Julien Royer is the head chef behind Odette, the elegant contemporary French fine dining restaurant located in the National Gallery. His refined fare has earned the restaurant three Michelin stars and top place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2020, and made him a proud fixture in Singapore’s vibrant dining scene. Singapore has been the Frenchman’s home since 2008, so as busy as a chef’s life is, he’s had plenty of time to explore the city’s greatest eats. Here, he shares his top nine.
The Parisian brasserie of yore, while increasingly difficult to find in Paris, can be found in Singapore, complete with bentwood chairs and an antique bar. Royer loves it for the “authentic french fare” by fellow countryman Frederic Collin, which features classics such as escargots with parsley and garlic butter, pâté en croute (terrine baked in pastry) made using the chef’s grandfather’s recipe, and vanilla millefeuille with macerated strawberries.
Location: 66 Tras St, Singapore
Peranakan cuisine, also known as Nyonya cuisine (as the ladies created most of the original dishes), is a delicious blend of Malay and Chinese flavours—a unique result of cultural collide in the Malaccan Strait. At Candlenut, chef Malcolm Lee showcases his Peranakan heritage with thoroughly innovative takes on classics, which have resulted in the creation of hits like the wagyu beef rib rendang, Candlenut buah keluak (a nut native to Southeast Asia) fried rice, and his own version of Kueh Salat (a dessert of blue pea-coloured glutinous rice with pandan custard), which have earned the restaurant one Michelin star.
Location: 17A Dempsey Rd, Singapore
Shigeru Koizumi, who spent five years at the three-Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant Nihonryori RyuGin, staged with Royer at Odette before opening his own place with “amazing Kappo style cuisine and great refinement,” says Royer. Esora is an achingly beautiful restaurant, with a washi-paper-lined skylight and soft ecru hues throughout, to match the elegant, modern take on kappo (a style of Japanese fine dining where diners sit at a counter surrounding the chef’s kitchen). Koizumi doesn’t shy away from contemporary tools like pacojets, but stays firmly within the Japanese philosophy of eating seasonally, which is best enjoyed with one of the city’s few tea pairing menus.
Location: 15 Mohamed Sultan Rd, Singapore
The longstanding three-Michelin-starred fine diner is Royer’s pick for French haute cuisine in the Lion City. Starched white tablecloths, wine red velvet wall panelling and chandeliers, exude a classic sense of occasion. Add a huge cellar of mostly French heavyweights, and a menu replete with the likes of langoustine, black truffles and caviar, alongside luxury Japanese ingredients, and you have one of the most refined contemporary French experiences in Singapore.
Location: 1 Scotts Rd, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Singapore
Luke’s (Gemmill Lane)
Inspired by the steakhouses on the east coast of the United States, Luke’s does “consistently great steak, seafood and oysters,” says Royer. With large leather banquettes and marble-topped counters, it certainly wouldn’t look out of place in Boston or New York. Start with a jumbo shrimp cocktail, or a dozen oysters—flown in directly from the US’s eastern seaboard—before digging into a bone-in tenderloin and finishing up with grandma’s hearty apple pie.
Location: 22 Gemmill Ln, Singapore
Royer recommends Olivia “for a beautiful Spanish fix and great atmosphere”. Located in a renovated shophouse, the space is unassumingly chic, with exposed brick walls, azure banquettes melding in with artisanal ceramics and brass accents. The restaurant’s co-founder and executive chef Alain Devahive spent a decade at the legendary now-closed elBulli, working his way up from apprentice to head chef, but the food here isn’t so much about modernist techniques than it is about Barcelona’s dining culture, expressed in a menu of sharing plates that feature Rubia Gallega, Mediterranean prawns and of course, jamón Ibérico.
Location: 55 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore
There’s a significant Cantonese community in Singapore, and the most discerning locals can be found at Summer Pavilion for weekend yum cha. Royer agrees, and heads to the elegant one-Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant whenever he craves chef Cheung Siu-kong’s modern Cantonese cooking, epitomised by dishes such as the poached rice with lobster, in a bisque-like soup.
Location: Ritz-Carlton, 7 Raffles Ave, Singapore
Tanjong Rhu Pau
Royer recommends this old-school spot “for what I believe is the best bao in Singapore”. Set up as a large stall inside another Kopitiam (coffee house) called Chin Sin Huan Eating House, this original branch of Tanjong Rhu Pau serves a range of Chinese-style steamed buns, from savoury pork paus filled with minced meat and egg, and char siew paus with a saucy roast pork and onion filling, to sweet treats like red bean and lotus seed paste paus.
Location: 7 Jalan Batu, #01-113, Singapore
The Naked Finn
Ken Loon, owner of The Naked Finn, is a self-professed seafood nerd who scours the globe for delicious and rare fruits of the ocean and goes as far as putting their scientific latin names on the menu. The food here is perfectly and simply cooked—grilled on a cast iron griddle, blanched and served with a touch of fish sauce, or flambeed with wine—doing as little as possible to what Royer calls is already “awesome seafood”. The location, surrounded by greenery in the Gillman Barracks, is chilled out, and a lovely escape from the malls and skyscrapers of downtown Singapore.
Location: 39 Malan Rd, Gillman Barracks, Singapore
Navigating your way around bustling Singapore to find a table is far easier when your guide is an award-winning chef. Keen to find out more information on where to dine? Head to Singapore Tourism for more info.
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Image Credit: Candlenut. Enjoy Peranakan desserts such as Kueh Salat (a dessert of blue pea-coloured glutinous rice with pandan custard) at Candlenut.