My favourite dining spots: Sam Aisbett

My favourite dining spots: Sam Aisbett

Because F&B insiders know best

Denise Kok

The chef-owner of modern Australian restaurant, Whitegrass, lets us in on his favourite hawker joints and go-to dining spots in Singapore

These days, I'm busy with creating new dishes for the menu. I am constantly experimenting with different ingredients to keep our menu interesting. I was researching online several months ago and found a rare 20-year-old soy sauce from Japan. We spent a few weeks building a dish around it. The soy sauce is produced by one of the oldest family-run soy sauce companies in Japan. It is the only company that makes the soy the traditional way using a time and labour-intensive process. The flavour is so amazingly intense so we chose to leave the soy completely unadorned. We place only five tiny drops on a plate to accompany the beef it is paired with.

The last few months have also been spent cultivating our own herbs in a room above the restaurant. We're growing sea succulents, nasturtiums and pea sprouts which we use in the kitchen every day and have just ordered some mushroom spores. I can't wait to start growing them.  


A hawker stall I would queue for is Cheng Mun Chee Kee Pig Organ Soup at 24 Foch Road. I like to come here whenever I crave something comforting. The broth is simply amazing. I initially thought the soup would have an intense, porky taste but it was clean tasting, sweet, and delicious.

A heritage eatery I hope will never disappear is Roxy Laksa at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. I love visiting the local markets and hawker stalls in Singapore and have always been adventurous when tasting local dishes. My favourite local dish at this very moment has to be laksa and this particular version at East Coast Lagoon is the best I have tasted. The gravy is fragrant, delicious, and you can really taste the quality of the spices they use and the freshness of the steeped prawns. The coconut milk is also freshly squeezed and this makes a big difference. I also love the fact that it has been family owned and run since it opened in the 1960s. This is laksa I could eat everyday. 

I'm a regular at Tendon Ginza Itsuki at Tanjong Pagar Road. Dining here feels like I have been transported back to Japan. It is a truly authentic experience. I always order the Special Tendon Set that is extremely tasty and I particularly like the tempura sauce. The tempura is fried to a perfect crisp. Service staff yell throughout the restaurant, as they would in Japan, and the entire experience is just incredible. If you don't get there by 6pm, you'll find a massive line right outside the door.

Special Tendon Set at Tendon Ginza Itsuki

When I need to eat clean, I head home. I like to keep my meal simple where I'll just steam some peas and broccoli and then sprinkle them with chili, garlic, salt and olive oil. I also eat loads of fruit. My wife and I go to the fruit store in Everton Park to get them since it's a walking distance away from our place.

My guilty pleasure is
iced desserts. In particular from Mei Heong Yuen Dessert in Chinatown. I love their ice kacang and they do a great warm set milk custard which is almost always sold out.  I always go there when I have late night cravings.

When I have chef friends in town, I bring them to Long Chim for really good durian ice cream. There is also a great little zhi char place on Keong Saik road called Kok Sen restaurant which is famous for their prawn paste chicken. All the dishes are great. We enjoy their sambal fish, fermented beancurd, and frog legs with chilli, garlic, and ginger.

Long Chim

My go-to supper spot is Founder Bak Kut Teh in Balestier. It is nourishing and really hits the spot after a long hard day in the kitchen. We always go after service.

The best place to get a meal with seafood is Sin Huat Eating House. Danny, the owner and chef, does everything from taking the orders to cooking your meal. The crab bee hoon here is so tasty and comes with the most incredible sauce.

For special occasions, I head to Waku Ghin. I worked at Tetsuya's for many years and his restaurant here is more traditional. The menu really highlights the best of the best from Japan and I love the fact that you are moved into another room for dessert at the end of the evening.

Waku Ghin

My all-time favourite restaurant is Kikunoi in Kyoto. It is a three Michelin star restaurant, tucked away on a little hill and serves the most exquisite Kaiseki cuisine. It is very traditional. You sit on the floor while dish after beautiful dish is served to you in elegant fashion. It is the epitome of what makes Japanese cuisine so special. The menu showcases the purest and best ingredients and lets the beauty of the produce speak for itself. Even though the restaurant is full, the service staff are so warm and hospitable they make you feel like you are the only ones dining there. No detail goes overlooked.  

I had my most memorable meal at
Elephant National Park. My wife and I volunteered in Chiang Mai for a week several years ago where we worked for a sanctuary for mistreated elephants. We would do everything from cleaning the elephant pens to visiting the farms and cutting corn for the elephants' meals. The mums, grandmothers and aunties of the village would all gather together to cook these incredible dishes that would be laid out buffet style for all the volunteers to enjoy every meal time. It was all vegan, made with fresh produce grown locally on their farms. We ate with all the villagers, in the middle of Chiang Mai, surrounded by elephants. It has to be the best Thai food I have eaten in Thailand to date.

My favourite bar is D. Bespoke. It is such a classy bar. We arrived to find a massive bowl of Japanese fruit placed at the centre of our table. I mentioned I loved Pione Grapes and they built a drink around that flavour profile. The service is some of the best I've noticed in Singapore and they have some of the most talented bartenders. The attention to detail here is top-notch. 

D.Bespoke Bar

For coffee, I head to Nylon Coffee Roasters. I love how they always know my order when I walk through the door. The owners travel to South America to directly source for their own beans from various farmers. They are so passionate about their craft and their coffee is consistently good. I also love how the café has got such a Sydney vibe to it. It reminds me of home.  

A restaurant to watch is Cheek by Jowl. Chef Rishi Naleendra is proudly flying the Modern Australian flag and is a force to be reckoned. He serves up some of the most creative and amazing tasting dishes.

A dish served at Cheek by Jowl: Lightly torched ocean trout with compressed cucumber and whipped buttermilk.

The food scene in Singapore is diverse. You can get every type of cuisine on any budget — from reasonably priced hawker food to mid-range eateries and more expensive fine dining restaurants. The scene here even has such a great range of celebrity chef restaurants. The scene is buzzing.

The country that has the best food scene is Japan. They have so much respect for food and this even extends to how their ingredients are grown. Even just one plant and fruit is carefully nurtured till it is ready to be harvested. 

To view more recommendations from other F&B insiders, click here. To read our restaurant review of Whitegrass, click here