Sunday, June 21, 2015

Eating our way through Singapore

When my friend Badette and I went on a quick trip to Singapore recently, we had two things on our agenda: to meet with friends we hadn’t seen for a long time and to sample as much food as we can within the time allotted.

Badette is based in San Francisco where she works as a banquet chef at Starwood’s W Hotel. It was her first visit to Singapore. I, meantime, was a frequent visitor and had been to most of the sights, so I was glad that Badette wasn’t interested in visiting Universal Studios, Sentosa and the zoo.

We stayed at another Starwood property, St. Regis, which was classically Old World and tastefully furnished. Our Lady Astor room was fitted out with two extremely comfortable double beds (with plenty of pillows) and plush window seats. It was 56 square meters of elegance. Our marble bath had a tub with a view and its own glassed-in TV. I was disappointed when Badette found an open packet of Fererro Rocher chocolates with one piece missing at our mini-bar but the butler immediately set everything in order. Service was exemplary, from the doormen to the restaurant waitstaff to the concierge.

The hotel is located on Tanglin Road, and was just a building away from Orchard and a very short walk from Ion where we did most of our shopping.

Here are the highlights of our Singapore trip:

1. Reconnecting with old friends

Topping my list is meeting up with my cousin Maureen and dear friend Doyts. The last time I saw Mau was when I visited Singapore with the family to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday, which was almost three years ago. We had a laughter-filled chat over Chatterbox’s Hainanese chicken rice.

We also got to have brunch with Doyts who has been based in Singapore for 8 years but whom I’ve never had the chance to reconnect with in previous visits. She was her usual hyper hysterical self and we had our usual guffaws and belly-laughs while monitoring the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight over social media. We were joined by Doyts’s husband Paolo, their son (and my godson) Marco and newly born daughter Sabine.

2. Lunch at No Signboard

We wanted to eat at Makansutra in Esplanade but opening time was at 5 p.m., too close to dinner, which we had booked at W Hotel Sentosa’s The Kitchen Table. While walking around Esplanade, I
spotted No Signboard and instantly decided to stop by for lunch.

We wanted crabs for sure and we found a set menu for two that included specialties such as white pepper crabs, crispy squid, cereal prawns and mango tapioca at S$250 thereabouts. We went for

No Signboard’s white pepper crab had an assertive aroma and a delicious sting that went so well with the sweet-fleshed Dungeness. My perennial favorite is the crispy squid, which I can keep popping into my mouth like popcorn.

3. Carshoe Shopping

My brother introduced me to this brand during a family trip to Singapore. It belongs to the Prada family and craftsmanship is equally impeccable. Sadly, the brand is closing all of its stores in Asia so you’ll have to fly to Europe from hereon to buy yourself a pair. Everything was at 40% to 50% discount but sizes were limited so I was only able to buy a pair for my sister in law

4. Grand Astor Afternoon Tea at St. Regis

We tried our luck for afternoon tea at Raffles but they were fully booked. We turned to Google in our search for the best afternoon tea in Singapore and several lists included the St. Regis, so we went back to our hotel and gave it a go.

Brasserie Les Saveurs, where we have our daily breakfast, was transformed into a tea parlor that afternoon, and it turned out to be a much quieter and grander setting than the Raffles Tiffin Room. Its soaring ceiling was adorned with three imposing hand-cut crystal chandeliers. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows framed by tasseled drapery played up the sense of drama and opulence.  We were seated at a private dining alcove, which allowed us to regard the pool and gardens while being tucked in our own little corner of the world.

The tables laid out with a buffet spread that included varieties of scones and puff pastries, meringues, ice cream, chocolates, cheeses and waffles and crêpes served à la minute. What was a simple afternoon tea turned into a sumptuous repast as befitted the name “Grand Astor Afternoon Tea.”

I ordered the Grand Wedding Tea, described as “a celebratory black tea blended with sunflowers and breathtaking exotic fruits.” It was a strong brew, just a shade lighter than coffee, and pleasantly fragrant, the way I like my tea to be.

Sweet and savory treats were served at our table on a three-tier stand. Bottom: smoked salmon; egg and mayo; and, cucumber, tomato and cream cheese. Middle: duck foie gras profiterole; asparagus and smoked salmon quiche; and, prawn, lobster and tarragon cup pie. Top: classic mocha eclairs, raspberry tarts, homemade chocolate praline and crème caramel with orange compote.

Underneath that puff pastry lid was a steaming lobster bisque that made perfect company to the gloomy weather.

5. Seafood Dining at Lau Pa Sat

My go-to hawker center in Singapore has always been Makansutra because of its accessibility and proximity to familiar sights, and of course, the view. But I may have a new favorite. Lau Pa Sat (or Telok Ayer Market) offers a much wider selection of stalls. You can dine inside the covered structure (a historic building dating back to 1894) or outside on Boon Tat Street, which is closed off to traffic and set up with tables in the evening.

We picked a table outside overlooking Boon Tat Street, near one of the seafood stalls where we ordered chili crabs.

My mouth watered upon sight of the live crab, held here by the friendly Malay barker who spoke Tagalog like a native.

We were drawn to the elemental scent of meat cooking and smoking on the open grill by the roadside so we also ordered chicken and beef satay. Delicious.

6. W Hotel Sentosa

We opted not to book a room at W Hotel because we wanted a more central location but we made sure to give it a visit.

Badette made reservations at The Kitchen Table. I could only manage a salad, however, because of all the eating we’d been doing. But the mantous at buffet spread didn’t escape my eyes so Badette asked if we could have some and the Sheila, the Fipino waitstaff, happily obliged.

W Hotels are known worldwide for their iconic design and the Singapore hotel is no exception. Shown above is the attention-grabbing upturned table at The Kitchen Table.

According to Badette, W has a “Whatever Whenever” philosophy, which means that the hotel
will ensure that every special request is granted. After dinner, someone was assigned to take us around and show us a guest room.

The view from a W Hotel guest room

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