Compared to other countries, fine dining in Singapore may be seen as unnecessarily expensive. For one, you can fill yourself at your friendly neighbourhood hawker centre for a mere $3 — the thought of splashing out 50 times the price on a single meal elsewhere may seem ludicrous. However, hear me out. I’m definitely not someone who fines dines every time I go out, but I believe fine dining gets more bad rap than it deserves. Even more so as a food lover, it’s something I find worthwhile to experience every now and then.
What is fine dining?
Fine dining may be synonymous with the word “expensive”, and this is not entirely untrue. Fine dining restaurants tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum, however, with the price comes its perks. Expect elegant decor and a classy ambience. One thing for sure — you won’t ever find yourself struggling to get the server’s attention. You’ll find the menu limited; food is served in courses, or dégustation menus.
One of the most common misconceptions about fine dining are its tiny portions portions. However, I've learnt that there's a reason behind that. Do you find yourself feeling bored after eating the same thing a number of times? Flavour has diminishing returns, and that’s one reason why the portions are small — the dish is meant to merely tickle your tastebuds and leave you wanting for more.
Why should you fine dine?
Admit it — Singapore doesn’t have the most exciting repertoire when it comes to leisure and fun. By now, we may have already exhausted the limited number of things to do here and we’re dying for something new. This is where fine dining comes in. You may argue that it’s just food, but let me tell you, it’s so much more. You don’t need to be a food snob to appreciate this. It’ll keep you and your partner guessing with each dish, or when you have that blissful first bite and look at each other in bewilderment. It makes a welcome change to date nights!
It’s an art
Just as one would pay top dollar for good art, there’s a certain price to pay when it comes to exceptional, innovative and high-quality dishes. Fine dining is about enjoying food which you would struggle to recreate in the confines of your kitchen, even with the most high-tech kitchen equipment. It’s a celebration of the chef’s technical skills, and you get to see it come alive in the food they serve. You’ll find the strangest pairing of ingredients tasting like a symphony in your mouth, and you’ll be all the better for it.
It’s an experience
More than anything, fine dining is an experience worth having every now and then, especially when it comes to occasions worth celebrating. More often than not, I forget most places after dining at them, and I think this is something that most of us can agree with! Very rare are the experiences that they are enough to make an impact on my life — enough to leave me wanting for more. However, some of my most memorable food experiences were at fine dining establishments. Each chef has a story to tell, and you’ll find that in their food!
Where should you fine dine?
Perhaps I've convinced you, or I haven't. Nonetheless, if you're not sure where quite to begin, here are some of my favourite fine dining restaurants that you should definitely indulge in. Reservations, with a fine dining establishment, are highly recommended as the spaces are often small and intimate.
Chef’s Table by Chef Stephan
This definitely ranks the highest amongst my experiences, by far. It is undoubtedly fun — you’re given a list of ingredients based on what’s available that day. Just let the server know what ingredients you are allergic to, or don’t particularly fancy. Chef Stephan and his team will then whip up dishes based on that particular list. That means that there are endless combinations — you’ll never quite know what you’re getting — even the picky eaters out there will definitely enjoy this. My degustation menu that day was exquisite, with each course only getting more exciting than the last, and I can’t recommend this place enough.
Address: 61 Tras St, Singapore 079000
Opening Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 6–11.30pm, Friday, 12–2:30pm, 6–11:30pm
Phone: 6224 4188
Led by Chef Yohhei Sasaki, this award-winning Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant is nestled within Hilton Singapore. You can choose from two degustazione menus, one more Italian and one more Japanese — both featuring the finest seasonal gourmet produce from Italy and Japan. Want a taster before you splash out? Go for the set lunch, which is a steal for the quality. No matter what time you go, you’ll be guaranteed panoramic views of the city skyline.
Address: 581 Orchard Rd, Level 24, Singapore 238883
Opening Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–2:30pm, 6–10:30pm, Saturday, 6–10.30pm
Phone: 6730 3395
If you’re looking for something that hits a little closer to home, look no further. Candlenut is the world’s first One Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant. Here, you’ll find a contemporary twist on beloved traditional dishes. Their adorably named ‘Ah-ma-kase’ features the best of Chef Malcolm Lee and a whole lot of buah keluak. It may not be just like how grandma used to make, but it’s different in the best way possible.
Address: 17a Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249676
Hours: Monday–Sunday,12–3pm, 6–10pm
Phone: 1800 304 2288
While there's no denying the joy in how cheap, filling and delicious food from hawker centres can be, fine dining restaurants are definitely worth a visit. Do you have any recommendations that we should add to our list? Let us know!