You’re not uniquely Singaporean unless you’re passionate about food and have strong opinions, especially about local fare. You can’t really call yourself SG-born-and-bred if you don’t like to eat. Every proud Singaporean worth his sambal belachan doesn’t just eat to live, but lives to eat. Those of us who are proudly Singaporean are also particular about the authenticity of our local fare. That’s why deep-fried crispy chicken rendang just won’t do.
On the other hand, we do like a little, and sometimes a lot of clever riffs on our favourite local foods, as long as they’re created by people who know what they’re doing – chefs and restaurateurs, whose taste buds have been honed by decades of eating Singapore’s multi-cultural cuisine, everything from heartland hawker foods, home-concocted secret recipes, to wok-tossed zi char yummies eaten in humid coffee shops.
Lucky gourmands that we are, SG has nurtured a small crop of such stalwarts in the Mod-Sin area of cuisine. They don’t just eat and cook Singaporean, but, having been exposed to a plethora of foreign cuisines through travel and everyday adventure, they have also developed an appetite for both cooking and eating the food of the world. They’ve achieved these culinary triumphs through years of bold experimentation, turning traditional local favourites on their heads, giving them modern spins, deconstructing traditional presentation and thinking out of the box in terms of plating and how they want their patrons to enjoy iconic Singapore dishes differently – all that while still retaining the authentic flavours of the dishes.
In this food ode to SG53, His Style Diary recommends you dive into the familiar yet serendipitous Mod-Sin gourmet renditions of these skillful chefs, all of which are served at their charming, chill, double-confirmed, super-glocal restaurants.
Wild Rocket @ Mount Emily
10A Upper Wilkie Rd, Singapore 228119
The man behind Wild Rocket is none other than former lawyer turned chef and restaurant owner, Willin Low, who also coined the cuisine genre, Mod-Sin, way back in 2005, when he opened the minimalist, Nordic design-inspired restaurant on quiet Mount Emily. This pioneer of Mod-Sin cuisine has a penchant for traditional Singapore dishes and snacks – his Instagram pictures are a testament to that – and going in search of the best wanton mee, curry puff, png kueh (pan-fried rice cake), chai tau kueh (steamed flour cake fried with radish and spring onions), cha kueh (carrot cake fried in sweet black sauce), prata, just to name a few. This relentless search is a deep passion of the man. Willin’s strengths are in being innovative yet authentic. He believes in changing things up to make a dish more interesting and engaging, yet making sure it retains its original flavours.
Wild Rocket is best for personal and business catch-ups, as the ambience is relaxed yet conducive to lunch meetings and extended dinner tete a tetes.
Must Order: Giam chye ar duck and mustard green consommé with foie gras ravioli, tau yew bah soy sauce pork ragout cannelloni with soy-cured yolk, and tuna belly mince and glass noodles negitoro and bah chor mee, all inspired by Willin’s love for Peranakan and hawker fare, as well as his predilection for all things noodle and pasta.
320 Havelock Rd, Singapore 169628
A collaborative effort between the Lo & Behold Group (famous for Odette, Loof and The White Rabbit) and chef-partner Willin Low, Po restaurant at The Warehouse Hotel pays homage to local grandmas, those great cooks in our lives. Because of its iconic location at the hip Warehouse Hotel, it gets its fair share of urbane tourists in search of not just Mod- but Haute-Sin cuisine – Po is just the place to try Singapore’s heritage dishes in a smart setting. Po prides itself in serving elevated Singaporean dishes amidst an elegant ambience. It’s one of those restaurants that looks and feels different in the day and at night. By day, it’s perfect for business lunches and group dining (portions are suitable for sharing), for entertaining friends from abroad, even eating alone (order the Popiah – per serving to share comes with four pieces of skin). By night, however, Po transforms into a romantic date-appropriate restaurant – perfect for a quiet dinner for two. Something about the lighting also makes it a great place to capture flattering wefies.
Must Order: Popiah (for 1-2 persons per serving), Truffle Duck Pie Tee, Kurobuta Char Siew, Wagyu Cheek Rendang, and Carabinero Prawns and Konbu Mee.
120 Desker Road, Singapore 209639
The owners of CreatureS, Dennis Chong and Chong Kok Keong, both passionate home chefs, were inspired by the phrases ‘creature comforts’ and ‘creatures of habit’ when they named the restaurant. And this award-winning restaurant truly lives up to its name in terms of serving comfort on a plate in hearty portions, and as a result, making their discerning creatures-of-habit diners return for more. The Mod-Sin factor is reflected in their menu’s east-meets-west dishes, mostly Peranakan and Asian, but with a twist. CreatureS’ Mod-Sin quotient is further enhanced by its interior design – a successful marriage between stately Peranakan home, and cool, cosmopolitan apartment.
Must order: Ikan Bilis Caesar, Italian Godfather Yong Tau Foo, Urban Babi Pongteh, CreatureS Laksa, Chinese Household Pasta Vongole.
The Modern Bibik
The Modern Bibik is a private dining, catering and pop-up dining concept founded by chef Angeline Neo, whose specialty is “modern Peranakan with a cheeky twist”. Angeline may have learnt to cook Peranakan food from her grandmother, but she imbues all her culinary creations with new-fangled ingredients and flavours all her own. She is a master at customizing for her diners, at marrying tradition with the trendy, yet is strict at adhering to authenticity of taste. Just for the month of August, the Modern Bibik has teamed up with Little House of Dreams (Block 8, 01-14 Dempsey Road) to bring you Little House of Dreams Presents Modern Peranakan Classic from 1st to 31st August. This limited edition collaboration menu includes the likes of Babi Asam Wonton Nachos, Otak Jantan Yongtauhu and more. Not to be missed! For bookings, call Little House of Dreams at 6472-4977.
Must order: From Little House of Dreams – Ayam Pongteh Pot Pie, Goreng Pisang Rolls, Tea Rose Bandung, Pearl Dumplings and Bibik’s Fried Chicken, which is Angeline’s spin on Inche Kabin, which is more synonymous with Penang Peranakan food. The Modern Bibik also customizes menus for private dining patrons – perfect for making your guests feel special.