This is a long post because we basically did nothing in Singapore except for rampantly consume. You’ll also notice that most of our top picks are centered around the neighborhood of Joo Chiat, which is a bit off the beaten track for tourists and may just make all the difference between loving Singapore and hating Singapore. Click through for the full Google map.
1. Fei Fei Wanton Noodle House: You know that thing when you’re at a Chinese restaurant and you go, “Do we want the dumplings or the noodles?” Problem solved.
2. Old Skool Dessert House: This is where we got our chendol fix. They update the classics by subbing “snowflake,” a Taiwanese innovation that creates ribbons of creamy ice, for shaved ice.
3. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice: If “chicken rice” sounds bland and boring, the photos at Tian Tian make it look even more so. But this dish over-delivers, and that’s an understatement. The rice is buttery and garlicky; the chicken (opt for the roasted) is the platonic ideal of chicken. And the accompanying broth is as good as you might expect from a place that goes through hundreds of chicken carcasses a day.
4. Cat Socrates: This is a cute little store in Joo Chiat filled with all sorts of things that wouldn’t fit in our suitcases. Blake, upon spying a cat in the shop, asked the girl at the counter if that was Cat Socrates. She responded as if we’d asked if we could perhaps pay with hugs and good intentions instead of money. “No. Socrates is another cat.”
5. Chin Mee Chin Confectionery: We want to shout our love for kaya toast from the mountains. Blake first encountered it when she was working with Susan Feniger, who featured it on the menu at STREET in LA. If you’re not familiar, it’s coconut curd and a liberal slice of butter sandwiched between two slices of plain white toast, soooo what’s not to like? You’ll typically find it with gently poached eggs, which you should garnish with dark, sticky soy, and into that you dip the toast. The kaya toast at Chin Mee Chin is popular because it’s allegedly done on a round bun instead of normal toast. Maybe we did it wrong, maybe they were out because it was Chinese New Year Eve, maybe she didn’t like our faces, but we got plain white bread with our order. No matter, still damn tasty, as were the versions at the ubiquitous chains Ya Kun Kaya Toast and Toast Box.
6. Mustard: With people of Indian descent accounting for about 10% of the “official” population of Singapore and many more on the island as migrant laborers, Singapore does not want for Indian restaurants. But most of them specialize in South Indian food, whereas Mustard offers Bengali and Punjabi food. At present, Mustard has snagged a coveted spot on Blake’s hotly contested Top Ten Restaurants IN THE WORLD list, so stay tuned for that update.
7. Sinpopo: This cafe, by the owners of the awfully named dessert chain Awfully Chocolate, turns out retro Singaporean food in a space with beautiful mid-century furniture and perky teen waitresses. Maybe it’s sort of like a classier Johnny Rockets? Their chicken-flavored cookies sound unappealing but are truly bomb in a five-spice kinda way.
8. Long Beach Seafood Restaurant: We opted for the black pepper crab over the chili crab, and wow, was it tasty. Almost as tasty as Miss Intercontinental, Kimberly Anna Byers:
9. Books Actually: This is a fabulous little bookstore with its own fabulous little imprint, Math Paper Press.
10. Chopsuey Cafe: These concept restaurants (there are two) cater to an expat crowd by serving American Chinese food—General Tso’s chicken, crispy orange beef—made with quality ingredients. It’s pretty bougie, but also pretty delicious.
11. Plain Vanilla Bakery: This beautiful bakery is a couple doors down from Books Actually in Tiong Bahru. We can’t speak for the baked goods because they wouldn’t sell us a single cookie, instead insisting upon arbitrary minimums for each variety. “Oh, the rosemary shortbreads? We only sell those in Fibonacci primes.” But the lemonade was good, if pricey, and the indoor-outdoor cafe vibe and their collection of fancy magazines made it worth the visit.
12. Sunday Folks: Ice cream, expensive ice cream.
13. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple: “Understated” was not the look they were going for when they built this temple in 2007. It houses an alleged fragment of one of Buddha’s teeth; Blake was hoping for more of an overt tooth/dentistry theme after her recent ordeals.
14. Al Falah Barakah Restaurant: The neighborhood roti prata joint of our dreams! The regular roti prata, paired with a thin dal, is hella good, but the coin prata with mutton curry is out of this world. We ate here twice during our three days in Singapore and ordered the exact same thing. The mutton curry is spicy, so you’re sweating even more than you normally would be in the Singaporean heat, which is like a joke. Plus you’re chasing your roti prata with piping hot milk tea, so everything is hot, nothing makes sense, and you never want it to end.
15. Gardens by the Bay: Botanical gardens from the future. There are Supertrees, which we think are like normal trees but sentient and evil, and two giant biodomes. We only visited the cloud forest dome, but it was pretty excellent. There’s a waterfall. Also a video that talks about climate change and how we’re all SOL—except for Singapore, which is doing its part and would be a great place to locate your business.
16. 40 Hands: Good coffee in Tiong Bahru.
17. Sri Mariamman Temple: The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, located in Chinatown. You’ll know it by the crazy facade.
18. Strangelets: Another great store in Tiong Bahru selling all manner of things we want.