IT may be the trend du jour to turn former army barracks and colonial-era districts into hip F&B enclaves. But even as Dempsey fast becomes yesterday's news, a developing trend would be the way new dining options are being offered at public parks and tourist attractions.
Some of the gourmet-cum-recreation places include the Singapore Flyer, which opens to the public today, and the former Big Splash, now sans water slides and renamed Playground@Big Splash. Other attractions like Snow City, Labrador Park and even nightspots like St James Power House are also seeing the value in offering good food along with fun and entertainment. But does the combination work? We check out the hits and misses.
902 East Coast Parkway, #01-26.
ANYONE familiar with the One Rochester gastro bar in Rochester Park will have a sense of deja vu on arriving at 1 Twenty-Six, the latest venture from the folks who created the successful One Rochester two years ago.
This time around, they have taken up space within the grounds of the former Big Splash, taking advantage of the ocean view. Diners in the glass-enclosed space can look through the trees to the beach a stone's throw away and Singapore Harbour beyond.
The menu is modern European, and the kitchen is helmed by Refaie Kee, a talented local chef previously from Reif+James at The Pier in Robertson Quay. Here, he is well within his comfort zone with a menu that applies an Asian twist to some European-style dishes. Pricing is consistent with most upper-end restaurants. Appetisers include Hokkaido scallops served with sweet corn puree and fried quail egg ($30), and a seedless grape salad ($18). The emphasis on seafood extends to the fresh crab claw soup ($18) and main dishes of oven-baked Chilean cod ($40), razor clams - served with angel hair pasta ($35) - and baby black mussels in coconut cream sauce and served with linguine ($28).
The meat dishes are relatively conventional, with roast pigeon ($55), beef tenderloin cooked two ways ($55) and oven-roasted lamb ($48) all accounted for. Desserts such as molten souffle (fondant and cassis souffle, butter beignet and Verbena ice-cream, $22), Ghana mont blanc (chocolate mousse, marron cream and pear gelee, $18) and raspberry creme brulee served with pomelo salad and gula melaka ice cream, ($22), are rich, inventive and extravagant.
30 Raffles Avenue, #01-01 Singapore
Flyer. Tel: 6336-5101
THE new Singapore Flyer isn't just about cruising high enough to enjoy the night view of the city skyline - even a half-hour 'flight' can whet the tastebuds, so the surrounding complex is occupied by different dining outlets catering to a spectrum of taste buds. You can have Popeye's Chicken & Biscuit or Indian fusion food here, but while they're in varying stages of opening, Seafood Paradise is currently the one drawing the hungry hordes.
This third outlet of the Paradise Group, which has an acclaimed outlet in Mosque Street, offers more mainstream fare - namely, Singaporean zhi char (food cooked in a wok) style food with an emphasis on seafood.
The restaurant seats 250 indoors and 200 outside and no expense seems to have been spared in its decor. But given its zhi char leanings, don't expect much more than standard wok-fried cooking, albeit in all forms of dishes and much fancier surroundings than a humble coffee-shop.
Some classic dishes are done well - such as deepfried soon hock (served in a light soy sauce, $7 per 100 g) and others are done nicely with a twist, like the deepfried whitebait ($8-$12), which was appetisingly topped with a Thai mango salad. But some dishes had too much of an experimental air to them. This included the Spicy Deepfried Prawn which had too strong a masala-coating, and was salty. Unfortunately, the fried mee sua ($10-$20) was also too sweet.
21 Jurong Town Hall building.
SNOW City is a concept that should work very well in tropical Singapore, one would think. But there's a niggling thought at the back of your mind that it would do better if it underwent a major expansion and design overhaul.
Anyway, the seven-year-old centre got a $300,000 renovation last year, now that it's owned by the Singapore Science Centre and run by Snow Venture Pte Ltd. The result is that it's more corporate event-friendly than before.
Besides the snow slope thrills, which haven't changed, there's now an Ice Bar that serves vodka and a Hot Chocolate bar inside the sub-zero room. So if you don't particularly fancy sliding down the 30-degree slope, you can just dress up in your finest winter wear and sip a lychee vodka, while watching others toboggan down on doughnut-shaped rubber tubes.
Another addition to the centre is an eatery serving Korean fare - fast and fuss-free sets featuring ginseng chicken, grilled fish or bulgogi-style beef during lunches. On weeknights, you have a barbecue outdoors as well as steamboat meals inside the restaurant. With meals priced less than $12 for lunch and $25 for dinner, it's not so much for those who want an authentic Korean experience as it is for hungry souls who, after an invigorating ice-capade experience, just want to tuck in some hot food.
St James Power Station.
3 Sentosa Gateway
THE multi-outlet St James Power Station might be one of the hip and happening spots for night recreation, but apparently its food choices have been too limited for the hungry bar-hopping crowd. Must be something about clubbing that makes one's tummy growl at midnight.
So the operator of Station Kitchen, the BreadTalk group, decided to change its noodles and prata concept and offer something quintessentially Singaporean that has a wide range of dishes to suit all palates - zhi char.
'It's comfort food,' sums up William Tan, the group's president. And presented in air-conditioned comfort, no less.
So clubbers can now tuck into dishes like claypot porridge and Klang bak kut teh (herbal based rather than pepper), besides all-time zhi char classics like bean sprouts with salted fish, spare ribs, sambal kangkong, curry fish head and chilli crab.
And if you feel like having something not so local, there's also Charcoal which serves yakiniku grilled fare, while there's an Alley Tapas bar in the alfresco dining space.
Villa Seafood Galleria
30 Labrador Villa Road. Labrador
Nature Reserve. Tel: 6532-1155
LABRADOR Nature Reserve is one of the national parks that has practically everything - a hill, lush greenery and even a rocky sea-cliff that's accessible to the public for recreation, besides research. And to complete the picture in that compact park are a romantic Italian eatery and a Chinese restaurant plus chill-out lounge with a great sea view.
Villa Seafood Galleria has been around for more than half a year, and although it conjures up a breezy cafe serving seafood done in several styles, it actually has a proper Chinese restaurant set-up, serving fare such as dim sum, sharks' fin soup and Peking duck.
The restaurant attempts to attain the standards of fine Cantonese fare, but really, it's the location that sets it apart. The shark's fin soup is fairly hearty, while the bamboo clams are sweet and fresh, although the garlic seasoning is too salty. A simple but well-made dish would be the braised beehoon with crab claws.
This story was first published in The Business Times on Mar 1, 2008.