From now to the end of the year, we will publish an entry weekly, celebrating the best food in Singapore in 2015.
As I was putting together this list for the Best Dishes in Singapore, I wanted to balance between creativity and tradition. Creative dishes show the effort and prowess of the chefs, but they have to be delicious too. If the food is creative but not delicious, it’s only a gimmick; it won’t be on this list.
I also wanted to have some traditional dishes on the list, because traditional dishes are homely, easy to identify with, and delicious. They don’t become traditional dishes by tasting bad. But the problem with traditional dishes is that they get so boring when restaurants after restaurants offer them. The traditional dishes must be super, super outstanding for them to be on this list.
A surprising result of this list is that 2/10 dishes are vegetarian. (I’m a carnivore.) I have no choice but to conclude that vegetarians are sneaky, infiltrating the food scene to change our eating habits. (I’m kidding. Or not?)
After eating at 350 establishments this year, these are the 10 Best Dishes of the year (in ranking):
Having to Kok Sen several times, I notice that the standard is different each time, and I suspect that different chefs cook the dish at different times. But when they get the prawn hor fun right, it is so delicious with wok hei and the aroma of seafood.
It is very courageous for Chef Ng Wei Han, from the defunct French restaurant Au Jardin, to venture into Spanish cuisine. His efforts pay off. The charcoal-grilled lamb ($25), glazed heavily with a honey mustard sauce, is so umami, tender, and sweet that we ignore the greasiness.
Formerly from tapas bar Esquina, Chef Andrew Walsh is still best at small bites. The inside of sweet corn croquette is unexpectedly smooth; the crispy crust so thin the molten couldn’t wait to explode in the mouth. The Galway Bay oyster paired with beef tartare on an oyster leaf tastes nothing like oyster nor beef, titillating both my tongue and brain. The chicken skin teriyaki is crackling, and I am pretty sure from its lightness, it is 0 calories.
For those who find raw beef icky, the tartare, from New Zealand tenderloin, is lightly seared and won’t feel gooey at all. Truffle oil within the tartare is used responsibly to complement the beef and not as a gimmick.
Italian Chef Matteo Boifava, who has worked at the best restaurant in the world, Fat Duck, serves a mean vegetarian truffle risotto ($32), using Acquerello rice, aged 1.5-7 years. The rice is al dente, robust and rich, but without being sickening. Heaven on a plate.
You could almost taste the meatballs’ ($15) sweet tomato sauce being kissed by a gentle sun. It tastes like summer and bliss.
I am a carnivore, and this is the second vegetarian dish on this list, attesting to how delicious the cauliflower and mushroom texture ($23) is. It consists only 2 ingredients, but they are done 3 ways each. The cauliflower is (1) pureed with cream, and (2) served fresh, and (3) also grilled with burnt ends, producing a taste as if drizzled with salmon oil. The mushrooms consist (1) bunashimeiji mushrooms, (2) dehydrated king oyster mushrooms, and (3) crispy Vietnamese rice paper dusted with mushroom salt which tastes like wonton skin.
The Tajima beef ($52, 200g) itself is already superior, marbled with regular streaks of fat, soft with a bite, not greasy. And the cooking is also excellent: wonderfully grainy and char on the outside to provide a variation in texture and taste.
I don’t usually order fish at fine-dining because it is something I can easily cooked at home, and because fish is inherently monotonous. But Chef Jason Tan cleverly circumvents the problem of monotony of New Zealand cod by giving crispy texture to the skin, and adding smoked vin jaune sabayon which complements but not overshadows the fish.
The pork jowl ($10) looks like a hunk of solid meat but delivers to the mouth as a gossamer of a dream. It is treated with so much respect that it instantly becomes a memory you want to revisit.
You may also be interested in:
Best Desserts in Singapore 2015
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.