Writers’ Pick 2020: Our 10 favourite food places for the year

To compile 2020’s favourite food places for the year, first, we have to reflect deeply the year 2020. During Singapore’s ‘Circuit Breaker’ period, our writers, too, had to quickly pivot and tweak our content to match a world where all restaurants and F&B establishments are forced to shutter, compelling everyone on the island to switch to food delivery and pick-ups.

We saw eateries emptying their space out and bringing in copious amounts of takeaway containers and cutleries. We featured, for the first time, food delivery reviews, pointing our readers in the direction of local establishments that need our support in these very difficult times.

And then, just as quickly as it happened, it gradually ended. Phase 2 of the ‘Circuit Breaker’ saw a plethora of new openings with cafes, restaurants, eateries, and kiosks eager to welcome back diner in small groups of five. That was also when our writers hit the streets with renewed fervour to once again share some of the finest gems in Singapore’s rich tapestry of F&B establishments.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 that has caught our eye, attention, and appetite. These are places we recommend wholeheartedly for food that is inspiring, flavourful, and begs several return visits. Do try our recommendations and let us know how your experience has been like in these places.

Here’s to a healthy, virus-free, and vibrant 2021.

1. CouCou Restaurant, Craig Road

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Located at Craig Road, this first entry for our favourite food places for the year is merely a few metres’ walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT, and right down the street from bustling Keong Saik Road.

What makes Coucou Restaurant really stand out is its Swiss cuisine, presenting dishes that represent the best mix of its core influences from German, French, and Italian culture. If you’re thinking that this place is simply mirroring Marché, you’re in for a world of education.

Now, we should all be familiar with shoestring fries; however, nothing can come close to the Pommes Allumettes, which translates to ‘matchstick potatoes’. The fries here are prepared a la minute, so you know there’s no batch-frying going on in the kitchen.

Those looking for lighter mains, the Filet de Truite à la Genevoise (S$36) is a great choice. It’s a trout fillet prepared Geneva-style, and served humbly with lemon, butter, and capers. As an accompanying carb, you can’t miss out on Spätzli (S$8), a soft dumpling Swiss pasta-style.

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2. Pratunam Famous Chicken and Pork Leg, Geylang

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If you have to order just a single dish here, it’d have to be their star, Pratunam Chicken And Pork Leg Rice Combo (S$8). I should’ve split the portion into two and got one portion for takeaway, because it was served in a bowl large enough for a soup noodle dish!

If that’s not getting your money’s worth, I don’t know what is.

I could barely make out which parts were chicken, pork leg or rice as it was a mountain of food that was peppered with an even more generous layer of fried shallots. I mixed all the ingredients together, and a comforting aroma of savoury pork and warm rice pulled me in.

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3. Daizu Cafe, Rangoon Road

Daizu Cafe Featured

I consider myself to be somewhat of a cafe connoisseur. Now that the premise is set, I provide fair warning that it takes quite a bit to impress me, considering I spend a sizeable portion of my monthly budget on drinks when I work at cafes. When Daizu Cafe emerged along Rangoon Road, Farrer Park, the only natural response was to check it out for myself to see if it’s worth being on 2020’s favourite food places of the year.

The Thick Cut Salmon Sashimi Slices are a sight for sore eyes, especially in this economy when twelve dollars gets you nothing more than half a portion of pasta at best.

If I could sum the philosophy behind Daizu’s offerings in a dish, the—as the young people say—thicc, juicy salmon slices really set the tone of the hearty and generous fare to follow.

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4. SIA Restaurant A380

Restaurant A380 Featured

Whenever people learn that I’m a journalist, they often ask me for my most memorable dining experiences. I think tonight’s Business Class Meal on literally my favourite Airbus aircraft will be one for the history books for a long, long time.

As with all business and first class meals at Singapore Airlines, it always starts with the SIA Signature Satay, carefully plated atop exquisite Narumi tableware.

Having intentionally skipped lunch for this, and not because I woke up at two in the afternoon at all, I polish my plate clean almost the moment it’s gracefully placed on my makeshift table-turned-dining board. You don’t expect boisterous street food like satay to fare well on an ornate fine dining menu, but the crunchy, smoky morsels of surprisingly tender chicken paired brilliantly with blaring raw onion is an offer I cannot refuse.

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5. Korio, Far East Square

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Not to sound corny but the doughnut at Korio was truly out of this world. A simple glazed doughnut might seem like a no-brainer for most doughnut purveyors but for me, this serves as a good barometer for the other more ‘colourful’ flavours.

The doughnut was akin to expensive pillows, light and airy ones that sprung back when I applied pressure.

Shaz tells me that she and Myron went through a total of 60 recipes to get this brioche dough right. All that testing was indeed worth it, an enriched dough that’s rich enough but also complements the heavier glazes. Certainly a worthy entry into 2020’s favourite food places of the year.

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6. Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle, Pandan Gardens

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Ah Hua Teochew Noodles is one of those old-school units that sit under a block of flats and without doubt, worthy of being on our list of favourite food places of the year. The area is spacious that boasts plentiful seats that are often frequented by regulars in need for their fix of fishball noodles.

Unlike your run-of-the-mill Teochew noodles or bak chor mee, what you have is a rather monochromatic bowl.

What the bowl lacks in colour, it makes up in terms of flavour.

Here, you get a couple of your usual suspects with a few surprises thrown in. From tender minced meat to delicate folds of herh keow to less commonly seen fish ‘rulers’, there’s even wrapped fish rolls with carrot and cucumber.

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7. Restaurant JAG, Duxton

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As with all successful artists who are crowned for their distinct styles, every renowned chef holds on to a culinary philosophy that guides their cooking. Here at Restaurant JAG, Normandy-born Chef-owner Jeremy Gillion bases his creations on over 40 herbs foraged in the wild from the Savoie region of the French Alps.

Together with specially selected seasonal vegetables, Restaurant JAG’s everchanging menu aims to take diners on a season-driven culinary journey; a trip to France where food and nature come together as one.

In my notebook, I scribbled ‘tomato salad’ when the next dish was presented to us. But there is so much more going on right here than this humble word suggests. On pure white China sits an array of heirloom tomatoes bursting with life in brilliant reds, yellows, and greens.

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8. First Street Teochew Fish Soup, Upper Serangoon

First Street Teochew Fish Soup 2

Unlike most fish soup stalls that sell only a particular fish cooked and served in several ways, First Street Teochew Fish Soup’s menu features three variety of fishes—Chinese silver pomfret, batang, and red garoupa—served fresh in bowls of clear soup.

A pricer choice, but probably one that is well-loved by all fish lovers, the stall’s Red Garoupa Fish Soup (S$9/S$11) is the bowl that I would recommend for first-timers. The fish slices were more delicate and tender as compared to the batang, and had a sweeter flavour profile.

Flaking nicely into the soup, the sliced garoupa, when eaten together with a bit of broth and rice, was so delectable and comforting that it made the long wait worth every second.

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9. Mangiamo Pizzeria, Rochor

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Mangiamo Pizzeria comes highly recommended by said two friends, who’ve been here on multiple occasions. Even the waitress, one of the two-person-show who runs this place, recognises them. Come to think of it, how rude of my friends not to bring me here earlier.

Our conversation ebbs and flows over the Capricciosa Pizza (S$15 for 13”), inspiring fervent praise and silent enjoyment in turn. It’s the simple composition of mozzarella, tomato, and half-moons of salami that delivers a dish so simple, yet elevated.

Within two bites, I know I want to bring my family here.

The pizza becomes the centrepiece to the meal, the point to which we all want to return to end the meal. With springy, stretchy dough that provides just the right amount of resistance in each bite, I’ll be hard-pressed to match this satisfaction in another pizza.

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10. WellSmoocht, Sin Ming Road

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In my experience with vegan fare, what I’ve found has been food that’s tasty, but too dry. But since good vegan options don’t exactly come by easily, I’m always willing to give new places try.

First up was the Olive Buddha Bowl (S$11.50), which I never knew could be as tasty and satisfying as this turned out to be. With brown rice tossed in olive paste, the dish infused a deep and pleasant brininess that reminded me of Thai olive fried rice.

The fresh purple cabbage, sweet corn, mushrooms and carrots added a welcome fresh contrast against all that richness.

After you’ve taken all the photos you want (because no one can pass up on such beautiful plating), toss everything to get an even mixture. This is warmth and wellness in a bowl. For that reason, WellSmoocht easily found its way in our list of favourite food places in 2020.

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