These days, I'm busy with the Gypset Dinners, a monthly dinner series featuring a tasting menu of destination-inspired dishes prepared by myself and a guest chef from a featured destination. The series, which launched just last week, kicked off with a collaboration between Masakazu Ishibashi of the award-winning Sushi Ichi and myself, and saw cocktails spun by Daiki Kanetaka of famed Ginza style bar d.Bespoke. Additionally, the opening of Saltwater Kitchen in Nagoya has been keeping me on my toes.
I'm a regular at Yakitori Otowa on Orchard Road. It's a small izakaya restaurant that can seat 12 diners. Reservations are essential as it fills up by 7.45pm. Lots of the delicious small dishes include Wafu Salad, Grilled Eringi Mushrooms, Quail Eggs, and Chicken with Leek. Some people turn their noses up at the Half-Cooked Chicken Fillet, but I think it's delicious; the texture is almost like that of tuna sashimi but the yuzu dressing gives it a fresh and zingy aftertaste.
When I need to eat clean, I head to Sushi Ichi. Not only do they use the best quality produce around, Chef Masakazu is the best sushi chef there is. So it's great produce in good hands. The dishes are perfection in my eyes. Just stunning. I know Chef Masa personally so it's always a pleasure to catch up as well.
My guilty pleasure is hangover brunch. Nothing beats a big, delicious hangover brunch with some friends after a few drinks the night before. I love whiling away the hours in good company.
A hawker stall I would queue for is 328 Katong Laksa. The depth and flavour of the laksa sauce is incredible. This is authentic laksa and the paste is homemade, ground in a pestle and mortar by hand. I love it, in fact it inspired my Laksa Popcorn at Adrift.
A heritage restaurant I hope will never disappear is Hua Yu Wee. It's a proper no-frills Chinese Seafood restaurant with hearty cooking — my favourite in the whole of Singapore. Cereal Prawns, Seafood Kway Tiao and Chilli Crab is a must here. A walk through East Coast Park afterwards is a good idea to work off all the delicious food!
When I have chef friends in town, I bring them to Burnt Ends and d.Bespoke. Chef Dave Pynt is onto a winner. He works wonders with the grill. I love the casual dining style coupled with artful small dishes. I'm a particular favourite of the beef marmalade. Following dinner, I always head to D.Bespoke. Its close proximity makes for the perfect nightcap. Daiki's hospitality is second to none.
My go-to supper spot is Artichoke. I realy like Chef Bjorn Shen's work and he serves up a great mishmash of Middle Eastern flavours here. I recently checked out Bird Bird, Bjorn's other restaurant serving up Thai street food, and loved it too. The Thai fried chicken wings are delicious. I also sampled the Khao Soi, a giant bowl of noodles in a delicious curry sauce, topped with their signature chicken. Will definitely be returning.
For special occasions, I head to Spago by Wolfgang Puck. I'm very familiar with Wolfgang's restaurants, but I'd have to vote Spago as one of my all-time favourites. At Spago, he combines innovative dishes with wonderfully crafted cocktails. I love how it is set up as a country garden home and of course, you can't beat the absolutely spectacular view from here.
My all-time favourite restaurant is Mikawa Zezankyo in Tokyo. I won't deny that I have a deep affinity with Japanese food and culture. Opened only since 2010, Mikawa Zezankyo has quickly become recognised as one of the top tempura places in Tokyo. Chef Saotome estimates that he has made over half a million pieces of tempura in his lifetime. Hidden in a small residential street east of the Sumida River, this tiny restaurant is not that easy to find. There are only nine seats, so reservations are very difficult to get. Furthermore, Chef Saotome works alone to create the actual tempura. The assistants will help with everything else, but only Chef Saotome does the actual frying. If he's on vacation, the restaurant closes. Expect perfectly light and crisp batter, prawns, squid, sea urchin and even ginko nuts.
I had my most memorable meal at Takazawa, a restaurant that is much talked-about, partly due to the fact that it only has 10 seats, but also because it is voted one of Asia's 50 best restaurants. Its exclusivity and wilfully left-field approach aside, there's no doubting the skills of Yoshiaki Takazawa. Working pretty much on his own, chef prepares intricate seasonal dishes that cleverly and playfully fuse Japanese and French culinary ideas. There is no menu as such, but signature dishes include a 'ratatouille', presented as a terrine containing dozens of precisely cooked vegetables and 'Sea', a rock pool-like assemblage of first-class seafood presented on a dusting of 'sand' made from powdered shrimp. Takazawa's wife Akiko runs the dining room solo, providing a distinctly personal style of service that's as memorable as the food itself.
My favourite bar is D.Bespoke, the famed Ginza-style bar located in Bukit Pasoh. Daiki is a close friend, a true savant and craftsman, and passionate about all things bartending and hospitality. I love whiling away the hours there. With his 16 years as a trained Japanese bartender, Daiki Kanetaka is a master of the elegant and refined Japanese art of bartending. He really knows how to create the perfect cocktail.
I grew up eating at my house! My mum's a fabulous cook and would make these divine homemade burgers worth dying for. She was definitely a big influence in my life and my love for cooking. Adrift's Wagyu burger is an ode to my mum's delicious burgers.
For juices, I head to the hawker centre. I like the wide selection of fresh juices that are offered there. I like how one can mix and match different fruits but I mostly go for a blend of apple, ginger, and beetroot.
A restaurant to watch is Whitegrass. It's this wonderful new fine dining restaurant at Chijmes, helmed by Chef Sam Aisbett who presents Modern Australian cuisine with a touch of Asian.
The food scene in Singapore is a fusion of cultures from around the globe in a nation where people take sincere joy in eating. As such, it is very important to continuously try and reinvent dishes and push the imagination. This also makes Singapore a breeding ground for creative F&B concepts.
The country that has the best food scene is Japan. It never fails to inspire me. There is a great appreciation for fresh seasonal produce, beautiful techniques, precise execution and people who are passionate about this craft. Japan's respect for tradition strongly influences the excellence of their food scene and gives dinners great confidence in the skills of a chef. There is a great deal of open-mindedness, a huge passion for and dedication to this craft. Also, there has been an increase in demand for healthy food in the past ten years and Japan fits the bill perfectly, offering great diversity and quality throughout the four distinctive seasons around the year. With much pride taken in the local produce, cuisine in Japan is clean and lean with straightforward and honest flavours. There has to something extraordinary about Japan's take on food, especially when the national capital, Tokyo, has 226 Michelin-starred restaurants, way ahead of its nearest rival, Paris, which has 94.
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