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Dining in Singapore


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Hi Gim

Welcome to eGullet! Are you based in KL or Singapore?

Have you tried Saint Pierre? I've heard some pretty good things about it. The chef Emmanuel Stroobant used to be at KL's Carmen's before moving to Singapore. I liked the food at Carmen's when Chef Stroobant was there but have yet to try Saint Pierre.

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hi,

couple of important things to realize about eating western food here in s'pore. you're never going to get anything close to a "ducasse experience." you'll get good food, occasionally great food, but if you've eaten your way around europe, you'll be disappointed of you expect the same calibre of food. after all, if someone could cook at that level, why would they be here and not in europe at a 2 or 3 star.

look for example at the fact that justin quek just quit les amis -- in order for him to take time off to work on making his food better and probably leaving singapore for more acclaim internationally.

that said, another thing about singapore, which is sad but true, is that a lot of if comes down to knowing the chef. i have had some lousy meals at the les amis group restaurants, especially lighthouse under the old chef (nam). but on the rare occasion that i have informed justin that i was coming and have asked for a special menu, he has really made an effort and has blown me away with some truly amazing dishes. fortunately, i know him well enough to ask.

gunther, the chef at lighthouse, who will move with his team to amouse-bouche, the new tasting restaurant owned by les amis (in the old intermezzo location at raffles link) is extremely talented as well. again, call ahead and ask if chef gunther has time to meet and prepare a special menu. he was sous-chef at l'arpege under alain passard.

my fave new place is les saisons at central mall, where st pierre used to be (emmanuel is extremely talented, but i can't deal with that wife - few people i have met can - of his so i rarely go to st pierre any more!). also quite good is the new aussie chef at fig leaf.

italian is also very subjective. i have never had a good meal at senso, but i have italian friends who love it. maybe you have to be italian to get good food and service? i like garibaldi but the chef has his good days and not so good days.

again, the most important thing here is getting to know the chefs and the restarauteurs, which sucks if you really don't have the time. but if you are here for several years, well worth the effort.

cheers!

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Singapore airline food was airline food, and their idea of low-carb menu option (business class) was grilled chicken salad followed by -err- grilled chicken in Tomato Sauce. At least I assume it was chicken. Apparently they have Gordon Ramsey and other star chefs on their advisory panel. I'd like to know what the advise they gave.

I flew business class with Singapore Airline on my recent trip to US. On the San Francisco-HK leg, one of the appetisers was a double-boiled chicken soup. It was very good, with that home-made, delicate yet herbal taste; my husband even remarked it taste better than how our mothers make it. We noticed, with surprise, that most of the Caucasian passengers finished all their soup too. The Braised Beef Rib on the same flight (pre-ordered on their Book The Cook service) was also very tasty. Another favourite dish is their Nasi Bryani, better than many versions on the ground. On the whole, I prefer their Asian dishes to Western ones.

I have not tried other airline's food, but I feel that Singapore Airlines really make the effort. I also noticed they have new cutlery, which looks good and feel comfortably solid in the hands, and finally, they've reinstated the metal knives. Their new crockery (or it the correct term flatware) for business class is rather elegant too.

While in the US, I flew with US Airways. I suffered muscle aches from their uncomfortable seats, bought my own sandwich into the plane, and they manage to lose my suitcase (still have not found it). It is not fair to compare the two airlines, but it really shows how bad things can get, and am I ever so grateful that I could enjoy a wonderful flight home.

Edited by tonkichi (log)
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Yes. Singapore Ailines are rally much better than most. The normal business class food looked excellent; the staff were great; the coffee good, and the seats amazing. They went virtually flat so I got a decent amount of sleep. They even had lap-top power points, and good video-on-demand.

I sure the mix-up over the low carb food was accidental, and they did offer me a version of the normal food (including delicious sea-urchin salad) to compenste.

Best of all was that they had their own fast-track through London Heathrow security, passport control and customs. That alone made flying with them worthwhile.

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Best of all was that they had their own fast-track through London Heathrow security, passport control and customs. That alone made flying with them worthwhile.

I agree about this completely, but thought other airlines also have the same service, surely they would not just give this privilege to just one carrier.

I felt rather bad walking past that long snaking queue, but only for about 2 seconds, surprising how a little pink sticker on your chest can make things easy.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'm based in KL and here my favourite restaurants are cilantro and le bouchon and recently I've had some fantastic meals at Chinoz, Bangsar (during winemakers dinners). After that, it becomes even more hit and miss. (or simply miss).

Hmm... it's a little difficult to establish a relationship with the chefs in Spore because I only go down about one every 2-3months, and only for a night or two.

I'll remember Saint Pierre and lookout for the (now) infamous wife. Apart from that, perhaps I'll try and pin down Gunther from Lighthouse or visit Les Saisons.

Now to plan my next trip! ....

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....where st pierre used to be (emmanuel is extremely talented, but i can't deal with that wife - few people i have met can - of his so i rarely go to st pierre any more!). also quite good is the new aussie chef at fig leaf.

I don't know what other peoples' gripe about Emmanuel's wife is, but I have my own to relate. I think her name is Edina.

Two years ago, when St Pierre was newly opened, we reserved a table for our anniversary dinner. We had enjoyed Emmanuel's cooking at Fig Leaf and looked forward to the St Pierre experience; even at the initial few weeks, the restaurant enjoyed very positive reviews about their food.

On the day before our appointment, my husband found out that he had to attend another function the next day, i.e. our anniversary. We called the restaurant at about 6 pm and explained that a) we are sorry that we will have to cancel the next day's appointment, b) that it was meant to celebrate our wedding anniversary and c) could they possibly accommodate us for this evening, adding that we understand they may be busy. Edina replied that she had a table free, and it was in a "secluded and private" corner.

So we went to the restaurant, and were led to a narrow passageway between the small reception area in the front and the larger dining room behind. Their tiny kitchen opens into this passageway, which measured about 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. A large refridgerator or wine cabinet occupied the "far" end , about 1/3 of the length of the passageway. Between the fridge and the kitchen door, a small table laid for two was placed. It was our table. If we sit at that table, one of us would have our back against the wine fridge and the other would enjoy the breeze that results everytime the kitchen door opened. The lighting of the passageway was in the form of a candle on the table and a weak wall lamp. We realised that this was our "secluded and private" corner. Private alright, as in no one but all the wait staff would see us, unless you count the Other diners walking into the more airy dining room. Needless to say we walked out of the whole place, and have never been tempted to go again, in spite of all the awards and good reviews. She made no attempt to improve the situation, e.g. suggesting we wait for a table to be available and was blank-faced when we told her we were leaving the restaurant. I would also add that I have also met the couple briefly at a few Slow Food lunches, even before they opened their restaurant.

This behaviour is completely unacceptable in a fine dining establishment. I would not have minded if she had told us she did not have a table that evening, or the only table she had was in a dark and narrow service passageway. She misled us completely, and has no idea what service to customers mean.

Fortunately, our evening did not turn out badly. We had a fine Chinese meal at one of our favourite restaurants, with superb service and great food, and we did not have to tell them that we were celebrating a special occasion.

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Much of the food here so far tastes too sweet to me. I wonder if that is a local characteristic.

They have a bad habit of destroying their hawker fare by adding sweets sauces. Very puzzling why they insist on doing this. :wacko:

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'm based in KL and here my favourite restaurants are cilantro and le bouchon and recently I've had some fantastic meals at Chinoz, Bangsar (during winemakers dinners). After that, it becomes even more hit and miss. (or simply miss).

Hey, do cilantro, le bouchon, chinoiz have websites. Where is le bouchon located.

What's good in the way of Japanese these days? I only know of kanpachi as being the reliable favourite.

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Tonkichi,

That sounds totally unacceptable. Sometimes it's shocking how some restaurants can place so many people (sous-chefs, kitchen staff) under insane stress levels to make the food (near) perfect, only to fumble up in their service/delivery. Its such a shame.

Then again, it can be difficult working with your spouse.

SG,

Here's the website for Le Bouchon - http://www.lebouchonrestaurant.com/

I should add, before you get your hopes up, that the atmosphere in Le Bouchon is slightly rustic, but very countryside-ish. As with what I hear about Spore, if you speak to the chef, he'll arrange some special dishes for you that are not on the menu. It's located on Changkat Bukit Bintang, in the Imbi area. There are many new restaurants and bars in that slightly odd location, hence some people loosely refer to it as Msia's "soho".

Prices are about RM120-150 per person, while Cilantro is slightly more, at RM 150-200 per person. Personally I would consider the food at Cilantro better than Le Bouchon in general.

I don't believe Cilantro and Chinoz have websites. Tried to google them and didn't find any. If you want, to get an idea of their food, you can message me or write me an email and I can forward you some of their menus/ winemakers dinner menus.

In terms of Japanese, I understand Kampachi still has a considerable lead ahead of the pack. Another Jap restaurant that I used to be keen on is Genji, PJ Hilton and we've known their sushi chef for at least 10years

but apart from their sushi (which comes in fresh on Tuesday and Saturday), made by Richard (sushi chef), the other foods are mediocre. Kampachi still does the best Kobe Beef in town. I'm going to another newish Japanese restaurant in town called Ozeki which had good reviews during the recent KL Gourmet Festival.

(in general, jap restaurants in spore are probably much much better)

Cheers,

Gim

Edited by gimt (log)
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I tried the food at Ozeki recently. Their strength is more in interpreting Japanese dishes in a modern way, e.g. miso cod, spicy mackerel, grilled steak. The sushi and sashimi were not as sparkling fresh as I expected. Service staff were courteous and eager to help but inexperienced.

S'pore Japanese restauarants are a cut better, in my experience. Some places are tiny operations run by Japanese themselves, e.g. a terrific yakitori place called Kazu in Cuppage Plaza, and numerous sushi places dot Japanese haunts at Orchard and Cuppage Plaza. The best experience for me was without doubt, at a place called Akane. It is one of two restaurants in the Japanese Association building ( the other is a casual family restaurant) and run by Nogawa; this place is definitely open to the non-members. Nogawa is only the godfather of all the other sushi chefs in Singapore, his disciples other Japanese restaurants in town. There is another Nogawa, at the Meridien Hotel, but Mr Nogawa can be found most times at Akane. They fly in the fish Everyday, as opposed to Tuesday and Fridays. If budget permits, just seat yourself at the counter and let the friendly chef and restaurant manager take you through all the freshest and seasonal items available.

Edited by tonkichi (log)
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Absolutely agree with the comments that a good meal in Singapore is more likely to depend on knowing the chef than simply walking in.

For upscale western food, we're very fond of Raffles Grill. The prices make it a "special event" place, but we've never been disappointed by the ambience, service or food (one lamb dish excepted).

Other than that, I've been underwhelmed by French or Continental food in Singapore. We have a daughter in NYC, and the run of the mill there is in line with the best here. Haven't tried Les Saisons though -- will take your suggestion and see...

Mezza9 in the Hyatt is fun, and has been reliable for most cuisines.

For Italian, I agree Senso is way over-rated. We used to like to Gaetano's on Club Street, but felt the new La Stella had kind of a cold atmosphere -- food was the same - fine.

For Japanese, Akane is excellent, as is Shiraishi in the Ritz Carlton -- mostly Japanese staff, ingredients, and clinetele. We also like Kuriya, but only the one in Great World City, for izakaya type food.

[Edit: spelling]

Edited by sng sling (log)
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Here's the website for Le Bouchon - http://www.lebouchonrestaurant.com/

I should add, before you get your hopes up, that the atmosphere in Le Bouchon is slightly rustic, but very countryside-ish. As with what I hear about Spore, if you speak to the chef, he'll arrange some special dishes for you that are not on the menu. It's located on Changkat Bukit Bintang, in the Imbi area. There are many new restaurants and bars in that slightly odd location, hence some people loosely refer to it as Msia's "soho".

Prices are about RM120-150 per person, while Cilantro is slightly more, at RM 150-200 per person. Personally I would consider the food at Cilantro better than Le Bouchon in general.

Cilantro is favourite and Chinoz is generally reliable (though I've had some bad meals at their KLCC branch when they first opened there - long waits, uncooked meats, bad service - they have since improved). I've tried Le Bouchon once and thought the food was done rather poorly. We were there in a fairly large group and tried quite a wide selection from the menu. Another group of friends were there on a separate occasion and didn't like either. I haven't eaten extensively in France but think Le Bouchon's food is below the average French bistro fare.

Gim, if I can convince some friends to give Le Bouchon another try, what are the special dishes that you would recommend at Le Bouchon?

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Tonkichi,

How pricey is Akane? More than S$100 per pax? Sounds very tempting though, with a master sushi chef

and fresh fish.

Shiewie,

I liked the Roasted Double (or Triple, for an extra RM20) Candied Rack of Lamb Provencale at Le Bouchon. I would agree that it's a little hit and miss at Le Bouchon too (like most/all western restaurants in KL) but I'm actually going there tonite so I'll be able to give you more suggestions tomorrow (will try and speak to the Chef about some special dishes). I'm not sure whether Chinoz in KL in under the same management, it seems like different food, more Italian at KLCC. Wasn't very impressed with the food there, actually. Mediocre thin-base pizzas and the like.

Cheers,

Gim

Edited by gimt (log)
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Akane: we've been there twice,and both times we did the "what's good today" option, so we were mentally prepared to pay more. The bills for the 2 of us was ~ SGD 350-450. Sushi and sashimi seems to be fixed at $190 on both occasions, and the last time we ate the chef said we tried everything, including for me, uni in its shell as well as uni sushi. (pleb that i am, i preferred the sushi version more). Then the other variable would be the seasonal items, ranging from sweet potato to oysters. We would share 1-2 bottles of cold sake and maybe 1 Tiger beer. Everything would be fantastic, most of the sushi comes with its own way of eating, e.g. with salt, with lemon-soy, with sweet soy, ginger etc, or countered with deep fry fish bone etc.

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Hi Shiewie,

Went to Le Bouchon last week and the dishes that were good were actually the simpler ones.

I guess when they say french countryside style, it's unfair to expect swank, extravagant meals.

(that said, they do fly in their foie gras and caviar weekly).

For starters, I had the scallops salad, neither the scallops nor the salad (or sauce) tasted particularly

good. The escargots, which most of the table had, is a much safer and rewarding dish. For my mains I had the double candied lamb rack (diff betwn dbl and triple is the amount of lamb, rather than candy) which was (simply) good and perfect with the merlot that we had that night.

I did speak to the proprietor, Philippe, a friendly, amusing host but he did not mention any special dishes apart from recommending the salmon and the veal (dishes which my cousins tried and mentioned were good).

Tonkichi,

Thanks for the info on Akane, will save that for a special ocassion, I suppose.

Cheers,

Gim

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Hi.. am a total newbie to this forum, found it when I was looking for what brand of white truffle oil to buy. As a singaporean foodie, I'm glad I found a thread devoted to restaurants here.

I agree with the general sentiment that western food here is a little underwhelming. Let me share my views on the usual suspects.

Le Saisons - wonderful food. Nice presentation. Very good value for set-lunches. Terribly cold air-cons. And the atmosphere was good, granted that the place was basically a hole in the wall. Reasonable and unusual wine list tho.

St Pierre - overrated? I am not much of a foie gras person and as much I enjoyed the "ambience" in the general dining area, I find the food disappointing for the price like Les Ami.

Whitebait & Kale - over the hill? It was real good when it was still the worst-kept secret back when it opened earlier this year. I was totally addicted to snacking on whitebait (with MSG?) in Singapore. But since the Sunday Times expose, the service had gone downhill, the food was slow and unexciting.

Broth - still one of my fav restaurants. Love the outdoor settings, the great staff and the intriguing menus.

Any tips to share?

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Welcome to the forum, traminer! I should prob. say that to myself too since my first post was at the beginning of the thread!

Haven't got anything to add since my most recent visit to spore was all chinese restaurants, the usual, Lei Garden and East Ocean...

I went to Whitebait & Kale, and the whitebait seemed like the biggest pull for me. Had the pie, which was good but I needed more than that for dinner. Heard their fish and chips is excellent!

Cheers,

Gim

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  • 4 weeks later...

i kinda like Lawry's Prime Rib.

Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.

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couple of important things to realize about eating western food here in s'pore. you're never going to get anything close to a "ducasse experience." you'll get good food, occasionally great food, but if you've eaten your way around europe, you'll be disappointed of you expect the same calibre of food.

Totally agree.

Some of the Greatest Dining Experiences i've had so far over here tend to be in little shops tucked away at some grimy Arab St backlane or some awfully wet and stinky hawker centre (Old Airport Road).

western fine dining in singapore tends to be rather disappointing and not really really worth the $$.

today, i have a craving for Yong Tau Foo.

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Some of the Greatest Dining Experiences i've had so far over here tend to be in little shops tucked away at some grimy Arab St backlane or some awfully wet and stinky hawker centre (Old Airport Road).

I would not say that there are many grimy backlanes left in Singapore. The Old Airport Rd Food Centre is also Not wet and stinky. I'm sure you may be exaggerating slightly for literary humour but it is not a fair description.

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I would not say that there are many grimy backlanes left in Singapore. The Old Airport Rd Food Centre is also Not wet and stinky. I'm sure you may be exaggerating slightly for literary humour but it is not a fair description.

exaggerating: of course.

grimy: compared to les amis, st pierre and other "fine dining places".

yes i was exagerating... But cos earlier posts centred almost entirely around the food served at pricier restaurants - my point really is just that you can find good food else where too ... at places where you've got to be prepared to perspire a fair bit, bring your own tissue paper to wipe your mouth, and sit at tables that haven't been cleaned very well.

but i'm sure you get my drift. :biggrin::biggrin::raz:

Edited by LittleSuperHero (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Since Meyjitte (Salut) left for Australia, I don't think any "Western" restuarant here has the potential to blow anyone away. Very, very good meals, yes. Definitive, no. It boils down to two things: conceptualisation and execution. Often a chef can have the former but he (or his kitchen) mess up the latter. Great execution without great conceptualisation is rarer, but it happens.

I'll put it bluntly: Italian restaurants in Singapore are uniformly atrocious. If it's not overweening service, it's bad and inconsistent food. Garibaldi really only gets going in the pasta department (carne is not an option there), I've never liked Da Paolo's food (whether Holland V or elsewhere), and none of those attached to hotels have moved me. Buko Nero is interesting but it's a different sort of experience.

French. Raffles Grill isn't bad, but it is horribly expensive, and I don't think David gets everything spot on, execution-wise. The kitchen is a virtual revolving door, which might explain some of the spottiness. Likewise with St. Pierre, which is even more inconsistent and in a worse direction (i.e. more bad meals than good there). Les Saisons is, for me, the prime example of a place where the execution is flawless but conceptualisation not all that great. I've had meals where I rang up well before to request something special, and the 'flow' just wasn't there. Each course was at least very good, and some well and truly amazing, but the whole dinner didn't cohere. I don't actually like the lunches all that much. I've heard very good things about Gunther and will be visiting sometime soon. Old warhorses like L'Aigle d'Or have been very, very disappointing.

American/Pacific. I used to (and still) like Blu, but it's more of a nice place to bring a date than a great food experience per se. Fig Leaf (now Poppi) is excellent and good value for money, plus the present location on the 2nd floor is nicer. I don't recall seeing his pork speciality last time I was there, but it's a marvel of a dish. Whitebait & Kale have terrible service, and although the kitchen isn't bad (Bright and his sous are both ex-Salut), the prices are out of proportion for that level of food. I had a pretty good meal at 190 at the Four Seasons recently, which gives me some hope.

Let's put it this way - anyone who can afford to dine regularly at any of the restaurants above might as well save some money for a trip to Europe, where one can eat and drink better, even allowing for the weak dollar (last great meal there - 50 euros for two, excluding wine, in Bergamo). I'm not being snobbish or anti-Singapore about this, and in fact I desperately want to see them succeed, but it's just not happening right now.

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  • 5 months later...

I've been experiencing a month of virtually non-stop business travel. This week, it's Singapore. It's also my first trip to Asia.

The flight here from Minneapolis is one I don't envy anyone having to make very often. Door to door from my house to hotel room it was 23 hours, and that includes a plane transfer at Tokyo-Narita. But this is about food, not travel.

I arrived here on Sunday at 12:40 a.m. No interest in food after th flights. I was much more interested in sleep. I did wake up in time to partake in the hotel-provided (Le Meriden, Orchard Road) breakfast, an interesting but pedestrian combination of Western and Asian cuisines. The daytime I spent walking around (and ducking into several air-conditioned places to cool off and rehydrate). In the evening, I met a co-worker of mine who is the GM for our office here and another co-worker for dinner. They wanted someplace close to the hotel, and we ended up at a very average place called Brasserie across from the Presidential palace. The menu options are from just about everywhere in the world. I ordered a Caesar salad that had ranch-style dressing instead of Caesar dressing. I also ordered spaghetti with black pepper sauce and chicken. It wasn't very good.

For Monday lunch, a group of us drove from the office to the Laguna Country Club. I couldn't believe there were people on the golf course in this heat, but they must be used to it. I had a dish of seafood and noodles in a chili paste sauce. Now this one was good and spicy.

The big treat (so far) came in the evening. Eight of us went to Hua Yu Wee, 462 Upper East Coast Road, where we had a fantastic Chinese seafood dinner. We had drunk prawns (that were first put on the table fresh and jumping before being doused in the liquid that would cook them). We had chili crab and black pepper crab that were both incredibly flavored (we were offered to select the crabs for the dish before prep). Being the default "guest of honor" on this evening, I was given the left claw of both of the crabs. We also had squid, shark fin soup, and then some odd choices of sweet and sour pork and venison thrown in. And lots of Tiger beer.

Our local host (the sales manager here) and some others from the office kept giving me warnings about the level of spice, showing surprise that I was so (in their opinion) adventurous, not affected by the spice, etc. The other people that come here must be wimps comparatively. I have no other explanation. This was a killer meal, and the bill for eight of us came to only S$237.

This morning everyone wanted to make sure I had no "ill effects" during the night. I finally said something -- "Look, I'm fine. That was a great meal. What impression have others given you of American eaters? We don't all have fussy palates and delicate constitutions." I think they finally got it.

Today, the food agenda is Chicken Rice and a trip to a hawker center. More to report later.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I found that much of the most rewarding eating in Singapore was at the hawker centers. I think you're going to enjoy yourself. How much time do you have remaining, and how much freedom do you have to make requests? In other words, are you looking for any recommendations or is your itinerary locked in such that we should all just sit back and listen to your reports?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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