Woo Wai Leong's favourite dining spots
Because F&B insiders know best
These days I'm busy with stabilising my new place, Restaurant Ibid. It's been a long time coming and with a concept as daring as a fully open kitchen executing Nanyang-style, contemporary Chinese food, it has been a similarly rewarding and exhausting first month of getting to grips with tweaking the current dishes, working on new ones, running service smoothly, and finding more staff.
A hawker stall I would queue for is Scissors Cut Curry Rice in Jalan Besar. Nothing quite beats something as indulgent as curry rice late at night after work.
I'm a regular at XO Minced Meat Noodle at Newton Hawker Centre (the one in the front with Fiona Xie on the signboard). The auntie doing the late night shift remembers my usual order, the bak chor mee with extra crispy beancurd skin and a bowl of laksa gravy on the side.
When I need to eat clean, I drink vegetable smoothies that I prepare at home. These days my mom prepares a large batch of vegetable smoothies with whatever she can find in the fridge.
My favourite bar in Singapore is The Horse's Mouth, where I picked up my trade as a bartender and as a member of the front of house. It's this bar that taught me so much about hospitality and relating to the guests and trying to get them what they like within the best of our abilities.
My guilty pleasure is having half a chicken with lots of rice and a side of salad youtiao at Boon Tong Kee when I have a post-work, late night chicken rice craving. It really hits the spot and sleep comes with open arms after that.
My go-to supper spot is Dong Fang Mei Shi in Chinatown. Open till late, really honest and tasty comfort food with a lazy and noisy ambience.
For weekend brunch with friends, I go to any new restaurant open on Sundays. I most recently visited Circa 1912 and absolutely love what David Yip and his team is doing.
The best place to get a meal with seafood is a hard question to answer, just because there are so many places. Salted & Hung has some really moreish seafood appetizers and mains (mackerel and turbot). Candlenut does an incredible prawn with gula melaka sauce that is craveworthy. Sushi Hashida has some inventive and umami-tastic plates. JB Ah Meng does a crab bee hoon that oozes with power and oomph in the form of boatloads of pork lard and smoky wok hei.
For special occasions, I try to make a visit to Candlenut, Corner House, Salted & Hung, Restaurant Labyrinth, Cheek by Jowl and many others whenever I get the chance!
My all-time favourite restaurant is another tricky question. There is a perfect restaurant for every time and place. St John's in London always satisfies with simple and hearty food, while Kam Fung in Hong Kong gives me the satisfaction of a morning tea with buttery chicken pies and bolo buns.
My favourite farm in Singapore? I do enjoy visiting Edible Garden City to see what new things those crazy and wonderful people are growing, it's so nice to know there's a little slice of green sitting so close to the city. I do intend on visiting more farms in Singapore once I clear more time from Restaurant Ibid.
I grew up eating things like bak kwa toasties, plain rice with egg mayo (strange but awesome) and my mum's incredible Sarawak laksa. These taste memories are all things that I hope to eventually feature or reference on my menu in the near future.
For dining with family, we generally do Thai or Japanese food because it's something we can all agree on. We don't usually have a 'usual' restaurant, we are more than happy to try something new within those two genres.
For coffee... Any cuppa, whether it's an expertly made pour over coffee or a bracingly strong cup of local kopi, works for me.
The food scene in Singapore is one of the most varied and competitive I've experienced yet. There's a stunning plate of food for every price point, occasion and guest here. It also means that the Singaporean diner is also one of the most widely exposed and critical in the world.
The country that has the best food scene is (without being overly patriotic) Singapore. While we may not have the greatest of food to cover all cuisines, we have a huge variety of options that cater to most people. These are things that mark a great multi-cultural city like Singapore. I'm honestly excited to see what the future holds for the food scene in this little island in Southeast Asia.