Last year, the 10 best casual restaurants list in Singapore ($20-$60) consists of 10 different cuisines, but this year, there are some repetitions although each restaurant specialises in different dishes. Strangely, most of the restaurants serve Asian food; only two are Italian restaurants. What we notice is almost all restaurants focus on quality ingredients and take pride in their food.
Another common area is that they all serve alcohol, making them great places for year-end gatherings and celebrations.
In alphabetical order…
Starting this list strong is the Italian restaurant, Amo, which is under the same management as the Michelin-starred Braci. Their sourdough pizzas ($22 to $35) are made from semolina, natural leaven from an aged mother starter cultivated in-house, and extra virgin olive oil. The pizzas are baked under four minutes in an Italian-made stone wood-fired oven using imported almond wood which gives the pizzas a nutty aroma and their “leopard spots”.
We also recommend their whole butter roasted golden chicken ($58) and calamari ($22).
Dancing Fish, an Indonesian restaurant, came via Malaysia. The food quality and service in Dancing Fish are excellent. The prices are on a steep side but from the rempah to the sweet potato mash, everything is made from scratch, nothing is premade. The hard work in sourcing for some of the more unusual ingredients is commendable as well. The restaurant is also good for family and friends’ gatherings as these dishes are best shared.
Recommended dishes: Dancing Fish with Dabu-Dabu ($37), Gulai Pucuk Paku ($13, vegetables), and Buntut Belado Enak ($36, oxtail).
Kra Pow Thai Restaurant
Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road #03-26/27 Singapore 228213
tel: +65 6734 1946
Kra Pow, a popular Thai restaurant at Far East Plaza, was a hole in the wall but it was so popular so quickly that it moved a few doors away from its original spot to a much bigger space. With the move, they also expanded their repertoire of dishes including whole seabass, which they can steam, or deep fry, or topped with Thai sauce at $39.90. They also have crying tiger ($15.80), grilled beef knuckle so spicy it makes a tiger cry.
Recommended: pad see ew beef ($8.90+, beef horfun), red tom yum seafood ($7.90), deep-fried pork belly ($10.90), red and green ruby ($5.90).
With 168 outlets in Japan, Kushikatsu Tanaka at Clarke Quay serves kushikatsu, or deep-fried skewers, which is a Japanese street food. They import their panko flour, batter, and sauce from Japan to ensure a consistency with the Japanese outlets. The skewers are deep-fried in a secret blend of oil, including beef fats. There are more than 30 types of kushikatsu, ranging from $1 to $2.50 a stick. There is not one drop of grease and they are crispy and fresh. The flavors are educed nicely. Especially tasty are the pork which is fatty but not heavy and oyster with juices spurting.
Mui Kee Congee started as a small stall in Mong Kok, Hong Kong in 1979 and today, the 35 year-old grandson, Pierre Choi (or affectionately known as Ah Tung), has taken over the reins from his late grandmother whom he trained with since he was 22 years old. The Singapore outlet is done in conjunction with the Les Amis Group and Ah Tung will ensure that the standards are consistent with Hong Kong.
The special aspect about their congees ($7.80 to $22) is that they have wok hei but their claypot dishes are fantastic too. Recommended: homemade pork meatballs congee ($9.80), kai lan ($10), frog legs with ginger and spring onion claypot ($22), pork liver with ginger and spring onion claypot.
Pastaria Abate, the sister restaurant of The Reading Room, offers good and affordable Italian food by hand-making their pasta and other dishes. Recommended: Portobello fries ($8.80), Italian grilled pork belly ($7.90), tagliatelle with mixed mushrooms and fresh summer truffles ($19.80).
Fried chicken and beer or (for non-alcoholics and children) frozen lemon squash. One of the 16 concepts for Japan Food Town, Rang Mang Shokudo began at Ebisu, Tokyo in 1998 and uses free-range chicken. It is marinated for 6 hours in a buttermilk concoction before deep-frying twice at a low how. Twice-fried chicken means that it remains crispy even when it has cooled down. The fried chicken comes with a choice of 15 different sauces. And to balance out the fried, they have salad, soup, and 16-grain rice.
Although they only offer fried chicken, their menu allows customers to customise their intake. You can buy it:
-in pieces (5 pieces, 1 dips $6; 12 pieces, 2 dips $12; 20 pieces, 3 dips $18), you’ll have to buy the sides separately,
-as a value set ($10.90 which comes with 5 pieces of chicken, salad, potato salad, and rice),
-as all-you-can-eat fried chicken after 5pm [for 90 minutes, includes free-flow soft drinks ($24++) or free-flow alcohol ($40++)].
Un-Yang-Kor-Dai, the biggest community restaurant in Khao Yai, Thailand has opened their first outpost here at South Bridge Road. Un-Yang-Kor-Dai, which means “anything goes”, specialises in Northeastern Thai or Isaan cuisine. Driven by a mission to give back to the local community, the founder pioneered this concept so that individuals from various backgrounds can have a platform to showcase their love for the culinary arts. No MSG is added to the food here.
Recommendations: PenLaos Signature Grilled Chicken ($21 for whole chicken, $12 for half chicken)
The Wine & Gourmet Friends at Bukit Pasoh Road serves modern Asian cuisine with thoughtful wine pairing recommendations. Chef Wilson Ang and Pastry Chef Gus Wang work behind the open kitchen.
Recommendation: Foie Gras Lotus Leaf Rice ($18), Roast Pork Belly ($24), andLamb Trio ($30).
The reason why their meats are more affordable here than other yakinikus is because they import the entire Wagyu cow from Iwate prefecture in Hokkaido, giving the restaurant access to rare cuts of beef. The cow is imported chilled, not frozen, and the meat is sliced only upon ordering, so it may take some time to arrive on your table.
Besides the affordable and fantastic quality beef, another marvellous aspect is that they use a traditional square stove, known as sichirin, containing ash-white charcoal, and anyone who is an avid BBQ-eater knows that ash-white charcoal gives the best heat to grill meat. Take note, however, you have to pay $9 for a sichirin of charcoal.
Recommended: bucho set ($72), which includes great cuts of meats such as tomosankaku, kaburi, shinshin, clod, and kappa, feeds 3 to 4 people.
To summarise, these are the best casual restaurants this year:
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.