked for each course and truly enhanced the overall experience.
Odette | 1 Saint Andrew's Road, #1-04, National Gallery, National Gallery S(178957) | 6385 0498
One of the best dining experiences I had last year was rediscovering the splendid Cherry Garden at the Mandarin Oriental. Still wonderfully plush and refined, my dining companion and I thoroughly enjoyed the sumptuous Cantonese cuisine there. But it was the stellar service that really won us over.
Servers were so gracious and well informed. In particular, the Thai waitress named Joy was an absolute gem. Warm, engaging and fluent in Mandarin as well, she was adept at handling crowded tables while making good conversation and some really spot-on menu recommendations. We'll be back!
Cherry Garden | Mandarin Oriental, 5 Raffles Ave, S(039797) | 6885 3500
Even though open kitchens are all the rage, few chefs pull it off with as much aplomb as chef Dave Pynt. I entered Burnt Ends as an anonymous diner but with the friendly service and chef’s engaging demeanor made me feel at home (or perhaps, in a friend’s stylish man cave).
For our main dish, chef Pynt personally presented us a gorgeous cut of mayura beef to inspect, which he then served later as a perfectly cooked steak. I’m not a big carnivore but I could’ve finished the entire portion—he just has this way of making high quality ingredients shine with simple yet amazing cooking.
He also spiced up the meal with wonderful conversation. We spent a good 10 minutes talking about food and discovering that we had friends in common (like talented chef Nathan Green of Rhoda in Hong Kong). Even though he’s a certified celebrity chef, I really admire how hands on he still is.
Burnt Ends | 20 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore 088391 | 6224 3933
Sabai Fine Thai On The Bay
When doing these reviews, we make sure not to reveal our identities until the end of the meal. So imagine my surprise when after dining at this Asian restaurant, the manager said that he suspected we were Singapore Tatler reviewers the moment we walked in.
I’ve always wondered what gave us away. Perhaps it was our detailed perusal of the menu or the copies of the Best Restaurants guide that were displayed on the lounge area. Nevertheless, it was a memorable dining experience from the food down to the service.
Sabai Fine Thai On The Bay | 70 Collyer Quay, 01-02 Customs House, Super Loco Customs House, 049323 | 6535 3718
Dolce Vita and Clifford Pier
I vividly remember the exceptional dinner I had at Dolce Vita in Mandarin Oriental. The ambience was stunning, service was exceptional and the food was delicious. A standout for me was the te'nero e ciliega, an earl grey ivory chocolate mousse accompanied by a tart cherry morello sorbet; it was absolutely divine and encapsulated the amazing dining experience.
Another experience worth sharing is at Clifford Pier, known for its beautiful ambience and delectable spread of local cuisine. I went there with high expectations and was blown away by the soup kambing, kong bak pao and fried carrot cake. The dishes were enhanced in terms of flavour and ingredients, yet retained the balance which made these a local delicacy.
After an exceptionally good lunch at Syun at Resorts World Sentosa, I casually enquired whether decaffeinated cappuccino was available. A few minutes later, I realised how unorthodox my request was in such restaurant.
After some time, the waiter appeared with my request fulfilled, and apologised for the slight delay. Only upon announcing the purpose of my visit to the restaurant did the waiter mention that decaffeinated coffee was not available at the restaurant, so he went to two neighbouring restaurants to find the desired beverage. He definitely went the extra mile for his diner!
Syun | 26 Sentosa Gateway, Festive Walk, 02-135 & 135A, Resorts World Sentosa, S(098138) | 6577 6688