Always wondered where chefs get their local food fix? We speak to the culinary experts behind popular restaurants about their go-to spots.
Food is an important part of Singapore’s culture. Everyone has their favourite go-to place with the best (in their opinion) chicken rice, laksa and nasi lemak (you get our drift). But what about the chefs behind the best restaurants in Singapore? Eight of ’em share with us solid local food spots that have their chef stamp of approval.
Chef-favourite local food spots in Singapore
Louis Han, chef and founder of NAE:UM
Specialising in contemporary Korean plates, NAE:UM is the new kid on the Telok Ayer block. At the helm is 31-year-old chef Louis Han, who has 14 years of experience under his belt. He’s worked in stellar restaurants across Seoul, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. That includes the two Michelin-starred Mosu, one Michelin-starred Meta and the now-defunct Kimme.
Favorite local dish: Hokkien mee
Where: Jia Xiang Fried Kway Teow, #B1-50, Golden Mile Food Centre, 505 Beach Road, Singapore 199583
Why: I lived near Golden Mile Food Centre when I first came to Singapore, and I would frequently go there after work as it was the only place open till late. I also enjoyed chit-chatting with the uncle working there at the end of the day as he’s really kind. I like Jia Xiang’s Hokkien mee because the gravy is fragrant and umami, and the chilli adds a nice kick of spice.
Alex Phan, chef and co-founder of Avenue 87
Avenue 87’s founding team is made up of two Singaporean friends. The first half is chef Alex Phan. Before starting his restaurant, the Shatec-graduate cut his professional teeth at places like Tippling Club, Open Door Policy and Restaurant Ember. The menu showcases locals flavours with contemporary touches, as a reflection of the founders’ childhood and years of experience in the F&B industry.
Favourite local dish: Rojak. I like mine with century egg on it.
Where: Yan Fei Lai Eating House, 322 Hougang Avenue 5, Singapore 530322
Why: I love how this dish has evolved into what it is today. The influences from different cultures have come together in such a tasty and harmonious way. Doesn’t that reflect how Singaporean it is?
Glen Tay, chef and co-founder of Avenue 87
Meet the other half of Avenue 87: chef Glen Tay. After sharpening his knife at Tippling Club for seven years, he transplanted himself to Shanghai to work at the prestigious UltraViolet by Paul Pairet in 2016. He started off as a senior sous chef before progressing to executive sous chef and eventually a management role, which allowed him to learn more about kitchen management. And why is it called Avenue 87? It’s an ode to their birth year (1987).
Favourite local dish: Chicken rice
Where: Ming Kee Chicken Rice, #1-522, Kim San Leng Coffee Shop, 511 Bishan Street 13, Singapore 570511
Why: Chicken rice is one of my favourite dishes. The dish came from Hainan, and now, what we enjoy is something completely different. I think the evolution of this dish also symbolises how Singaporeans have evolved. We’ve made it into such a delicious dish with flavours that are beyond the simple combination of chicken and rice.
Jeremy Gillon, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Jag
The French Alps serves as an inspiration for Deauville native Jeremy Gillon at Restaurant Jag. Using herbs from the region, chef Jeremy creates dishes that look as good as they taste. We’re talking edible works of art! There’s a reason it was one of the newest establishments that received a Michelin star in 2019.
Favourite local dish: Mala xiang guo
Where: Ri Ri Hong Mala Xiang Guo, #01-1152, People’s Park Food Centre, 32 New Market Road, Singapore 050032
Why: I love mala and my favourite is Ri Ri Hong Mala Xiang Guo at People’s Park Complex Food Centre. I really enjoy their sauces and I personally like it very spicy with lots of vegetables.
Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida, chef and founder of Hashida Singapore
Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida is a household name in the local dining scene. The second-generation chef was mentored by his father and Master Chef, Tokio Hashida. He’s also a graduate of Japan’s top culinary school, Tsuji Culinary Institute. Chef Hatch has captured our hearts and stomachs with his Edomae-style sushi since his namesake restaurant debuted in 2013 at Mandarin Gallery. We’re still dreaming about the amazing omakase experience we had at the new Telok Ayer space.
Favourite local dish: Prawn noodles
Where: Da Dong Prawn Noodles, 354 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427600
Why: There’s no doubt this prawn noodle dish is so good that it keeps not only me but its regular patrons going back. More importantly, this is the stall that opened up the local food scene for me. I got a better understanding of local culture and it also inspired me to start trying out other local foods as well… which I should have done years ago. I mean, next year (2022) will be my tenth year in Singapore. How much have I missed out on all this time?
Drew Nocente, chef and founder of Salted & Hung
Born into a family of Italian heritage on a farm near Brisbane, chef Drew Nocente started his culinary career at the tender age of 15. After working at different places in Australia like Perth and Hamilton Island, he was offered an opportunity by none other than Gordon Ramsay to work as a sous chef in Maze Grill. The rest is history. Now, at Salted & Hung, he incorporates his personal philosophy of minimal wastage into the menu by the clever use of forgotten ingredients like skin, bone and innards. Don’t knock it before you try it!
Favourite local dish: Chicken rice
Where: Chin Chin Eating House, 19 Purvis Street, Singapore 188598
Why: I love Chin Chin’s chicken as it’s super tender and very moist. The rice is extra fluffy and really flavourful – cooked with lots of chicken fat and flavoured with scallion, ginger and more. They also serve it with a great chilli sauce which is fresh and bright. You can say it gets the holy trinity of chicken rice right.
Firdauz Nasir, chef of Permata Singapore
Housed in the majestic palace of Gedung Kuning (right next to the Malay Heritage Centre), Permata welcomes you with a sumptuous buffet spread that spotlights the robust cuisine of Nusantara. The kitchen is helmed by executive chef Firdauz Nasir. He’s travelled across New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia to learn different cooking techniques and has been trained by well-known chefs including Lee Eng Su, the late co-founder of The Coconut Club. In Singapore, he expresses his creativity by putting out elevated Indonesian fare that will make you go back for seconds.
Favourite local dish: Nasi goreng gila
Where: Nusantara Singapore
Why: I don’t have a lot of time for lunch because I’m always super busy as an executive chef. The dish is made up of fried hom mali rice with sambal belachan, kai lan, beancurd, chicken chunks and ebi prawns, and served with fried egg, keropok bawang and sambal belachan. It’s like everything in a dish. You can choose your spice level according to your preference but I like it spicy.
Martí Carlos Martínez, executive chef of Restaurant Gaig
Martí Carlos Martínez grew up in Barcelona with his family who loves to cook and eat. Influenced by his home cook mother, he took an interest in the culinary arts. His first encounter with Carles Gaig was on a school field trip where he dined at Restaurant Gaig. The experience pushed him to dream of working at Gaig’s restaurant one day. With a burning passion, he sharpened his knife in the prestigious kitchens of three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona and two-Michelin-starred Avalon restaurant Ramón Freixa, before getting the opportunity to work where he once dreamt of. Fast forward to now, he leads the kitchen at Carles’ namesake restaurant, presenting the best of Catalan cuisine in Singapore.
Favourite local dish: Sambal stingray
Where: Newton Alliance Seafood N27, #01-27, Newton Food Centre, Clemenceau Ave N, Singapore 229495
Why: It was the first dish I had when I came to Singapore. I still enjoy it as I love the spiciness of the sambal and the stingray is fresh and meaty. Totally worth it!
The next time you’re in the mood for local food, try these chef recommendations!