I will admit, the decision to go to Singapore wasn’t exactly mine, but I will spare you the details and just say that I had a pretty good time there. In fact, considering the flight fares and flight time to travel (seemed to have lessened to only 3 hours from original 4 hours!), it’s definitely worthy of a consideration of a destination to go to during long weekends. And I say this because my short time there definitely gave me a better impression of Singapore. You can read about my latest Singapore post on the Celebrating Singapore’s 50th Anniversary.
Anyway, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit not just the recently voted as best restaurant in Asia Odette, but during the same day I also managed to visit the #2 best bar in Asia, Manhattan bar as well! Let’s get into it and start with Accommodation.
Grand Hyatt Singapore (website)
A spacious, classic hotel situated near one of Singapore’s busiest roads, the Orchard Road, Grand Hyatt Singapore maintains its reputation as a hotel for business professionals coming to visit. The hotel has a swimming pool, spa, and different dining options. The most notable one is definitely the BBQ grill next to the pool, because every time I went swimming, the smell of grilled food would reach up to my nostrils, and it made me want to get out of the swimming pool and start hunting for food asap!
The service was alright, nothing exceptional but definitely better than average. The staff were courteous and proactive. Whenever they made the room, they would clean the bed, put your spread out clothes into a neat pile, and will write you a note to thank you for staying and also to wish you to have a good weekend. I think for most people this sounds like exceptional service already, but I can be picky.
I am most impressed by the spacious hotel rooms (I think above 40m^2) and I love marble, so the use of marble in the bathroom made it more elegant.
Food and Restaurants
This is what probably all of you wanted to see, the photos of Odette!
Odette was recently crowned as the #1 restaurant in Asia by The World’s Best 50th Restaurant, so I definitely have to go and try la! I managed to only secure a lunch reservation on a weekday (Friday) about one month prior to my actual date of dining there. During this time, I had to make a few adjustments and sent them emails even when they were closed for a few days, but despite this they were able to email me back within 24 hours. Please note – there is a hefty cancellation fee if you and none of your party members show up.
For this section, I will go through the dishes and provide a final verdict at the end. The price per person for a 6 course lunch was SGD 268.35 per person, which is about USD 194, which to be honest for a #1 restaurant I thought it was reasonable, and considering the amount of food you get. This does not include a glass of champagne, which they will recommend at the beginning. I was taken care of by Zachary Tseng, head waiter with years of experience in hospitality who was originally from Taiwan, believe it was one year already at Odette during this time of writing.
The interior. As you can see, its design is clean and simple, allowing the presentation of the food to stand out more. The matching colors of the uniforms and the furniture should be of no coincidence, indicating the meticulousness of the design of the area. Most staff were just wearing gray pants and white shirts but I believe the head staff, like Zack who was the head waiter and a guy whom I believe is the manager, wore a gray suit as well. Just like the table above, all the chairs and sofas were placed curved side by side rather than across, which imitated the French culture of chair arrangements for open spaces outside French restaurants. I particularly like and agree with this method, because it’s been proven and I can attest that sitting side to side with someone actually increases intimacy and comfort, and sometimes sitting across from someone may appear confrontational because there is a barrier and distance between you.
The kitchen. Zack told me that the kitchen was recently renovated in May to give more area for the kitchen staff to work on. It used to have a wall but they took it away and they also made a place where the chefs can arrange to do more cold dishes. Also, the golden frames used on the glass doors lends the feeling that it feels like the other side of the glass is heaven, where your food is being prepared. The staff are constantly working and just like any good fine dining restaurants, communication is on point and everyone is at their stations doing their role. Staff were also wearing dark navy blue aprons.
The bar. Worthy of note – the temperature of the restaurant is perfect, with a very light cool breeze as if a feather gently touched you and created a light wind. The lighting of the area was comfortable and well lit and areas that were meant to be punctuated did so with lighting effects, as seen from the picture above. The music level was also very comfortable where it definitely would not overbear any soft conversations but was still hearable.
There were 5 champagnes to choose from, from fruity to dry to their own special. The one I got was Champagne Pommery, cuvee Louise, 2004. Worthy of note – Zack was consistent in making small talks and conversations and was a pleasure to talk with, asking questions and also explaining about the restaurant. Canapes : Pea tartelette with cumin yoghurt / Gougere with comte cheese cream / Botan Ebi taco with avocado and coriander. All the canapes were quite subtle in taste.
Right to left of the breads: Black truffle, sourdough, black olive. My favorite was the black truffle, the sourdough and black olive did not stand out and tasted quite ordinary, much like the bread in Paris actually.
Marukyo uni : Bafun uni with spot prawn tartare, mussel cloud, caviar. This part of the uni was smooth. With this, at the bottom you can taste the prawns. Also, you can feel more of each “bite” in this one.
Heirloom Beetroot Variation – salt-baked beetroot, stracciatella ‘artigiana’, and honey and some cheese. You work your dish starting from the right, the beets flavored ice cream. In terms of presentation, this will probably be #1 amongst the dishes, with purposefully selected colors and keeping one side of the dish clean and empty, embodying the design of the restaurant. The dish is quite innovative as well without taking too much of a risk, and there were small cleanses between each “beet” you try. Interesting and thoughtful? Yes. Beyond exceptional? No.
Rosemary Smoked Organic Egg – with smoked potato syphon, chorizo iberico, meunière. The waiter will place the egg for you. You are supposed to break the yolk, but very very gently stir a bit, do not mix it. Temperature of the food was good. At the first bite, the chorizo came off a little too strong and too salty. Subsequent bites were much better, with a mix of foamy and egg yolky texture so it tastes a bit liquid, “sort” of like soup.
Blue Cod A L’unilateral – Squid ‘ a la plancha’, Iranian saffron, Rutabaga. You know how there are some people that seem like a nice, light, and gentle person, a very subtle person, but sometimes he or she would just surprise you in a gentle and pleasant manner that makes you feel delightful? This is what the dish is like. The cod is the person, and the seafood on top is the light surprises you get with it.
I was thinking… wait this is the pigeon? The whole thing that I’d have to eat? Fortunately that is not the case. The waiter presented this as a preview of what I was about to be served, the Kampot pepper crusted pigeon. Prior to the start of the meal, Zack asked if medium rare was OK, which is the chef’s recommendation. Please note – these pigeons are actually imported from France. Also, this is Chef Julien Royer’s signature dish.
Kampot pepper crusted pigeon – pigeon breast portion, decorated with cherries and almond. The pigeon, particularly this portion, is probably my favorite dish amongst all the dishes. AND, I don’t even like pigeon usually, but this one stands out because it tasted sort of like steak with fatty meat with hints of “pigeon” and not “gamey”. This dish was also more flavorful and exciting, and it was gently salted. The appearance of the sauce to look like wings?? I don’t know. Cherry almond pigeon mixture goes absolutely fantastic.
The other part of the pigeon, the pigeon leg. That portion that looks like shit is liver parfait. See that little message wrapped at the end? You are probably thinking what that is. That is a message from the chef. Thinking about it, it’s actually a cool concept, because in most story tales, pigeons would help deliver messages to other people. What does the message say? Well that’s a secret. What I will tell you is the leg was crispy, gently salted, and again exciting.
Pre dessert : Kyoho grape granita, Delaware grape, verjus sorbet, verbena espuma, opaline. One of my favorite dishes. Love the variation in appearances, on top looked like a snowflake and at the bottom it looked like pinkish sand, and every bite felt refreshing and heavenly, a combination that intrigued the tongue like no other in terms of taste and temperature contrasts.
And to wrap it up, some douceurs. Top left – honeydew melon, but not one of the best ones I’ve tasted. In fact, the rest of the douceurs did not give a concluding and convincing statement to finish my meal. You know how after a good run you sort of half ass the remaining the last 10% instead of really giving it all you got? It sort of felt that way.
Final verdict: The ULTIMATE question – does it deserve its #1 spot in Asia!? To be honest, no. Now I must provide a disclaimer that I tend to have an affinity for stronger and more piquant cuisines, so you can see when I write about Barcelona restaurants how I love them. This being a contemporary French with Asian influences, I find French cuisine to be more delicate and gentle, as if reflecting the stereotypes of Paris, a soft romantic city.
That said, I’ve taken into account my own biases (just like how I’ve taken into account about my non-preference for pigeons but still rate it as the #1 dish for the course) and I just do not think it deserves its #1 spot. Besides my top two dishes, none of the dishes leave me wanting more.
Imagine if Odette was a person you were on a date with; absolutely attractive, paid attention to details about you, well mannered, and moved and spoke elegantly and with a gentle voice; an exemplary person. At the end of the date you felt you had a really good time, but that person doesn’t leave you wanting more. It lacks a certain aspect of excitement, spark, and edginess. That’s Odette.
Notable aspects of the services – I have an absolute pet peeve when waiters do not fill up my water cups in a timely manner!! I hate it I hate it cause I drink a lot of water. Luckily, Odette has perfected this where my water cup has miraculously been refilled a couple of times. All the waiters will gently smile and hold eye contact whenever they make conversation with you.
In terms of the timing of the serving of the dishes, they were quick but not in a hasty way. It felt like you were doing freestyle swimming strokes casually, where you had sufficient time to breathe before moving onto the next stroke. That was how the lunch felt like – you had a short but sufficient time for a “break” before the next course came.
Worthy of two Michelin stars? Absolutely. #1 spot in Asia? Nope. An alternative of a similar cuisine, albeit not in Asia but in France, is a restaurant, Hotel Restaurant Yoann Conte in Annecy, France. I wrote about it in Geneva Breaks My Wallet and I have been nostalgic about this place ever since and has been a template for me of what excellent fine dining should be.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast (website)
Ya Kun actually has branches everywhere, but the one I went to is on ION Orchard. The eggs with pepper and soy sauce were so good!
Leong Kee Bak Kut Teh
One of the few places in Singapore that offer Bak Kut Teh in Klang style, this restaurant is situated in Geylang Road.
Jew Kit (website)
From their website, “JEW KIT was founded by Mr Teo Jew Kit which origin from Authentic Hainanese, he started a small stall to serve Hainanese Chicken Rice in 1992. Jew Kit Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of the Singapore renowned Hainanese a Chicken Rice stall for more than 2 decades. Early Hainanese settlers worked in kitchens, acquiring a wealth of knowledge and experience they infuse into their cuisine. One of these dishes – the humble steamed chicken, was a staple during the Lunar New Year. The Chinese word for chicken, pronounced ‘ji’, is a homophone for prosperity, and that is exactly what makes it such a welcome dish at reunion dinners.”
Old Airport Road Food Centre
I was recommended to go to this by an acquaintance of mine, and having to travelled so far, I realised, for some reason… everything was closed!! So sorry no food pics here, but just in case you want to see what it looks like and also see me getting lost.
Newton Food Centre at Newton Circus
This! I remember my cousin in law brought me here for some amazingggg and cheap spicy noodles. I didn’t get a chance to eat late night food this time, but I took some pictures of it to remember and to show you what it looks like.
I’m not exactly sure whether this area is called Cuppage Terrace, but I passed by this area where it seemed to have a lot of restaurants so I took a quick picture of it.
I think for the following pictures and stalls, they were situated in Cavenagh Road which is perpendicular to Orchard Road.
Curry Times @ Changi Airport T3
Prior to leaving Singapore, I had to have my nasi lemak! I ordered the dry chicken nasi lemak in this place, quite good!
Nightlife – Bars and Nightclubs
The bars in Singapore reminded me of the bars in Hong Kong – plentiful, upscale, and an atmosphere of intimacy and intrigue. One notable difference is that Singapore’s bars tend to occupy larger spaces, probably because Hong Kong’s rent is just ridiculous at the moment. Here are some of the few I went to…
Alley Bar Singapore (website)
A cool bar on Emerald Hill Road, the bar design looked like an upscale alleyway, and the use of a slanted giant mirror at the back gave me the impression that the space was enormous.
The classic Old Fashioned, made with bulleit bourbon, sugar, and angostura bitter. One thing disappointing – a part of a piece of hair was stuck in one of the ice cubes 🙁 Surprised I even got a second drink.
One of the barmade cocktails – Salted Caramel Popcorn, made with popcorn-infused sailor jerry, salted caramel, and barmade orange bitters. For those who enjoy a sweet and salty, fragrant, toasted drink. The description from their menu, “In the 1980s, the cineplexes brought a culture of American snacks centred on the shiny popcorn machine. The dominating landscape of American movies lent a smooth transition to the popcorn as choice snack, and the kacang putih carts that sold nuts and other crunchy flour snacks slowly faded away.”
Manhattan Bar (website)
Manhattan Bar has long been the #1 bar in Asia, according to Asia’s 50 Best Bars, until recently it was unseated by The Old Man in Hong Kong. Now it currently sits at #2. Located in Regent Hotel, its entrance of luxury and blur already entices you to want to find out more. Usually on weekends you can expect a 15-20 minute wait outside the door, but I managed to instantly get in due to a quieter Friday.
Also, how I found out about this bar was that my waiter Zachary from Odette told me that this was his favorite bar, and after doing some research and seeing that it was the top bar in Singapore, I decided I had to come here.
From their website, “Inspired by the Golden Age of cocktails and fine drinking, Manhattan is reminiscent of a grand hotel bar, modern yet with a touch of old New York glamour and sophistication. Choose your tipple from artisanal spirits, and classic and forgotten cocktails, meticulously crafted from the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse and a remarkable collection of house-made ingredients, accompanied by gourmet bar bites.”
This drink I got was the Bonfire from the New Amsterdam era. The uniqueness of this drink is that it uses smoked ham as part of its flavors. Sometimes this weirdness may come off too much, but actually this smoked ham was punctuated just enough to make it enjoyable, but at the same time the rest of the drink was strong enough to mask the taste of the smoked ham so that its “saltiness” doesn’t overwhelm and ruin the drink.
The host going through how some of their whiskey was made. Apparently the whisky barrels, they will take say 20% of each of the first row every week and put it into the second layers of barrel, then do the same for the second layer and get 20% from each barrel in that row and put it on the third row and so forth to create a nice consistent blended mixture. The barrels are smaller so that the whisky has more contact with the barrels unlike larger barrels. He also mentioned that there’s a misconception that ageing longer is good, because some ageing process might occur faster if the temperature of where the city is stored is hotter, and if it’s stored in smaller barrels like these then the contact with the barrel will be more as well. That’s why in Scotland the ageing process is long as the temperature there is consistently colder and they use larger barrels.
The two staff that took care of me were Roland Dimaano and Arrianne Viarus. The one who guided me the rooms was Roland.
The Other Room (website)
Located in the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, I found out about this bar through Roland, who I mentioned I met at the Manhattan Bar. The Other Room is supposed to be a “speakeasy”, hidden within the walls of the hotel. A little bit more difficult to have a conversation compared with Manhattan due to its size, but nonetheless, a good place to have fun.
15 Stamford by Alvin Leung (Facebook)
Situated in the The Capitol Kempinski Hotel, 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung is primarily a restaurant, but I stumbled upon its bar first. They had some guest bartenders that night and had a special menu, I did not like what I saw, and opted to get their ordinary menu instead. Their ordinary menu was pretty cool because it was designed to be sort of those treasure map scrolls, and the leather on the scroll felt bona fide.
Worthy of note – Alvin Leung came to fame by becoming the “demon chef” in his restaurant Bo Innovation, earning him 3 Michelin stars in that restaurant.
Smoke & Mirrors Singapore (website)
How silly I was, to think that I had never been to this bar before.
Another recommendation by one of my acquaintances, this bar sounded like a cool place, considering the reviews. Situated at the National Gallery (yes same place as Odette), I decided to go check it out.
Upon arrival, the place felt eerily familiar… the host led me the way to these chairs that are separated really far apart. Wait a minute, I’ve been here before! I hated how these chairs were positioned before too! Like how are we supposed to be talking with the other person, screaming? Yes yes I remember now, yeah I don’t like the chairs that are against the wall.
Anyhow, there was a field right in front of the area before, but now it’s demolished and being turned in something else. But other than that, you can still see the Marina Bay Sands and the areas around it, which makes up for it.
Marquee Singapore (website)
One of the most hyped new nightclubs happening in Singapore, this again was introduced by my acquaintance. We went right after going to Smoke n Mirrors.
Marquee Singapore is located in Marina Bay Sands. Most of the partying starts after 12am. Supposedly there is a slide (which I couldn’t find) and also a ferris wheel, The Big Q, in the nightclub. Yeah, a ferris wheel.
Other bars / nightclubs: Atlas, Native, Operation Dagger (hot n cold)
Other Things to Do
Briskly passed by this area, took some pics.
School of the Arts, Singapore
Jewel at Changi Airport
So, want to come to Singapore!?
Last updated: Aug. 26, 2019