Chef Damian D'Silva of Kin shares his favourite dining spots
Because F&B insiders know best
These days I'm busy with the recent opening of Kin at Straits Clan, where we showcase time-honoured cooking methods, recipes and ingredients that have been left behind.
When I need to eat clean, it usually means I've had too much of rich and heavy meals. When this happens, I always tend to cook my own meals. It's usually brown rice with steamed fish and vegetables that are quickly stir-fried with garlic. Occasionally I will cook fish porridge and have it with pickles.
My favourite bar in Singapore is in the comfort of my home where I can enjoy an occasional scotch on the rocks. If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, I would have more than one favourite bar to share. But No. 5 Emerald Hill is certainly one that is close to my heart as I have spent many nights there polishing bottles off the shelves.
My guilty pleasure doesn't quite exist? I eat what I want in moderation and I've never felt guilty yet. Of course, when I polish off a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's or 500 grams of Mont d'Or, that might count as one.
My go-to supper spot changes from year to year, and in the last couple of years, it's usually home after work. If you put a gun to my head, then perhaps Ye Shang Hai Teochew Porridge at Lengkok Bahru. I like the array of dishes they have that you can either eat healthy or go back to feeling guilty.
For weekend brunch with friends, it has to be Zai Shun Curry Fish Head at Jurong East Street 24. I usually call ahead to order the fish and have two different steamed fishes done in different styles. If you don't eat fish then you are probably in the wrong place. They also do bitter gourd, pork belly and hae bee hiam but the fishes are the real stars here.
The best place to get a meal with seafood is difficult as it really depends on what your preference is. A place that I've found that hits most of the right spots is Naked Finn. I believe the dedication and time taken to source quality seafood from all over the world is what differs them from the rest. They also pay careful attention in cooking the seafood right. The menu is seafood-driven and the must-haves are the crustaceans, cephalopods, and did I say fish? The seafood is cooked simply but executed very well.
For special occasions, I usually have French food. I think it brings me back to when I first started cooking professionally and it's always nice to revisit an "old friend". I like Nicolas Le Restaurant, it's modern but done classically, where top quality ingredients are cooked at an affordable price. I've always gone for the degustation menu.
My all-time favourite restaurant doesn't exist, well unfortunately not anymore. The one restaurant that I used to frequent quite a bit in the past has since closed as with most of my favourite haunts or worse, they have passed on. I guess it's difficult to remain competitive in Singapore where rental prices are always rising and staffing is a constant headache for every restaurant owner. It's difficult to name just one, but if I really had to choose, then I would say a good tze char stall — Zai Shun, Chef Chik and Keng Eng Kee.
My favourite market in Singapore happens to be quite a few. One of them is Block 58 New Upper Changi Road Market, where I buy most of my seafood and pork. I've been buying from the same stalls for the last 30 years. The other markets I frequent on a very regular basis are Geylang Serai Market and Tekka Market. I have an aunty at Geylang Serai Market who peels all my shallots. Once you've tried peeling at least ten kilograms of shallots every two days, you too will want my aunty's contact! Besides the herbs, I also get my chilli kerinting and most of the seasonal fruits here like buah binjai, buah sukun, and a host of others. At Tekka Market, my usual shopping involves buying keluak, daun pegaga and some herbs that are more common with Thai cooking. I've been going to wet markets all my life and find it relaxing and stimulating. The joy of finding a rare fish or herb is priceless and I'm excited to showcase these local ingredients through our heritage cuisine with our guests at Kin.
I grew up eating mostly heritage and local cuisine. My grandfather used to bring me to different parts of Singapore to savour the different ethnic dishes from "squatting" stalls, Teochew porridge along Stanley Street to yong tau foo at Boat Quay. Sometimes we would even venture to places as far as Sembawang for Indian food. At home we would have a mix of Singaporean food where we ate simply but well. The more sophisticated food was always kept for special occasions and when the festive season came around, we will have a spread of dishes that would intimidate any chef.
When dining with my family, we will usually head to Chinese restaurants for birthdays. Imperial Treasure has a great spread featuring different cuisines and styles that would suit anyone. However, we also enjoy dining at home as it's the only place that I can have lunch and also stay for dinner! Of course, there are options like Tanjong Beach Club, Smith Marine, and Artichoke.
The food scene in Singapore is very vibrant. Its unique ethnic tapestry, combining Chinese, Malay, Indian and English influences is reflected through the variety of cuisines.