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TRAVEL: Singapore food fling

Cuisses de grenouille and stir fried frog legs in spicy szechuan salt served at Racines, in Singapore
Cuisses de grenouille and stir fried frog legs in spicy szechuan salt served at Racines, in Singapore

Singapore is having more than just a fling with food. It's a deep love: a Nicholas Sparks novel, not Fifty Shades of Grey.

Where else would you find a street stall specialising in chicken and rice, one of the nation's legendary dishes and culinary obsessions, that has a Michelin star?

Across the small island nation of Singapore, there are 38 Michelin-star restaurants - 30 with a one-star rating, seven that feature two stars, and one three-star establishment.

Food is a big deal in Singapore, and a delectable drawcard for tourists.

LAU PA SAT

Tucked in the heart of the financial district, Lau Pa Sat is an unassuming heritage-listed building. In a sea of skyscrapers and unusual architecture, Lau Pa Sat is a colonial gem - fretted metal work, columns and soaring arches - but inside the labyrinthine octagonal building is a hawker centre, offering cheap and cheerful cuisine.

When the businessmen have packed up their briefcases and headed home for the night, the street comes alive.

The road blocks come out, along with hundreds of folding tables and plastic chairs, and vendors claiming their satay is the best in town.

Smells of flame-cooked meat hang in the air, and the burble of voices bring the street to life.

With a plate full of meat on a stick and coolish Tiger beer, and 20 gyozas for the bargain price of $10, we feast.

 

Tip: There are more than 100-plus open-air hawker centres in Singapore.

If you come across a table that has tissue paper or a business card lying on it, don't assume the people before you were grubs.

These "left behind items" are stand-ins for their owners while they go grab something. They will be back to collect it.

ACCORHOTELS SINAPORE FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL

Hotel chain AccorHotels assessed its collection of 40 restaurants and bars across the island and devised a plan to showcase the gastronomy and talent of its 100-plus chefs.

A nine-day food festival was born, offering culinary creations, masterclasses and delicious drinks.

The culmination of the festival is the Super Sunday Brunch on Sentosa Island - a man-made luxury playground where Singaporeans go to relax.

Billed as the "most extravagant spread that you will ever experience", the brunch lives up to its hype.

I've yet to meet a cheese or charcuterie board I don't like, and this one put all others to shame.

The variety of cheeses from sharp and firm to pungent and veined to practically liquid form is impressive, as is the selection of cured meat.

There is an endless supply of salmon, smoked tuna, prawns, crabs and lobsters, drawing the eye with a collection of orange and red hues that rival a Dulux paint chart.

On the patio there is a barbecue cooking whole suckling pigs and what looks like the entire hindquarters of a side of wagyu beef.

But the real showstopper is dessert.

It is an entire room laden with sugary and chocolatey confections.

I am like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

And then there is the champagne.

Taittinger brut and rose is freely poured throughout the brunch. Hello Singa-pour-me-another-glass-please!

The Super Sunday Brunch will put you back $230 for the non-alcoholic option and about $268-288 with champagne.

 

Style tip: Ladies, forget about packing the comfy pants. The humidity is the perfect excuse to wear a floaty sun dress. Gentlemen, maybe invest in pants a size too big.

RACINES

Meaning "roots" in French, Racines showcases its French and Chinese culinary roots - but don't mistake it for a fusion restaurant.

There are Chinese and French dishes on the menu.

At the helm is French-born executive chef Jean-Charles Dubois, and the first dish off the pass is one close to his heart.

The rich lobster bisque with ravioli so tiny they are barely the size of a fingernail is a treasured family recipe, handed down from his chef grandfather to his father, who is also a chef, and now to Jean-Charles.

Slow-cooked beef cheeks that melt in the mouth and a refreshing scallop carpaccio with chive oil and yuzu are also on the menu.

Then there are the frog legs. Bigger than some chicken drumsticks I've seen, they are from a species of American bullfrogs, and about the size of a small chicken.

These are done the traditional French way with garlic, parsley and wild mushroom emulsion, or the Chinese way with Szechuan.

Both are tasty, but the Szechuan wins for the spice that has heat but that doesn't burn.

 

Mousse au chocolate at Racines restaurant.
Mousse au chocolate at Racines restaurant.

 

Tip: After dessert, retire to the bar 1864 and enjoy one of the aged cocktails. The cocktails are mixed and stored in barrels for six to eight weeks before they are "mature".

JAAN

With a stunning view over Marina by the Bay and the harbour, Michelin-star restaurant Jaan is on the 70th floor of the Swissotel The Stamford hotel and showcases modern European cuisine.

With only 40 seats, it's an intimate dining experience.

Chef de Cuisine Kirk Westaway, who hails from the seaside town of Devon in England, has introduced ingredients from home, particularly cheese, but also from across the globe. Eggs are imported daily from New Zealand and about 40kg of lemons are shipped from Positano in Italy for dessert.

Jaan is a study in theatre.

The hen's egg with caviar, mushrooms and cheese-crusted brioche comes as a closed earthenware egg, which is opened in front of you with a waft of smokiness.

It's the runny eggs and toast soldiers of childhood taken to a level of elegance.

The king crab dish is unveiled to reveal a stunning garden of micro flowers and vegetables, while fresh lemon is zested over the Amalfi lemon dessert with the fresh citrus aroma heightening the zing in the dish.

The set six-course lunch costs $158, more if you go for the wine pairing option.

 

Tip: Peruse the wine list before arriving if you lean towards indecision. There are nearly 500 different wines of offer.

 

Hen's egg dish at Jaan restaurant, Singapore
Hen's egg dish at Jaan restaurant, Singapore Nicholas Ee;Nicholas Ee

 

The writer was a guest of AccorHotels and Brisbane Airport Corporation.

Topics:  food foodie singapore travel


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