Unique dishes have been a Singaporean trademark ever since the
city-state became a spice-trade hub in the 19th century. This month,
gourmets are flocking to the island to taste the multicultural results
at the 10th annual Singapore Food Festival, a month-long, mango-themed
culinary fair (see www.singaporefoodfestival.com.sg). Singapore's
food-obsessed can simultaneously enjoy the World Gourmet Summit, where
some of the world's top chefs gather to discuss dining trends and to
gossip about who's in and out in the cliquish world of foie gras and
shark's fin soup (go to worldgourmetsummit.com).
Tan recommends Sebastien's at 12 Greenwood Avenue, tel: (65) 6465 1980, for its down-home fare. The succulent duck confit is one of the bistro's most popular dishes, as is a steaming pot of juicy mussels. The atmosphere is laid-back; expats and tai tais alike can order wholesale-priced wines straight from the rack. Just as popular is Restaurant Ember at 500 Keong Saik Road, an eager-to-please newcomer in Chinatown that is both affordable and satisfying. Its cream of mushroom soup is topped with a white froth of truffle oil, and the shelled escargots are slathered with butter and served on thick toast. Reservations are a necessity for weekends; call (65) 6347 1928.
After training in some of Singapore's top kitchens, local chef Jimmy Chok opened Salt Restaurant at 94 Amoy Street, tel: (65) 6223 1266, a no-frills fusion eatery known for top-notch nosh. Chok's signature roast rack of lamb with garlic mash and jus persille is the highlight of the menu, while the steamed Chilean sea bass with preserved Chinese cabbage is a local favorite.
For weekend brunch, the easy elegance of Marmalade Pantry at Palais Renaissance on 390 Orchard Road, tel: (65) 6734 2700, has quickly become the de rigueur meeting place for ladies who prefer to lunch on 15-centimeter-tall chicken potpies and sip on apple-mango-ginger juice combos called spunkys.
Less polished and more popular with the older crowd is Guan Hoe Soo at 214 Joo Chiat Road, tel: (65) 6344 2761, one of Singapore's signature Peranakan restaurants fusing Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese cuisine. It's been serving fish-head curry and sotong, or squid, sambal since 1953. Even Lee Kuan Yew is rumored to order takeout from here. With dishes like these on Singapore's menu, eating for two has never been so easy.