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Where to eat and what’s new in Singapore: An all-new Prego, Noka at Funan, El Mero Mero’s Mexican plates

Where to eat and what’s new in Singapore: An all-new Prego, Noka at Funan, El Mero Mero’s Mexican plates

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Text: Crystal Lee Janice Sim Evan Mua


Where we dined this week...

Noka

Few things have us as intrigued as an urban farm, especially in a place like Singapore. But tie that with a Japanese restaurant by Spa Esprit, and you officially have our attention. Perhaps in our city's track record of climate culture and not to mention, a lack of open green pastures, procuring fresh produce from farm to table has become a novelty most of us deeply cherish. Following in the footsteps of its sister restaurant Open Farm Community, Noka presents a refreshing take with a Japanese rift. With the aide of Edible Garden City, right outside the restaurant on the rooftop of Funan Mall, the food is headed by head chef Seki Takuma. As a native of Niigata prefecture, the jovial chef brings artisanal produce like Koshihikari rice and exquisite sake labels to the table. His focus, is to remain as close to nature as possible, by pledging his support to farmers and locally-grown produce. Fresh from the rooftop garden, you'll see oyster mushrooms, microgreens, basil, butterfly pea flowers given the spotlight to shine on the plates at Noka. Our shrooms came showered with a sesame shio kombu, and delicately paired with Okinawan spinach. Also, within the snacks, organic oxheart tomatoes that are larger, sweeter, and juicier than the usual. Next up. perfectly cooked daikon, steeped in an umami clear soup and treated with a dollop of fresh uni. A divine combination elevated with the hint of heat from the garden's natural garnish. But the real sweeping wave of tears ultimately came from an Apollo white prawn sushi topped with sea grape, junmai jinjo, and a punchy slab of wasabi, which we wished could have been reduced a tad bit. Just so that nothing could overpower the flavour of the fresh catch. No surprises, but our ultimate favourite was the snow-aged Niigata wagyu —lightly grilled over charcoal, and simply adorned with yuzu ponzu and Okinawan spinach. Turns out, there's not much work needed to be done when the beef speaks for itself. —JS

Snow-aged Niigata wagyu beef

Hero dish: Snow-aged Niigata wagyu
Estimated calorie count: 88

#07-38 Funan 109 North Bridge Road
Opening hours: (Tues-Sun) 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm

Prego

Prego, the Italian old guard in Fairmont Singapore, is 33 this year, and has recently been overhauled and relaunched. In the early '90s, before Singapore's culinary landscape exploded with world-class, award-winning restaurants, this was one of the places that people go, dressed to the nines, for fancy, authentic Italian food, on a special occasion. Back then, "authentic Italian food" was almost always served in a white table-clothed establishment, because, well, handmade pastas, wood fired pizzas and creamy, unctuous risottos were considered a luxury. But as more and more top-notch Italian restaurants open all across town, Prego isn't quite as special as it once was. Which is why this rebirth is a much-needed one; to cement its place as one of most enduring Italian restaurants in the city. And, if you've been to old Prego, you'll see that little was spared in the facelift. The 240-seater space now looks like a spiffed-up Italian taverna, complete with an emerald green, white and natural wood colour palette, colourful mosaic-tiled floor, an enormous island bar, an open kitchen, rustic red brick walls, old-school European paintings, and rattan chairs to inject a bit of breezy Italian coastal vibes. The menu has also been rebuilt, courtesy of newly-appointed head chef Mauro Sanna, who brings with him over four decades of culinary experience. The hope is to transport diners to his childhood in Italy, where recipes are generations-old and ingredients are delightfully fresh. You'll find most, if not all, Italian staples on the menu: crisp wood-fired pizzas (go for the fail-safe Prego), heart-melting handmade pastas (you won't regret the velvety maine lobster angel hair spaghetti), solid mains (the seabream and slow-roasted pork belly are very satisfying), and a sweet (pun intended) variety of gelatos that you can take away. Drinks are worth sticking around for; the list includes a fair number of wines, beers (the Prego Lager is specially created with Brewerkz), and cocktails, including a Spritz section (yes that's right) with summery tipples perfect for our weather. —CL

Capelli d'angelo' all'astice

Hero dish: Capelli d'angelo' all'astice (maine lobster angel hair spaghetti)
Estimate calorie count: 450

Level 1, Fairmont Singapore, Tel: 6431 6156
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm (Sat-Sun) 12pm-2.30pm, 5pm-10.30pm

El Mero Mero

Here's what we think: The average Singaporean might be hard-pressed to name any Mexican dishes beyond tacos and burritos. Good reason to why Alejandro, the owner of El Mero Mero who is coincidentally the first naturalised Singaporean from Meixco, had his vision to expose locals to the tantalising world of Mexican cuisine. (Fun fact: His passiong even extended to opening his own tortilla factory in Singapore with imports straight from Meixco.) Now refreshed with a new look, El Mero Mero returns with a brand new menu that is both representative of authentic Mexican flavours as well as the cutting edge of Mexican culinary trends, with most of the dishes in sharing portions, ala tapas style. His vision is shared by his compatriot, head chef Jorge who hails from Oaxaca, as the duo tap on their diverse regional backgrounds into a fulfilling dining experience. We started off with the complimentary deep-fried corn chips with tangy housemade salsa that were so crisp and addictive, we cleaned the plate. One particularly unique dish was the corn sampler. Sounds mundane, but the Josper chargrilled organic baby corns came with an explosion of sweet juices tinged with a slight smoke. Laid beside was the huitlacoche (Mexican truffle that grow on corns) donuts, which brought a mystifying mix of savoury and sweet profile as we bit into the pillowy goodness. Both of which, married perfectly with a chili mayo dip that one would pay good money for. Now, let's cut straight to the tacos. It was pure decadence as we bit down on the juicy strips of Australian wagyu bathing in creamy avocado, and lined with crispy mozzarella that resounded with a crunch. The other choice: Baja fish, had the golden ratio of meat to batter, and deftly accentuated the zest of the tangy chipotle mayo. If we had one gripe, the cream of the El Mero Mero fajita felt a tad too heavy when paired with the flour wrap. But that was quickly forgiven when dessert came around — a tequila pecan pie was served in all of its Josper-grilled glory, and blessing our palates with an intoxicating aroma from roasted nuts and a gratifying dollop of cinnamon ice cream. —EM

Baja fish taco

Hero dish: Baja fish taco
Estimate calorie count: 250

30 Victoria St, #01-20 Chijmes, Tel: 9722 8171
Opening hours: (Sun-Thurs) 5pm-11pm, (Fri-Sat) 5pm-12am

Where we're looking to dine...

Summer Hill's Fried Chicken Day

The French bistro in Clementi is renowned for their amazing roasted chicken, but they also do a mean buttermilk fried chicken. And before you hesitate, their chicken are free of hormones and antibiotics. So yes, fried batter and juicy poultry for the weekend? Yes, yes, and yes.

Summer Hill's fried chicken

106 Clementi Street 12, #01-62, Tel: 6251 5337
Opening hours: (Tues-Fri) 12pm-3pm, 5pm-10pm, (Sat-Sun) 11:30am-4pm, 5pm-10pm

bites & vibes - Foodpanda's ultimate foodie party

Following the roaring success of the previous iteration, bites & vibes returns to Amoy Street. The exciting lineup of globe-trotting DJs and local indie bands is all well and good, but nothing excites us more than the food. We're most pumped for some of the best burgers in Singapore from 25 Degrees, the crazy good fried chicken from Chico Loco, amongst other local favourites.

Beats & Vibes 2018

Amoy Street
Opening hours: 1 September,12pm-10pm

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