Nestled at the crossroads of diverse cultures and traditions, Singapore stands out as a vibrant testament to the mingling influences of history. Shaped by the British, Japanese, and an array of ethnic communities including the Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian, the city-state boasts of a rich heritage that narrates tales of unity amidst diversity.
In this captivating narrative of cultural fusion, Singapore emerges as a culinary and sensory wonderland. Its culinary landscape not only mirrors its history but also weaves a tale of flavors that resonate across time.
Within this context, it’s fascinating to observe the contributions of over 200,000 Filipinos who have found a home within this cultural mosaic. Throughout the city’s bustling streets, one can spot the industrious spirit of Filipinos gracing the corners of restaurants, bars, and hotels, crafting an experience that’s both flavorful and diverse.
During a recent trip to Singapore, the Hotel101 team, led by my General Manager Gel Gomez, together with our E-commerce Manager Ron Nunez, participated in the annual Digital Travel APAC held at Sentosa. It was two full days of learnings and keeping up with the trends in digital within the travel and hospitality landscape.
Likewise, serendipity added another layer of excitement, as DoubleDragon Corporation also recently announced that we are opening the Hotel101 Global’s office and showroom at the PLUS Building on 20 Cecil Street in Singapore this September 2023.
While there are so many exciting things going on with work, the allure of Singapore’s culinary scene proved irresistible. We seized the chance to explore the culinary treasures hidden within the Garden City.
Filipino chef Johanne Siy of Lolla in Singapore was just recently named Asia’s Best Female Chef as part of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023. This made Chef Johanne the first-ever Singapore-based chef to win the title and the second Filipino to take home the award after Chef Margarita Forés in 2016.
The award, the 50 Best says, is “voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy.” It “celebrates women in gastronomy who push the boundaries of excellence with their skills, techniques and craft.”
Chef Johanne, as not many would know, started in the corporate world dabbling with brand and marketing for a multinational company. After leaving that, she pursued her passion for food at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and earned her culinary experience in some of the best restaurants in the world with Le Bernardin in New York, Restaurant André in Singapore, Fäviken in Sweden, and Noma in Copenhagen.
Lolla, now ranked 63rd in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, serves inspired Modern Mediterranean Cuisine at Ang Siang Road. Expect European and Asian accents in tapas-style sharing plates.
While the best seats are the 14-seater counter seating directly in front of the open kitchen to catch all the action, there is also a basement dining section with a long communal dining table that can accommodate 22 diners.
Since it was a weekday lunch when we went, we were served the a la carte menu. Lolla’s tasting menu is only available on Fridays and Saturdays, or upon coordinating with them days ahead for dinner service.
Our meal started with the Toasted Sourdough with Kombu Butter (SGD 14), freshly baked bread together with umami rich butter which I wish I could pack and take home with me. We also had the Duck Fat Potatoes (SGD 19) fried to crisp perfection.
For Mains we got the Grilled Octopus (SGD 45), the Hand Torn Pasta with Brown Crab (SGD 44), and the Seasonal Crab “Relleno,” Aligue Sauce, Kaffir Lime (SGD 49), which actually includes three kinds of crab (Blue Crab, River Crab and Japanese Snow Crab), for our Seafood, while we also got the Grilled Iberico Secreto (SGD 46) and the Glazed Lamb Shoulder (SGD 49) for our Meat. Everything celebrated each of the ingredients and were so good and packed with flavor.
Chef Johanne says “after winning the award, we have become part of the itinerary of tourists, especially Pinoys, coming to Singapore.” And that’s what we were there for, as Lolla was actually our first stop upon landing in Singapore. After our meal, I understood why people return and make sure to put Lolla as a stop when in Singapore – the food is superb, and the warm hospitality is vibrant.
The Bar at 15 Stamford
Located at the heart of the garden city, the Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore offers a “harmonious blend of timeless heritage and modern luxury,” following years of restoration bringing the best of the neoclassical-style Capitol Building (1933) and Venetian Renaissance-style Stamford House (1904). Nestled within this illustrious five-star Heritage Landmark lies The Bar at 15 Stamford, seamlessly integrated into its opulent surroundings.
The Bar at 15 Stamford offers an extensive range of rum varieties, classic cocktails, and bespoke creations amidst an intimate mahogany-designed 80-seater bar befitting its location’s colonial charm.
“We have more than 350 kinds of rum in our collection,” shares the Filipino-Chinese Bar Manager Edriane Lim. This establishment stands as a beacon for connoisseurs, renowned for possessing one of the most comprehensive lists of rum in Singapore. Complementing this, “we also proudly curate rum flights and tasting experiences,” an extraordinary addition to their menu.
Edriane did his internship at the Marriott in Singapore, fresh out of college from De La Salle – College of St. Benilde, and has worked in the Singapore F&B and Hospitality scene since then. His experience brought him to SKAI Bar at Swissôtel The Stamford and later on to Atlas, where he was part of the team that got Altas to 8th place in 2019’s World’s 50 Best Bars.
And indeed, we tried different cocktails and drinks and these are some of my favorites:
- Peranakan Old Fashioned – Mount Gay XO Rum, Gula Melaka, Pandan, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Angostura Bitters
- Royllo Island – Flor De Cana Rum 12yr, Red Wine Syrup, Amontillado Sherry, Orange Bitters
- Remember the Balestiers – Appleton Jamaica Rum 12yr, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Brandy, Maraschino Liqueur, Absinthe
National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore
While in Singapore, we also suggest that you go for something local!
My cousin Christine, and her husband Winston, brought us to try National Kitchen by Violet Oon, Singapore’s own national treasure and one of its greatest ambassadors, celebrating Singapore’s fine flavors and highlighting Peranakan cuisine. National Kitchen is located on the 2nd floor of the iconic historical City Hall building now home to the National Gallery.
Peranakan cuisine, or Nyonya cuisine, comes from the Peranakans, descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Indonesia, inter-marrying with local Malays. It’s one of the local cuisines which Singapore is known for highlighted by bold flavors, which come from the frequent use of unique ingredients like coconut milk, a ginger-like root plant called galangal, kaffir lime leaf, and lemongrass.
For Starters we got the Ngoh Hiang (SGD 20), deep fried prawn, crab meat, chicken and water chestnut rolls seasoned with five spice powder wrapped in bean curd skin, and the Kuay Pie Tee (SGD 19), julienned bamboo shoot and turnip poached in a brawn bisque served in a deep fried “top hat” cup topped with prawn, chili sauce and a sweet fruit sauce.
For Mains we ordered the Beef Rendang (SGD 28), tender beef shin braised in a mélange of spices flavored with kaffir and bay leaves in a creamy coconut cream sauce; the Sayor Lodeh (SGD 19), mixed vegetables and tempeh in a mildly spiced fragrant coconut gravy; and the Garam Assam Fish (SGD 28), red snapper fillets in a spicy and sour gravy with pineapple slices and ladies fingers topped with julienne pink ginger flower.
Old Airport Road Hawker
Another place you need to give a try is the Hawker Food Centers, and there are quite a few throughout Singapore. You could say that your Singapore trip will not be complete without passing by one of them and eating like the locals do.
So, they brought us to one on our last night. At more than 50 years old, the Old Airport Road Food Centre is one of Singapore’s best-loved hawker complexes, with more than 100 stalls spread across a single floor in neat rows.
Generally, you order food from different stalls for sharing. I suggest you order some Singaporean staples such as Laksa, a noodle dish prepared with a rich and spicy coconut broth seasoned with sour asam; Satay, seasoned, skewered and grilled meat (chicken or pork) served with peanut sauce; and Hokkien Mee, fried yellow wheat noodles doused in seafood stock and studded with prawns or pork or both.