Escape the crowds at Singapore’s coolest hidden restaurants, from an izakaya concealed behind a nondescript wall in a faded mall, to an innovative contemporary western restaurant in a residential neighbourhood.
1. W39 Bistro and Bakery – Jalan Mas Puteh
Tucked beneath walk-up apartments at Jalan Mas Puteh, a sleepy street in the west, this bright and inviting bistro could pass off for a beach cottage. Surrounded by white clapboard walls and shelves lined with colourful knick-knacks, try jazzed-up local dishes such as mee siam (rice noodles in a spicy gravy) with a blend of 20 fresh spices and ingredients. This is cooked for at least three hours and topped with a poached egg.
Nearest MRT station: Clementi
2. South Union Park – Jalan Kembangan
An unlikely culinary destination ensconced in the quiet residential estate of Kembangan, this unpretentious nook showcases a small but well-thought-out menu of dishes. The quality of the contemporary western cuisine here is a reflection of young chef-owner Terrence Chuah, who has interned at Spain’s 2-Michelin-star Mugaritz. Though they rotate their menu from time to time and introduce specials on a regular basis, do try the popular homemade duck confit tagliatelle (above), drizzled with hazelnut cream and garnished with roasted hazelnuts and lemon zest.
Nearest MRT station: Kembangan
3. Woody Family Cafe – Andrews Avenue
Lovers of spicy food will find a haven in this little corner of Sembawang. The eatery specialises in Peranakan (Straits Chinese) fare with a twist, so go if the thought of umami-laden dishes such as buah keluak (black nuts) omelette excite, rather than intimidate you. Do also order their signature dish, nasi ulam (rice mixed with shredded herbs such as wild betel leaf and turmeric leaves).
Nearest MRT station: Sembawang
4. Le Binchotan – Amoy Street
Inconspicuous Gemmill Lane has become the go-to place for cool, concept restaurants in Singapore. One of the more talked-about is this French-Japanese tapas joint, which has a bunker-like bar that feels like a secret whispered among the cool set. Whet your appetite with sharing plates such as The Madai – Japanese red bream, lightly smoked over binchotan (white charcoal), served with eggplant – and Tenkasu (above), deep-fried mushrooms with homemade truffle mayonnaise and pickled daikon.
Nearest MRT station: Telok Ayer
5. Whisk and Paddle – Tebing Lane
Take a breather from the city’s hustle and bustle and chill out while dining by the tranquil Punggol waterway. This family-friendly cafe looks out towards the scenic Lorong Halus wetlands and is perfect for a lunch out with the kids. It’s likely that they will enjoy the cafe’s top-seller, the macaroni and cheese.
Nearest MRT station: Punggol
6. Rasa Istimewa Waterfront Restaurant – Woodlands Jetty
This remote halal restaurant is the perfect spot to enjoy beautiful sunset views from a jetty. Pick from hearty local fare like satay (barbecued meat skewers), chilli crab, mee goreng (fried noodles with seafood) and barbecued stingray.
Nearest MRT station: Woodlands
7. Morsels – Dempsey
Kick back in this unpretentious eatery tucked inside lush Dempsey. As its name suggests, Morsels dishes up small plates of fusion fare. Highlights here are the Hokkaido scallop ceviche, the Firecracker Duroc pulled pork shell pasta, and the sakura chicken with chicken liver mousse, pickled beet and beetroot vinaigrette (above).
Nearest MRT station: Holland Village (free shuttle available)
8. Camp Kilo Charcoal Club – Kallang Basin
Offering a hearty, carnivore-friendly menu, this fusion eatery and bar by the Kallang river is a great place to get away from the bustle of the city. Seating is outdoors only, so dress comfortably to enjoy the atmosphere and food. Don’t forget to snap an Instagram shot of the majestic 30kg hog roasting on a spit.
Nearest MRT station: Lavender
9. Yorimichi Yakitori Bar – Golden Mile Tower, Beach Road
Yorimichi (which means ‘detour’ in Japanese) has its hidden entrance located right before the ramp leading to the carpark. This dimly-lit, narrow joint could be mistaken for one found in a Tokyo alley. Wash down affordable sushi and yakitori (grilled skewers) with ice-cold Kirin beer. Favourites include grilled scallop with cheese.
Nearest MRT station: Nicoll Highway
10. Tamarind Hill – Labrador Villa Road
Nearest MRT station: Labrador Park
11. New Ubin Seafood – Hillview Avenue
Formerly located in the industrial Sin Ming area, and now in its new home at Hillview Avenue, this tze char (Hokkien for cooked food) restaurant whips up mouthwatering wok-fried favourites like butter cream crab and salted egg yolk squid, while also including local takes on German, Indian and French cuisine. Try their beef steak, chopped into juicy chunks, and satay (grilled meat skewers).
Nearest MRT station: Hillview
12. The Flying Squirrel – Amoy Street
Blink and you may miss The Flying Squirrel. The hip eatery with a concrete-meets-brick interior has its entrance located in a narrow alley off Amoy Street. Savour Japanese fusion food here, especially its chirashi dons (sashimi rice bowls).
Nearest MRT station: Telok Ayer
13. Tims Restaurant and Cafe – Lorong 4 Toa Payoh
Run by a Nepali, this humble restaurant in the heartlands of Toa Payoh serves up lip-smacking Nepalese fare like chicken momo (dumplings), as well as value-for-money comfort western food like steak and lamb chops.
Nearest MRT station: Toa Payoh
14. The Boiler – Howard Road
The Boiler brings Cajun boiled seafood to the warehouse-filled estate of Tai Seng. Here, you can dig messily into bags of boiled seafood – including seasonal crabs, prawns, mussels and clams – without shame. The Boiler also has a good selection of sides, including crispy fish skin (coated in salted egg yolk).
Nearest MRT station: Tai Seng
15. Meyer House – Netheravon Road
Overlooking Changi Beach, Meyer House occupies a colonial bungalow built in 1927. Inside, the decor recalls the 1930s with an elegant bar and dark wood panelling. Enjoy generous portions of pizzas, pastas and burgers.
Nearest MRT station: Changi Airport
16. Cacio e Pepe – Chu Lin Road
Ensconced in a quiet residential neighbourhood, Cacio e Pepe serves up rustic Italian fare in a cosy space with cheery yellow walls. Dishes here feature time-honoured pairings like prosciutto ham and melon, while there are also sumptuous pizzas, pastas and risotto. Look out for their weekend specials like hearty lamb shank.
Nearest MRT station: Bukit Gombak
This article was first published at Silverkris.