Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

What makes a restaurant great? In our books, it's more than just good food and impeccable service (a combination that, in itself, is hard enough to find), but also an unidentifiable "It" factor that clutches at your heart with a promise of more -- you can't quite explain it, but you're enjoying that first blush of a relationship with a restaurant that you know will last. It's a lot like falling in love, really. These are the ten restaurants that have made our hearts skip a beat, in their own ways, in 2012. 

1. JAAN Restaurant

Chef Royer's signature 55' Smoked Organic Egg is a brilliant concoction that makes a trip to JAAN worthwhile.

Young French chef Julien Royer, previously from St. Regis' Brasserie Les Saveurs, had some big shoes to fill when he took on the job of chef de cuisine at JAAN Restaurant earlier this year. And he did it with such aplomb right from the get-go that it was almost unbelievable that someone of his age could possess such mastery and understanding of ingredients, flavours and textures. Dishes shine with a self-assured flourish but steer clear of pretension -- his signature "55' Smoked Organic Egg, is an exquisite treat for the senses, a sensual delight of silky textures and salty crunch. JAAN is in excellent hands and -- if they're lucky -- will be so, in many years to come. 

JAAN Restaurant, 2 Stamford Road, Level 70, Equinox Complex, Swissotel the Stamford, +65 6837 3322

2. BOMBA Paella Bar


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Bomba's steamy, crunchy paella rice dishes are marvelous creations worthy of their "authentic" tag.

Chef Jean-Philippe Patruno, the chef at the helm of BOMBA Paella Bar, might not be Spanish, but he's brought with him a wealth of experience of working at some of the best known tapas restaurants in the world to BOMBA. Food impresses with the sensual and vibrant qualities of authentic Spanish cuisine; his generous paellas, are particularly noteworthy, each pan a steamy, intensely flavourful multi-textural ode to the traditional rice dish. We especially loved the crackling Langoustine Squid & Prawns Paella. The Secreto Iberico (sliced pork pressa served with charred spring onions and Romesco sauce) is also memorable. 

BOMBA Paella Bar, Martin No. 38, 38 Martin Road, +65 6509 1680, www.bomba.sg, opens from Monday to Saturday, 6 - 11pm

3. Catalunya


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you get a pretty spectacular view of Marina Bay when you dine at Catalunya.

Even before fine-dining Spanish tapas restaurant Catalunya opened its doors to diners, it was already generating plenty of buzz amongst foodies thanks to its elBulli association -- head chef Alain Devahive Tolosa had a decade of experience in the kitchens of elBulli Restaurant, while restaurant manager Pol Perelló brings to Catalunya 12 years of experience manning elBulli. With so much riding on its reputation, Catalunya soundly delivers. Food is traditional at heart,  with a couple -- such as the deconstructed Spanish omelette which is served as a delicious foamy concoction -- displaying shades of chef Alain's time at elBulli. And for its stunning location on the floating structure of Fullerton Pavilion, prices are surprisingly reasonable. 

Catalunya, The Fullerton Pavilion, 82 Collyer Quay, www.catalunya.com.sg

4. Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Dishes on Skyve's menu are largely familiar comfort food prepared using a slew of modern culinary techniques, including the favoured method, sous-vide.

We'll have a soft spot for any place that cheekily encourages to skip work and is so dedicated to its cause of encouraging skiving that they've got placemats highlighting the finer points of "eating snake" and the ways to do it. But beyond their tongue-in-cheek concept, Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar cuts no corners when it comes to delivering great, wholesome, and unpretentious food. Highlights include a tender confit of duck leg with crispy golden skin, as well as a heartwarming dish of succulent spring chicken with  cream corn, broccolini and chicken jus reduction, both prepared with chef Vincent Teng's favoured sous-vide method. 

Skyve Elementary Bistro and Bar, 10 Winstedt Road Block E, #01-17, +65 6225 6690 www.skyve.sg

5. Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Having steak at Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse is a straightforward affair. The restaurant specialises in only one kind of steak: the famed bistecca Fiorentina of Tuscany, Italy. A must-try for all meat lovers.

One of our favourite things about Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse -- besides the well-executed steaks, done Tuscan-style with a charred crust and medium-rare pinkness topped off with a rich marbling -- is how reasonable prices are kept despite the excellent quality of food. Cut choices start at S$48 for rump and S$58 for tenderloin, but we recommend getting the massive 1.2kg T-bone (S$178) to share -- it's perfect for three to four friends. Save room also for the delightfully smooth tiramisu.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, 25 Mohamed Sultan Road, +65 6735 6739, www.bistecca.com.sg

6. Waterfall Cafe at Shangri-La Singapore


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Chef Stephane's menu of heartfelt creations (L to R: seabass carpaccio and Socca) based on his philosophy of "eating well" are heavy on the flavours but easy on the waistline.

Even the self-proclaimed health-food haters will be hard pressed to find something to complain about Waterfall Cafe's heartfelt creations that meld lovely fresh ingredients and Chef Stephane's technical sleight of hand for dishes that shine with bright, clean flavours and great taste -- it's not so much health food as it is a concept of "eating well". The fettuccine with porcini mushrooms and parma ham, enveloped in a frothy, light-as-air parmesan foam, is perhaps one of the best pasta dishes we've ever had. Bring your disbelieving friends for a whirl -- they'll be converts by the end of the meal.

Waterfall Cafe, Shangri-La Hotel, Orange Grove Road, +65 6213 4398, dining.sls@shangri-la.com

7. Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant might have a spanking new look but its favourite dim sum classics still remain.

Even if you're to dismiss its shelves of awards and accolades (it's consistently lauded as one of the best Cantonese restaurants in Singapore), you know you can trust a restaurant when it's got the stamps of approvals from Cantonese mothers all across town. The recently-revamped Wah Lok is back with a spanking new decor inspired by the grandeur of a Chinese courtyard together with a new menu. Mom's favourite baked barbecued pork buns and baked mini egg tarts aren't going anywhere, while new creations like baked diced abalone & chicken pie and steamed bamboo fungus & vegetable dumpling look set to entice new fans.

Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant, Carlton Hotel, +65 6311 8188 / 8189, wah.lok@carltonhotel.sg

Check out who else made it to our list for best dim sum restaurants in Singapore in 2012

8. One-Ninety at Four Seasons Singapore


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

The piece de resistance on the menu at One-Ninety is the impressive 1kg Tomahawk Australian Black Angus Ribeye, perfect for sharing.

Who would have thought that one of the best steaks we've ever had would be at this innocuous bistro squirrelled away in the corner of Four Seasons Hotel? If One-Ninety had been a steakhouse, they'd be right up there with the rest of our picks for best steakhouses in Singapore. But as it turns out, you don't need to tack on a label to deliver the goods. Its Applewood Grill dinner menu presents truly impressive cuts like the Tajima Wagyu sirloin and 1kg Tomahawk Australian Black Angus Ribeye, both char grilled to perfection with the right amount of bite and tenderness. 

One-Ninety, Four Seasons Hotel, +65 6831 7250, one-ninety.sin@fourseasons.com

9. HAN


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

The kushikatsu are the star of HAN's menu -- the crispy treats are a myriad of flavours and textures, yet remain incredibly light on the palate.

HAN brings to the table the Kushikatsu, one of the oldest and most authentic styles of Japanese cuisine, which involves dipping skewers of ingredients in a batter and deep-frying. But before you balk at the thought of paying a pretty penny for "fried stuff", Chef Arakawa's version is created with a combination of secret batter and very precise techniques. The result: skewered treats with light-as-air golden-brown batter enveloping fresh quality ingredients air-flown from Japan.

HAN, 331 North Bridge Road, #01-04, Odeon Towers, +65 6336 2466, ask@han.com.sg, www.han.com.sg

10. Ginza Sushi Ichi


Best of 2012: 10 Most Memorable Dining Experiences

Famed fine-dining Japanese restaurant, Sushi Ichi presents its exquisite Japanese menu, which takes on classic favourites such as tuna and sea urchin.

Sushi Ichi at Scotts Square is the one-Michelin-starred restaurant's very first foreign outpost, which made a name for itself in Japan with its mouthwatering dishes made from ingredients freshly acquired from the famous Tsukiji market. The Singapore branch, helmed by by grand sushi master, Chef Yuji Yabe, and highly esteemed Kyoto Kaiseki Ryori craftmaster, brings the same meticulous attention to detail and precision to the kaiseki experience. Prices might be steep, but it's a small price to pay for the impeccable quality of ingredients and dishes at Sushi Ichi. 

Ginza Sushi Ichi, #02-02 Scotts Square (next to Hyatt Hotel), 6 Scotts Road, 6299 0014, www.SushiIchi.com