I've always said that if I were to move overseas for a few years, my destination of choice would be Singapore. Offering the best of both worlds - sophisticated modern day luxuries right beside an exotic street food culture. What's there not to love?!
Marina Bay Sands, a US$5.7 billion development, recently flew a group of food bloggers from Australia (Helen, Lizzie, Matt & I), Malaysia and Indonesia over to showcase their "Asia's Destination Dining" concept. Since opening in April 2010, Marina Bay Sands boasts some of the best names in dining, shopping, and entertainment.
While our itinerary was jam packed with delights such as a masterclass at Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin, and dinner at Daniel Boulud's restaurant db Bisto Moderne, you'll be pleased to see that I managed to visit quite a few hawker centres in the last 24 hours of this trip! Get ready to scroll because this blog post is a loooooooong one!
P.S. Sorry about my unexpected absence from the blog in the last month. This is why.
Although Singapore is just an eight hour flight away from Sydney, the journey can feel rather long if you're surrounded by crying babies. I was starving by the time I landed so the first thing Helen and I did after checking-in to our rooms at Marina Bay Sands, was hit up a hawker food market! One of the perks with travelling with fellow food bloggers is knowing that they'll always have an appetite. While we initially had planned to go to Newton Food Centre, the concierge advised us that Lau Pa Sat would be a better option as it was less touristy.
Stalls 55/56/57, Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore
Opens 4pm - 4am daily
We circled around this gourmet paradise to explore our options. By 10/11pm, most of the stalls inside had closed but the outside was abuzz. There was an appetising smokey haze from the satay carts, however, my eyes were instantly drawn to Ming Yen BBQ & Seafood's menu. We had the crispy cereal prawns (SG$28), a small serve of the Singapore mee hoon (SG$4), a medium serve of the BBQ sting ray pari bakar (SG$15) and the bitter gourd with salted egg (SG$15).
The highlight for me were the crunch of the cereal prawns and fried curry leaves and the rich flavours of the bitter gourd with salted egg. Must everything fried with salted egg yolk taste so good?
We smashed this meal - check out the photo of our empty plates below :)
10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore
Phone: +65 6688 8868
By night, I crashed into the comfort of my hotel room at Marina Bay Sands.
The Marina Bay Sands hotel has three 55-story towers with 2561 luxury rooms and suites. The three towers are capped by the Sands SkyPark, an architectural masterpiece which offers 360-degree views of Singapore's skyline and features an infinity edged swimming pool. More on that later!
Marina Bay Sands is all things extravagant so I guess it's only natural that it is also home to over 800000 square feet of retail and dining space!
You know a shopping centre is big if it has it's own gondola ride within the complex ;)
That's the gym in the pic below. Needless to say, when tossing up between the gym and shopping/eating, I chose the latter.
Now, the infinity pool is what makes a stay at Marina Bay Sands worthwhile.
Set above 55 storeys, this 150 metre pool is the world's largest outdoor pool at this height. It may look almightly dangerous to swim right to the edge but the water actually spills into a catchment area, so no, you cannot accidentally fall off the edge of the pool!
Though with that said, the infinity edged pool does make a great photo opportunity. It was hilarious watching people jump into the pool with one arm in the air, clutching onto their cameras. Of course, I did exactly the same thing.
Level 2, Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevarde, Singapore
Opens 10am - 10pm daily
The next morning, I ducked out for a traditional Singaporean-style breakfast with one of my The Bamboo Garden clients. Killiney Kopitiam started as a humble Hainanese kopitam (coffee shop) in 1919. The brand has grown significantly in the last decade with franchises popping up around Singapore and overseas.
We have their signature French toast, soft boiled eggs, and the classic kaya and butter toast. All washed down with a cup of tea with condensed milk!
There's something really comforting about a breakfast like this - yum!
For my first taste at Marina Bay Sands, it's an all-you-can-eat session at Todai. There are so many stations here that a map has been conveniently printed on our placemats.
#B2-01 The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore
Opens Mon-Fri 11:30am - 3pm and 5:30pm - 10pm; Sat 11:30am - 3pm and 5pm - 10:30pm; and Sunday all day 11:30am - 10pm
Everything is a little bit fancy and there's a specialty at every corner. There's a station preparing fresh pizza dough, another makes exquisite sushi creations that disappear in an instant, and at the grill station, the beef short ribs warranted a queue!
The variety of seafood isn't as abundant as some of the other seafood buffets I've been to around Sydney and abroad, but I managed to eat three plates nonetheless.
Transported to chef Tetsuya's sanctuary at Waku Ghin, bartenders Kazuhiro Chii and Akihiro Eguchi demonstrate the art of hand carving iceballs and ice diamonds.
L2-02, Atrium, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6688 8507
Dinner available daily, two seatings: 6pm and 8:30pm. Reservations necessary.
Bar opens daily from 6pm until late. No reservations are required.
Eguchi explains, "The general rule with ice is that the less surface area it has, the slower it will melt and dilute the drink it is in. That is why the single iceball works well to preserve a drink of fine whiskey."
There are also bar nibbles to complement the refined 'Tetsuya'
experience. We're spoilt with caviar, oysters, prawns, confit duck and a
cheese platter! Unlike the restaurant which is booked out many months in advance, the bar does not require reservations, so I highly recommend checking it out!
CUT Restaurant of the same name in Beverly Hills is widely acknowledged as one of the most popular restaurants in the United States. And that's the beauty of a destination like Marina Bay Sands - they've plucked all the best things from around the world and have made it possible to experience it all, under the one roof.
B1-71, Galleria Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands
Phone: +65 6688 8517
Open: Sun - Thurs 6pm - 10pm; Fri & Sat 6pm - 11pm
Bar opens : Mon - Sun 5:30pm - 12am
CUT at Marina Bay Sands consists of a sleek bar and lounge area for 24 guests and a dining area that seats 114. The bar menu is effortlessly amazing.
How cute are these tuna tartare sandwiches with wasabi, Japanese cucumber and Togarashii toast?
Equally fabulous is their cocktail menu - particularly the Dragon's Fire, a concoction of Don Julio Anejo tequila, Contreau, jalapeño and ruby red grapefruti; and their most popular, Crouching Tiger, consisting of jasmine flower green tea infused vodka and lemon juice.
Other bites included mini Kobe sliders and mini prime steak sandwiches with mushrooms, pickled green chillies and aged gouda.
Sunset takes us up to Sky on 57 where we are joined by Justin Quek, the man himself! Sky on 57 is local celebrity chef Justin's creation - a modern take on traditional Asian and local cuisine using premium ingredients and refined French culinary techniques.
Sands SkyPark, Tower 1, Level 57, Marina Bay Sands
Phone: +65 6688 8857
Opens for breakfast Mon to Fri 7am - 10:30am; Sat & Sun 7am - 11am
Opens for lunch daily, 12pm - 2:30pm
Opens for dinner daily: 6pm - 10:30pm
Bar opens Sun to Thu 11am - 11:45pm; Fri & Sat 11am - 12 midnight
The outdoor terrace offers spectacular ocean and city views, going hand in hand with cocktails and snacks such as Singaporen chilli prawns, pork in chilli salt and truffled truffles.
OMG, these white chocolate truffles were sensational with the heady savoury aroma of truffles. Truffled truffles are the best type of chocolate truffles ever.
Another celebrity chef to have opened up a restaurant at Marina Bay Sands is chef Daniel Boulud, best known for Daniel, his Michelin 3-star restaurant in New York City. Everything about db Bistro Moderne is seductively French, even down to the accent of most staff.
B1-48, Galleria Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6688 8525
Open for lunch: Mon to Fri 12 noon - 5pm
Open for weekend brunch: Sat & Sun 11am - 5pm
Opens dinner: Sun & Mon 5:30pm - 10pm and Tues - Sat 5:30pm - 11pm
The menu is rather affordable with three courses during their Mondays in Provence priced at SG$68. However, as a media guest, we got to indulge in the chef's enthusiasm to send us one of almost everything!
The original db burger was a magnificent sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs and foie gras served on a parmesan bun. There's also a gorgeous heirloom tomato salad with herb goat cheese, basil oil and white balsamic dressing; a yellowfin tuna carpaccio Nicoise style with white anchovies, tomatoes, olives and capers, bouillabaisse with fennel & tomato confit, potatoes and saffron rouille and so much more.
As quick as the main courses were cleared away, our table was instantly lined up with a sugar-coma-inducing selection of their desserts menu.
Of them all, I think my favourite would have to be the black forest: almond chocolate biscuit, dark chocolate-cherry cremeux, fromage blanc mousse and cherry sorbet. Oh, the most delectable cherry sorbet I've ever tasted.
While Tamir was sharing his vision for Marina Bay Sands, I had an egg-porn moment and just had to capture it - yum, yum, yum -
Also at the table are the epitome of fruit platters. Every piece of fruit was absolute perfection: plump ripe raspberries without a single bruise, sharply sliced golden pineapple wedges, vivid red watermelon pieces, it was gorgeous.
The others savour dishes such as tonkotsu ramen, French toast and laksa, but there was no food envy with my sumptuous slow-cooked organic eggs with sauteed mushroom, Spanish ham and chicken jus.
With chef Justin Quek
Following an exclusive tour of Marina Bay Sand's labyrinth of corridors and working spaces behind the scenes, and a zoom through the Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal and Harry Potter exhibitions at Marina Bay Sand's ArtScience Museum, we're back at Sky on 57 for lunch.
Justin prepares us a tasting menu, starting with his signature demitasse of fresh mushroom cappuccino which is deliciously frothy and intense. How will I ever enjoy a standard cream of mushroom soup ever again?
We also have a slow cooked organic egg (I clearly couldn't get enough of it at breakfast) with artichoke puree and foie gras emulsion. Main course was a choice of Australian lamb cutlet with wok fried julienne of vegetables and tapenade jus, or an oriental seafood fried rice "Mui Fan" made of egg fried rice, asparagus, grouper fillets, prawns and scallop. The rice was surprisingly soupier than Hokkien fried rice but gosh did they go all out with the seafood! Definitely a brilliant way to enjoy quality seafood.
There was this fairy tale dessert trolley but after having the dessert of jackfruit tart with crumble, creme anglaise and Acacia honey ice cream and a macchiato (they use Vittoria coffee beans), I was well and truly satisfied.
With chef Sia Kok Hong
While we didn't get the opportunity of experiencing Waku Ghin's SG$400 ten course degustation, I did witness the skillful dedication of chef Sia Kok Hong who cooked us an exquisite slow braise of Canadian lobster with tarragon and preserved lemon, wakame, shallots, and butter.
What makes Waku Ghin such a gastronomic gem is their unique concept of catering for a maximum of 25 guests at any given time. Diners are able to enjoy the private and exclusive experience in the luxury of their own private enclosure, helmed by their own chef. Each dish is prepared on a spotless teppanyaki grill, using only, the season's freshest and best produce.
While knowing that Waku Ghin debuted on the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2012 list on #39 is enough to add this restaurant onto every food lover's wish list, this taster has definitely lured me in even more. I'll be back... One day!
B1-42-46, Galleria Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6688 8522
Open: Daily 12pm to 11pm
At the other spectrum, Marina Bay Sands has plentiful cheaper eats. You know, just incase you get tired of fine dining ;)
Chef Mario Batali of Iron Chef America fame's Pizzeria Mozza offers rustic pizzas, and also has a decent antipasti selection.
We're served cauliflower fritters; calamari al forno with fagioli & oregano; Nancy's chopped salad with radicchio, salame, aged provolone, ceci & pepperoncini; mushroom pizza (funghi misti with fontina, taleggio & thyme pizza); proscuitto and rocket pizza (proscuitto di parma with rucola, tomato & mozzarella pizza); and for dessert, a banana gelato pie with hot fudge and candied hazelnuts.
Sydneysiders are spoilt with fabulous pizzerias so by my standards, there's nothing spectacular going on here.
L1-03, Bay Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6688 7227
Open: Daily 11am - 12am
Proving that there's something for everyone, new at Marina Bay Sands is Au Chocolat, a French-inspired bistro and chocolateria that somewhat makes you feel like you're in at a theme park. Perhaps it's the minaiture train set zipping above our heads, or it could be the straw boater hats worn by the wait staff.
Food is a generous affair with French onion soup, roast chicken and burgers gracing the menu.
However, I was more excited by the sweet potato fries with sour plum powder, a dish that I've yet to try from Sydney's Taipei Chef, Artarmon. These are sooo good; crisp, sweet, sour, salty, I love the extra dimension of flavour the dusting of sour plum powder adds!
B2-62, Canal Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6636 7131
Open: 24 hours
In true food-blogger-style, the last 24 hours were relatively free of scheduled events and so we went hunting for Singapore's best hawker foods and begun ticking Singapore's specialty must-eat dishes off our list.
First up, kaya and butter toast! This was not hard to find as there was a Toast Box within the Marina Bay Sands complex. And it was open 24hours!
The staff uniform was a confusing sexy-nun / hot-waitress costume, but aside from that, it was a glamorous kopitiam (roadside coffee stall) experience.
Usually not a fan of thick-cut butter, I always make an exception when it comes to kaya and butter traditional toast ($1.80). This delicacy consists of grilled toast that is warm and crunchy yet fluffy, a generous smear of fragrant kaya (coconut jam) and thick slices of slightly salty and creamy butter. It's such a magical combination.
The kaya thick toast ($1.90) is similar, minus the butter, and double the toast fluffyness.
699 North Bridge Road, Kampong Glam, Singapore
Phone: +65 6298 6320
Open: Daily 8am - 11pm
First thing the next morning, we find ourselves at Zam Zam Restaurant, a popular family-run restaurant (now run by the third generation!).
Breakfast turns into a curry feast with deer murtabak (SG$10), roti canai, and teh halia (hot ginger tea).
The murtabak was by far the best I've ever had. The pastry was thin and crispy and the filling was perfectly moist. The accompanying slices of cucumber with tomato sauce added a touch of freshness to each mouthful.
17 Old Airport Road, Singapore
Open: Breakfast & lunch
Thinking we were at Old Airport Road hawker food centre, we jumped off the cab and explored what turned out to be Kallang Estate Fresh Market and Food Centre.
The smells and sights of fresh longans, mangosteens, dried shrimps, shallots and various greens made this a worthwhile stumble.
When in foreign territory, I tend to go where the locals are gathering, and so we followed our way to an apam balik stall where we had the crepe with sweet corn. We also grabbed some fried radish cake which was right beside them.
The wonton noodles and char siu (SG$2) from Ah Ngoh at stall 8 is delicious but the highlight here would have to be Tua Buee's fishball minced pork noodles (SG$2) from stall 14. The rich chilli sauce, the chewy fish balls, the fatty pork mince, and the silky ribbons of egg noodles. Humble ingredients, but I could have this every day!
1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore
Open: Daily 8am - 10pm
Every Singaporean has their own favourite chicken rice stall for their own reasons. As rated by Anthony Bourdain, and many passionate locals, one of the most popular ones would have to be Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.
Also popular at Maxwell Centre is Zhen Zhen Porridge! Run by a husband and wife team for over 24 years, the queues here are equally impressive to Tian Tian Chicken Rice's. Arrive before 11am to beat the lines is what I'm told by a local Singaporean who travels with his son from the East Coast of Singapore every day for this culinary gem.
The sashimi salad was just SG$3 and the fish congee was also just SG$3.
What a scrumptious end to our DIY breakfast degustation!
7 Maxwell Road, Singapore
Open: Daily 8am - 4pm
In the late afternoon, we continued our hawker-centre-crawl and made our way to Amoy Street Food Centre.
Unfortunately, this hawker centre mainly caters to local workers so by 4pm, most stalls have closed.
I did spot a p'ng kueh stall though! Remember my recipe?
Persistance paid off when we discovered the best curry puffs ever (stall 01-21). They were just SG$1 too!
We also grabbed a tub of almond tofu pudding and watched some ladies prepare tomorrow's wontons. So cute :)
18 Raffles Quay, Singapore
Opens: Daily 4pm - 4am
Back at Lau Pa Sat (I ate here on the first night), we ticked more foods off our list. There was a satay set (SG$9 for 15 mixed skewers of beef, chicken & mutton) from Asli Satay Club, followed by crab meat and traditional xiao long bao dumplings (SG$4.50 for 5 buns), and deep fried Shanghai pork buns (SG$4 for 5 buns) from Shanghai Xiao Long Bao.
Plus popiah (SG$2.50 each) and kueh pai ti (SG$3.50 for 5 pieces).
B2-63, Canal Level, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Phone: +65 6634 9969
Open: Mon to Thurs 11am - 9:30pm; Fri and Sat 10am - 10pm; Sun 10am - 9:30pm
While the cost of street food is part of the joy of eating at hawker stalls, one cannot really go past a Din Tai Fung without venturing inside for their iconic xiao long bao: 18 intricate folds, ever-so-thin dumpling skins, and that perfect burst of soup.
And so, we slurp up the steamed pork dumplings (SG$7.30 for 6 pieces), steamed shrimp and pork shao-mai (SG$10.30 for 6 pieces), and the steamed crab meat and pork dumplings (SG$9.50 for 6 pieces).
Block 51, Old Airport Road, Geylang, Singapore
Open: Daily 10am - late
The final stop took us to the real Old Airport Road Food Centre which is massive! I wish we had more time to eat our way through this gem of a hawker centre.
Despite being too full to tick a Singaporean chilli mud crab off this trip's eating wish-list, we did end up crossing off a large plate of Katong Ah Soon's fried oyster omelette (SG$4).
Washed down with my most favourite drink - a teh limau ais with the saltiness of a sour plum.
So there you have it. Isn't it amazing how much one can accomplish in just three days? I feel like I've eaten at all of the best places in the world but the short (relative to flying to Paris or the States) flight home reassured me otherwise; I was only just across the sea at Singapore. Love a short trip!
JENIUS travelled to Singapore as a guest of Marina Bay Sands. Meals at Todai, Cut, Pizzeria Mozza, db Bistro Moderne and Sky on 57 were complimentary. All other meals were personally paid for.