In the first-ever Essence of Asia Collection List 2021, 6 homegrown establishments in Singapore received honourable mentions, ahead of the inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
“Essence of Asia features the sort of places that honour culinary traditions, revive indigenous cuisines or rediscover centuries-old recipes, as well as many that play a key role supporting and connecting their communities.”
– 50 Best Editorial at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
If you’re thinking of fine-dining restaurants serving up full course-meals amidst dim lighting, I’d say: refresh your expectations. This list is hot off the press, featuring ‘street vendors to champions of sustainability, from time-honoured institutions to pioneering newcomers’. One which considers the impact of food on people who love it. One showcasing unsung heroes across Asia, standing tall as pillars of support despite the challenges faced from the pandemic.
We’re incredibly proud of Singapore’s F&B industry. With 6 local establishments making the list, read on (in no particular order) to find out more about their origins and the food they humbly serve.
Botanico at The Garage
If you’re a lover of cosy restaurants surrounded by lush greenery,Botanico at The Garage is probably no stranger to you. The exemplary venue is a popular space to host special occasions, notably solemnisations and wedding ceremonies. They sure take ‘capturing hearts’ quite literally.
Head chef of Botanico Sujatha Asokan, has been the hot topic of conversation since her win as Rising Chef of the Year in 2019. The 29-year old serves up a modern European menu with a renewed focus on her Chinese-Indian roots. Spectacular dishes range from 65° Kurobuta Pork Belly ($30), DIY Corn Pani Puri ($12) and “Assam Pedas” Snapper ($30). Your journey to gastronomic flavours starts right here.
Botanico at The Garage delivers islandwide on Oddle Eats at just $10. Order here.
The Hawker’s United Founder was also featured on Humans Of F&B earlier in February. He humbly expressed his motivations behind safeguarding Singapore’s spirit of hawker culture and shared about his experience turning to digital platforms to combat Singapore’s lockdown in April 2020.
Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap delivers islandwide on Oddle Eats at just $5. Order here.
Keng Eng Kee
The ‘kampong spirit’ is no myth here. Nestled within Bukit Merah Central is Keng Eng Kee Seafood, a local Zichar eatery that has been wok-king out fiery dishes for 3 generations. The Liew sibling trio —Paul, Wayne, and Jiamin, now helm the business as third-generation owners.
In the 1970s, their grandmother started Keng Eng Kee as a small hawker stall at Old Havelock Road. Now, 51 years later, the eatery has grown immensely.
With this maxim, Paul’s words aptly capture the core of Keng Eng Kee’s values—a commitment to keeping the ‘kampong spirit’ well and alive. While their bestsellers range from Chilli Crab 辣椒蟹 ($86.40) to Signature Moonlight Horfun 月光河粉 (from $9), I’d like to think their warm welcomes and superb hospitality contributed the most, which earned them a spot on the list. To find out more about their story, check out their Humans Of F&B feature here.
Keng Eng Kee Seafood delivers islandwide on Oddle Eats at just $5. Order here.
Helmed by Chef Damien D’Silva, Restaurant Kin at Straits Clan strives to take a retrospective look into the origins of Singapore’s culinary history through the preservation and exploration of heritage cuisine. The Peranakan-Eurasian menu proudly features modern interpretations of dishes like Chi Pow Kai ($20), Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($30), Babi Pongteh ($42) and more. Tip: the Kin Dessert Platter ($26) is an absolute delight. Be with Kin, order in?
Restaurant Kin delivers islandwide on Oddle Eats at just $10. Order here.
A clandestine shop to many, Mr & Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata has garnered a name for itself with just one dish. Since 2006, the husband-and-wife duo tag team in serving up really crispy pratas (Indian flatbreads) along Joo Chiat Road. Be warned, the couple enforces a queue-number system WHICH hides the reality of the waiting time before you get to dig in. Take my advice and get there from as early as 7 am, to avoid a long (but worthwhile) wait.
Seafood lovers, hop on over. The folks over at Naked Finn is the final of 6 to rank on the Essence of Asia list, and I’d say it most certainly is well-deserved. The team sources wild-caught seafood and prides the restaurant’s mission around sustainability and discovery.
At The Naked Finn, the fish is always the star. Seafood remains their pride and joy and never fails to be shared passionately with customers. Owner Tan Ken Loon keeps his mission close to his heart as he focuses on educating customers to venture out and try non-mainstream species, with the long-term health of the oceans in mind. With much finesse and ardor in connecting communities through seafood, it’s no surprise the dignified team earned a spot on the Essence of Asia Collection list.