Singapore claims an estimated 2,000-plus eating establishments, so you'll never go hungry. But to simply say, "If you like food, you'll love Singapore!" doesn't do justice to the modern concept of eating in this city. Here you'll find a huge selection of local, regional, and international cuisine, served in settings that range from bustling hawker centers to grand and glamorous palaces of gastronomy. The food is authentic, and many times the dining experience is entertainment in its own right. Various ethnic restaurants, with their traditional decor and serving styles, hold their own special sense of theater for foreigners; but Singaporeans don't stop there, dreaming up new concepts in cuisine and ambience to add fresh dimensions to the fine art of dining.
The restaurants reviewed here offer a crosscut of cuisine and price ranges, and were selected for superb quality or authenticity of dishes. Some were selected for the sheer experience, whether it's a stunning view or just plain old fun. Beyond this list, you're sure to discover favorites of your own without having to look too far.
A good place to start is right in your hotel. Many of Singapore's best restaurants are in its hotels, whether they're run by the hotel itself or operated by outfits just renting the space. Hotels generally offer a wide variety of cuisine, and coffee shops almost always have Western selections. Shopping malls have everything from food courts with local fast food to midpriced and upmarket establishments. Western fast-food outlets are always easy to find -- McDonald's burgers or Starbucks coffee -- but if you want something a little more local, you'll find coffee shops (called kopitiam) and small home-cookin' mom-and-pop joints down every back street. Then there are hawker centers and food courts, where, under one roof, the meal choices go on and on.
In many foreign destinations, the exotic cuisine isn't the only thing that keeps you guessing. Here, I give you the ground rules on Singapore dining.
Hours -- Most restaurants are open for lunch as early as 11am but close around 2:30 or 3pm to give them a chance to set up for dinner, which begins around 6pm. Where closing times are listed, that is the time when the last order is taken. If you need to eat at odd hours, food centers serve all day and some hawker centers are open all night.
Tipping -- It's not expected here. Restaurants always add a gratuity to the bill. Sometimes I just leave the small change, but it's not expected.
Reservations -- Some restaurants, especially the more fashionable or upscale ones, may require that reservations be made up to a couple of days in advance. Reservations are always recommended for Saturday and Sunday lunch and dinner, as eating is a favorite national pastime and a lot of families take meals out for weekend quality time.
Attire -- Because Singapore is so hot, "smart casual" (a local term, meaning a shirt and slacks for men and a dress or skirt/slacks and blouse for women) is always a safe bet in moderate to expensive restaurants. For the very expensive restaurants, "smart elegant" is required, which in Singapore means jacket and tie for men and a dressier outfit for women. For the cheap places, come as you are, as long as you're decent.
Ordering Wine with Dinner -- Singaporeans have become more wine savvy in recent years and have begun importing estate-bottled wines from California, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, France, and Germany. However, these bottles are heavily taxed. A bottle of wine with dinner starts at around S$50, and a single glass runs between S$15 and S$25, depending on the wine and the restaurant. Chinese restaurants usually don't charge corkage fees for bringing your own.
Lunch Costs -- Lunch at a hawker center can be as cheap as S$4.50, truly a bargain. Many places have set-price buffet lunches, but these can be as high as S$48. Indian restaurants are great deals for inexpensive buffet lunches, which can be found as reasonably as S$15 per person for all you can eat.
Dinner Costs -- In this guide, prices for Western restaurants list the range for standard entrees, and prices for Asian restaurants list the range for small dishes intended for two people to share. As a guideline, here are the relative costs for dinner in each category of restaurant, without wine, beer, cocktails, or coffee, and ordered either a la carte or from a set-price menu:
- Very Expensive ($$): Expect to pay as much as S$200 per person. Continental and Japanese cuisines will be the priciest, but a full-course Cantonese dinner, especially if you throw in shark's fin, can be well over S$150 per person.
- Expensive ($$): Expect dinner to run between S$70 and S$120 per person.
- Moderate ($): At a moderate restaurant, dinner for one can be as low as S$25 and as high as S$60.
- Inexpensive ($): Some inexpensive dinners can be under S$5 at hawker stalls and up to around S$15 for one if you eat at local restaurants. Fortunately, not only is Singapore a haven for cultural gastronomic diversity, but it's also possible to eat exotic foods here to your heart's content, all while maintaining a shoestring budget.
Organization of Restaurant Listings
The reviews are arranged into four basic neighborhoods: the Historic District, Chinatown, Little India, and the Orchard Road area. Keep in mind that the divisions by neighborhood are almost as arbitrary as they were when Stamford Raffles created them in 1822. Everything in the city is relatively close and easily accessible, so don't think you should plan your meals by the neighborhood your hotel sits in, when a short taxi ride will take you where you really want to go.
Also, it has become the trend, if you've got a terrific restaurant that people love, to open branches in other locations. Some may believe this dilutes the unique appeal of a special restaurant, but in Singapore, generally I find that good restaurateurs retain the consistent quality of food and service for all their outlets. You'll notice many restaurants in the sections that follow have branches in other parts of the city, which I have also listed.
I've selected the restaurants listed here because they have some of the best food and most memorable atmospheres, but there are hundreds of other restaurants serving any kind of food in a variety of price ranges. Many magazines on dining in Singapore are available at newsstands and can help you find other favorite restaurants.
Restaurants a Little Farther Out -- Many travelers will choose to eat in town for convenience, and although there's plenty of great dining in the more central areas, there are some other really fantastic dining finds if you're willing to hop in a cab for 10 or 15 minutes. These places are worth the trip -- for a chance to dine along the water at UDMC or go for superior seafood at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant. And don't worry about finding your way back: Most places always have cabs milling about. If not, restaurant staff will always help you call a taxi.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.