It's now the middle of December, 2016, and I haven't blogged in exactly ten months. Why, you ask? Did the Gourmet Male lose his passion for food? Has he gotten lazy? Has he signed a multi-million dollar cookbook contract? Um, yeah, no. Although the last one is.... most certainly not true. In late January of this year I packed up the house and moved to Singapore to take on an incredible new work opportunity and to experience living in Asia for the first time. Now, I know, most people's reactions centres around just how much food there is here in Singapore and why the move didn't improve my blogging. Well, let me explain.
The blog has never been focused on restaurant reviews. I would never feel adequate enough or knowledgeable enough to challenge the food delivered by an experienced chef. There is so much sweat, blood, and passion poured into a restaurant and I think, "Who am I to judge?". When I do visit an amazing restaurant, I make sure to get a post up about it. I've always focused on food experiences, recipes, and travel. And to be honest, it's easy to get caught up here in the hustle and bustle and forget to reflect and share some of the amazing food opportunities in the city where they greet you by asking, "Have you eaten yet?".
To make things worse, I left the kitchen of my dreams in Sydney and have had to make do with the horribly tiny kitchens here in the land of the Merlion. And I mean TINY. I ended up in the best place I could find, with gas and induction burners in an open plan kitchen. You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that I couldn't use the gas burners as they would torch the back laminate. Hmmm, who designs these places? And now I have a full-time, live-in helper so am not doing so much cooking. Suffice to say, the food blogger gods have been working against me.
So, what have I seen? What have I eaten? What's it really like to live, work, and eat here in Singapore? I'll try to sum things up in five points:
1. You can spend a bomb on food here, if you want
No doubt about it, Singapore has some of the most expensive food in Asia, if not the world. I've been taken to Cut for a $300 steak - and that's before caviar, wine, and dessert. Even one of my favourite places, No Signboard Seafood, can run north of $200/person if you're not careful.
And there's Waku Ghin, Tetsuya's new-ish Michelin starred restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. That'll set you back more than $400/person, ++. Don't ever forget the ++. That's another 17% for GST and service charge.
But if you want to really splurge and eat some amazing food, Singapore has many options to quickly rack up those frequent flier miles on your favourite card.
2. Then again, you can spend an absolute pittance on a great meal
I still can't believe the first hawker centre that I visited over at Maxwell, near Chinatown. $4 for a tasty plate of chicken rice... and that's at "tourist" prices! Tall longnecks of Tiger beer around $6. And no messing around with any ++, either. These are nett prices, and probably only cash. But the options are endless. Just pick a hawker centre close by and go nuts! The old advice to find the longest line for the best options probably still holds. Just get ready to wait.
In my neighbourhood, near Dhoby Ghaut, are many universities, arts schools, and the like. And we all know what students are searching for - cheap eats! One of my local favourites is a Koren BBQ called I Am Kim (underneath School of the Arts). The prices are cheap, the food is good, and it's a great place to bring a crowd of Ang Moh and live it up with Soju Bombs and some K Pop.
3. The mid-level food scene is improving
Even since I've been here there have been new mid-level options crop up as well as increased visibility of some other restaurants that are gaining in popularity. I absolutely love the brunch at Open Door Policy in Tiong Bahru, as well as a bookstore and coffee browse afterward.
If you like BBQ, check out Meatsmith or MeatLIQUOR.
One of my latest finds is a new Aussie restaurant, Cheek By Jowl, over on Boon Tat Street. Catch your breath, people, this lunch for two was $35++/person. Amazing. I went back for dinner and sat at the kitchen stools while chatting with the chef. This will definitely become a regular spot for me, particularly as it's only a 10 min walk from my office.
4. Have food, people will visit
The real food fun in Singapore involves entertaining. I was taught pretty quickly that if you want a group to show up, thrown on a feed. Back in my first few weeks in the country I was lucky enough to meet the guys from Iskina Cebu and made a call then that they HAD to do a full manual lechon for my birthday in July. Let me say, they didn't disappoint and the 30 people that joined us were blown away. It's probably not the best option, though, for a modern communal dining area in your apartment complex. They are indeed adding new rules to the tenant's guide by the day due to my shenanigans.
5. Get up here and eat yourself silly
It's cheap and easy to get here from Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere in Asia. It's the perfect stop-off when coming through Changi in transit (incidentally rated the best airport in the world many years running). It's incredibly safe, easy to get around, and the people are so very friendly. There are food options everywhere.
I've accepted that it's not about my cooking so much anymore. Really, it's all about food with new friends and enjoying what the local chefs are all about.
Just prepare yourself for $20 beers. ++.