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Monday, September 10, 2012

db Bistro Moderne, Marina Bay Sands to Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice - Singapore in 140 photos

chinatown singapore

If there's any spot in the world designed for city slickers, surely it would be Singapore. The city-state of Singapore may be made up of 63 islands, but its compact geography and reasonably cheap taxis make most destinations easily and quickly accessible.

Reclamation of land has been voracious. In the 1960s, Singapore's land area was about 580 square kilometres. Today it measures around 700 square kilometres, a staggering increase of over 20 per cent.

marina bay sands by night singapore
Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Some of this reclaimed land houses Marina Bay Sands, a behemoth of a resort with a 2,561-room hotel. The hotel rooms are housed across three separate towers joined by a Sky Park that runs for 340 metres across the top. Officially opened in June 2010, the venture is said to have cost S$8 billion, qualifying it as the costliest casino property in the world.

marina bay sands infinity pool singapore
Infinity pool at the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel

The grand scale of the development may explain how a group of Australian food bloggers were invited to visit the property along with contingents from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Because really, Marina Bay Sands is no humble affair. The infinity pool at the top of the building is mindblowing - the kind of sight that will make you want to pinch yourself, and then stoop down to pick your jaw up from the ground.

marina bay sands infinity pool singapore
Lounge beds at the infinity pool

Who wants to do laps in an Olympic pool when you join the hoardes of tourists doing selfies with their mobile phone as they bob about in water 191 metres off the ground?

marina bay sands infinity pool singapore
Leisurely laps and cocktails by the pool

The Skypark may look like a giant surfboard on top of the towers, but the 57th floor playground hosts the infinity pool, gym, spa retreat and bars and restaurants.

marina bay sands infinity pool singapore
The infinity pool

Our rooms are spacious but they're nothing compared to what we find during a tour of a Straits suite - the third highest suite available at the hotel. The two-bedroom suite measures an opulent 200 square metres, with a grand piano in the living room, separate exercise bike room with tv, office area and a personal karaoke lounge! It'll set you back about S$7,000 per night which is chump change compared to the top-tier 629 square-metre Chairman suite that costs S$17,000 per night.

It's also interesting to note that although the casino is free for tourists, local Singaporeans must pay a daily entry of S$100, a mechanism that Marina Bay Sands says proves their intent to chase overseas money, and not take advantage of wistful locals.

marina bay sands shoppes singapore
Marina Bay Shoppes

Across the road from the hotel - and accessible by underground tunnel - is the shopping complex, so evidently fancy they're not just shops but Shoppes.

gondola at marina bay sands singapore
Sampan rides on the indoor canal at Marina Bay Shoppes

High fashion boutiques like Gucci, Chanel and Prada glisten and gleam beneath the wave of skylights overhead, but if all gets too much for you, you can always seek serenity on a cheesy sampan ride on the indoor canal.

Todai Buffet

sushi chef at todai, marina bay sands singapore
Sushi chef at Todai 

There's a broad mix of food outlets at Marina Bay, and we noted that the cheaper end of the building, particularly the hawker-style outlets of Rasapura Masters, were always busy. We started off with a buffet lunch at Todai, serviced with so many stations that the placemat is actually a map with directions on where to go!

sushi buffet at todai, marina bay sands singapore
Sushi buffet selection at Todai

There's an ambitious attempt at a Brazilian churrasco, and there's even a man rolling out fresh pizza dough, but I find myself heading back to the sushi and sashimi station. The grilled LA galbi beef ribs are also stickily good.

pastry chefs at todai marina bay sands singapore
Pastry chefs at Todai

biscotti pyramid dessert buffet at todai marina bay sands singapore
Biscotti pyramid at Todai

Waku Ghin by Wakuda Tetsuya

akihiro eguchi waku ghin chief bartender at marina bay sands singapore
Waku Ghin chief bartender Akihiro Eguchi carving ice 

At Tetsuya Wakuda's Waku Ghin, chief bartender Akihiro Eguchi deftly demonstrates the art of ice carving. Using a block of specially frozen clear ice, he makes several deft jabs with a chiselling fork, and within one minute he has created an ice sphere that is used primarily for scotch.

ice sphere by akihiro eguchi waku ghin chief bartender at marina bay sands singapore
Ice sphere for scotch at Waku Ghin 

The ice sphere melts much more slowly and minimises the risk of diluting the scotch. The spheres are changed if a customer changes scotch brands, but otherwise one rock should last about two to three drinks.

There's a serious art to ice, and it's quite mesmerising to watch the bartenders at work. The meditative way in which ice cubes are washed (removing the edges off ice cubes slows down the melting process) reminds me of the ramen appreciation scene in Tampopo.

We learn that Tetsuya's favourite cocktail is a gimlet (he always orders one whenever he visits, and tends to favour less sweet drinks in general) and we're spoilt with margaritas served with freshly ground Hawaiian pink salt on the rim (the superfine salt melts on the tongue and is less harsh on the palate). I will not be able to enjoy a margarita as much ever again.

Cut by Wolfgang Puck

tuna tartare sandwiches and mini kobe sliders at cut by wolfgang puck, at marina bay sands singapore
Tuna tartare "sandwiches" with wasabi, Japanese cucumber and togarashi toast;
Mini Kobe"sliders" on brioche buns with sweet pickles

At Cut by Wolfgang Puck, we're plied with more snacks and alcohol. I'm particularly taken by their best-selling Crouching Tiger made with vodka infused with jasmine flowers. I'm going to attempt to make that one at home next weekend.

bartender irwan shaking cocktails at cut by wolfgang puck, at marina bay sands singapore
Bartender Irwan at Cut by Wolfgang Puck

As we perch on stools at the bar, our bartender Irwan is a picture of concentration as he mixes each drink. There's a distinct rolling motion he makes with the cocktail shaker, and I can't help but smile when he makes a concerted deceleration at the end. When he ask him why he doesn't just stop straight away, he smiles and says, "It's like driving a fast car. You don't just hit the brakes. You have to slow down gently."

gardens by the bay singapore
Gardens by the Bay

artscience museum and f1 singapore grand prix at marina bay sands singapore
ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay (currently exhibiting Harry Potter and Andy Warhol) and the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix grandstand

db Bistro Moderne by Daniel Boulud

daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
db Bistro Moderne

We're swept up in a flurry of French accents at Daniel Boulud's restaurant db Bisto Moderne. Unlike his Michelin 3-starred restaurant restaurant Daniel in New York City, db Bistro Moderne is a little less formal, with leather lounge seating, bistro tables and a view into the kitchen through misted glass.

heirloom tomato salad by daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
Heirloom tomato salad S$24

The food is modern but elegant, with considered plating embellished with artistic flourishes.

flambe tarte, salad nicoise, petits farcis provencaux at daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
[Clockwise from top left]: House bread; Flambe tarte; Salade nicoise; and Petits farcis provencaux

original db burger by daniel boulud at marina bay sands singapore
The Original db burger S$42
Sirloin burger with braised short ribs and foie gras served in a parmesan bun

Next to the highly stylised salade nicoise, the original db burger is a hefty serve of calorific decadence. The beef patty is enriched with both foie gras and braised short ribs, all served in a parmesan bun for good measure. It's insanely rich but presumably that's the point.

bouillabaisse and yellow chicken en croute at daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
Bouillabaisse and yellow chicken en croute "Grand-mere style" S$45

spaetzle at daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
Spaetzle accompaniment to the yellow chicken en croute 

There's a flourish of lid lifting when the bouillabaisse is presented, contrasted with the family-style presentation of the chicken puff pastry pie. I'm quite taken by the spaetzle which have a satisfying chewiness.

black forest, clafoutis, peach melba, chocolate fondant desserts at daniel boulud db bistro moderne at marina bay sands singapore
Black forest; apricot clafoutis; peach melba; and chocolate fondant S$15 each

Desserts fly thick and fast across the table as we dip our spoons across a wide selection. The scoop of cherry sorbet on top of the black forest is marvellously refreshing, and I'm a surprise fan of the chocolate fondant which contains crispy feuillantine that provide welcome textural contrast.

Pizzeria Mozza by Mario Batali

pizzeria mozza by mario batali at marina bay sands singapore
Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza

We may only know Mario Batali from Iron Chef America, but this is his third Pizzeria Mozza location, after Los Angeles and Newport Beach in the United States.

banana gelato pie dessert at pizzeria mozza by mario batali at marina bay sands singapore
Calamari al forno with fagioli and oregano S$18; Prosciutto di Parma pizza with rocket S$31; banana gelato pie S$19; and Funghi misti pizza S$30

Pizzeria Mozza is more family-friendly than the formal Osteria Mozza, but this just means you can abandon all notion of cutlery and eat the wood-fired pizza by hand. I'm not a big fan of the prosciutto di parma pizza which has a tomato base that is distinctly acidic, but there's much to love about the funghi misti pizza laden with mushrooms, and the calamari that is enviably tender.

Sky on 57 by Justin Quek

chef justin quek at sky on 57 marina bay sands singapore
Chef Justin Quek

We end up visiting Sky on 57 three times: for pre-dinner drinks, breakfast and then lunch. Justin Quek is a local legend, and Singapore's most prominent chef on the international stage. Known for his focus on French cuisine, Sky on 57 offers both Asian and French-style dishes.

singapore laksa at sky on 57 by justin quek at marina bay sands singapore
Singapore laksa

A Singapore laksa at breakfast has a decent chilli hit, and even one of the Malaysian delegates says it's particularly noteworthy, saying that Singapore laksas are richer and creamier than the Malaysian version.

slow cooked eggs and french toast at sky on 57 by justin quek at marina bay sands singapore
Slow cooked organic eggs and French toast

ramen at sky on 57 by justin quek at marina bay sands singapore

mushroom cappuccino, slow cooked egg, mui fan seafood fried rice and jackfruit crumble dessert at sky on 57 by justin quek at marina bay sands singapore
Justin Quek's signature demitasse of fresh mushroom cappuccino; slow cooked organic egg with artichoke puree and foie gras emulsion; seafood fried rice "mui fan" and jackfruit tart with crumble S$50 for three courses/ S$60 for four courses

At lunch time, Justin tells us that his favourite ingredient to cook with is truffles. "I was working with it twenty years ago. I love it!" There is no shortage of foams in our dishes, including a demitasse of fresh mushroom that is aromatic and deeply umami.

Behind-the-scenes at Marina Bay Sands

staff security gates at marina bay sands singapore
Security entrance gates for Marina Bay Sands staff

What does it take to run Marina Bay Sands? We're led on a behind-the-scenes tour, a staggering journey that begins with high-tech security gates that include fingerprint capabilities.

staff lockers and uniforms at marina bay sands singapore
Staff lockers and collecting uniforms

There are just under 10,000 staff at Marina Bay Sands, and the discreet employee entrance is just around the corner from the Marina Bay Sands MTR railway station. All the inner workings of Marina Bay Sands is located here, with an underground corridor that stretches for about half a kilometre.

staff uniform garment belt at marina bay sands singapore
Staff uniform garment belt, each with RFID tags 

The first thing staff members do is pick up their uniform, scanning their card against a specific door which then delivers their allocated uniform, already cleaned and pressed. Each staff member has three sets of uniforms. Chefs have four.

Each uniform has an RFID, or radio frequency identification tag, which monitors how often the uniform has been laundered and when it is due for replacement.

sewing staff and 7-Eleven store at marina bay sands singapore
Alterations and repairs section; and the 7-Eleven store for Marina Bay Sands staff

The network of tunnels is staggering, as we head past the healthcare centre and even a 7-Eleven.

filling chocolates at marina bay sands singapore
Filling chocolate moulds 

We're restricted from taking photos in the kitchen except for the chocolate and pastry sections. One pastry chef is methodically piping fillings into chocolate, a job she's been doing for the past month - her entire tenure.

house breads and baker at marina bay sands singapore
House breads and shaping doughs 

There are daily deliveries of supplies to the hotel, with a minimisation of stock retention. There's no room to hoard or hang onto products.

A strict colour coding system (red chopping boards and knives for red meat, green for vegetables etc) keeps things in order.

All the breads are baked in-house, requiring fourteen bakers working full-time.

inside the kitchen at marina bay sands singapore
Inside the Marina Bay Sands kitchen

Feeding staff is another herculean task. About 7,500 meals are prepared every day, comprised of about 500kg of rice, 1.2 tonnes of meat or protein and 1.5 tonnes of vegetables.

staff buffet menu and healthcare center at marina bay sands singapore
Staff buffet menu and the team members healthcare centre

There are about 18 hot meal choices per day, broken across a Western, Chinese and halal menu. The menu changes every day.

Staff have access to two dining rooms (seating 700 and 300 respectively) and can come and go as they please.

staff motivational slogans at marina bay sands singapore
Staff motivational slogans

As for the staff motivational posters plastered on every wall, they do seem a little eerie.

Toast Box

toast box at marina bay sands singapore

We were only in Singapore for three days and our itinerary was packed, but we took every opportunity to explore Marina Bay Sands and Singapore on our own. From this point on in this post, all destinations were our own choosing, starting with the Singapore/Malaysian classic of kaya toast.

kaya toast, sour plum soda, teh o and milo pearls at toast box, marina bay sands singapore
Kaya toast S$1.80; ice sour plum soda S$3.50; Teh O cold S$2.40; Milo pearls S$2.80 

It was about 10pm when we stepped into Toast Box, but really any time is a good time for toast with butter and kaya toast.

kaya thick toast at toast box, marina bay sands singapore
Kaya thick toast S$1.90

We stabbed our toothpicks at the cubes of kaya spread on a mattress of thick toast but the greatest satisfaction was still to be had in the traditional kaya toast, sandwiched with an eye-popping slab of butter.

kaya toast at toast box, marina bay sands singapore
Kaya toast S$1.80

Kaya should be treated like Vegemite. It tastes infinitely better with overwhelming amounts of butter. The salty creaminess of the butter is a perfect match for the sweet spread of coconut jam. I washed mine down with a glass of ice cold milo punctuated with chewy tapioca pearls.

Din Tai Fung

xiao long bao soup dumplings and shao mai at din tai fung, marina bay sands singapore
Steamed pork dumplings S$7.30 for 6 pieces
dumpling markers in the kitchen; 
steamed shrimp and pork shao-mai S$10.30 for 6 pieces

We stopped into Din Tai Fung for dumplings, first marvelling at the army of dumpling makers in the open kitchen, and then excited peering into the bamboo steamer when our order was finally delivered to our table.

dumplings in bamboo steamers at din tai fung, marina bay sands singapore
Delivering dumplings to the table in bamboo steamer baskets

There's as much an art to making xia long bao soup dumplings as there is to eating them. Din Tai Fung prides itself on each dumpling having exactly 18 folds and weighing precisely 21 grams. We just prayed that we didn't burst any dumplings each time we picked them up with chopsticks.

crab xiao long bao soup dumplings at din tai fung, marina bay sands singapore
Steamed crab meat and pork dumplings S$9.50 for 6 pieces

The skins are enviably thin, but the slurp of soup at the bottom is the real joy to these little treasures.

The Streets of Singapore

young coconut juice singapore
Young coconut drinks on an outdoor cart

It can be hard to abandon the air-conditioned comfort of shopping centres, but the streets of Singapore is where you'll find all the best action. Chinatown was about a twenty minute walk from our hotel but with a cab costing about S$5 (AU$3.90) it was easy to justify the relative extravagance.

chinatown markets singapore
Chinatown market stalls

Chinatown is a happy headache of tacky tourist souvenirs, but I did pick up a traditional stone stamp with my name engraved in Chinese for S$35 (AU$27). In amongst the Angry Birds keyrings and pashmina scarves, you'll find bak kwa sweet pork jerky shops, the Tin Tin store and several commercial kitchen shops which I happily browsed in.

pagoda street singapore
Pagoda Street, Singapore 

On our last night we also stopped by Chinatown for cheap massages, where of course we bumped into Aussie and Swedish backpackers getting all their aches and pains cracked out of them.

masjid sultan mosque in kampong glam singapore
Masjid Sultan mosque at Muscat Street in Kampong Glam

Singapore Zam Zam

singapore zam zam in kampong glam

We skipped breakfast at the hotel one morning and headed to Singapore Zam Zam, famous for its murtabak.

roti canai and murtabak at singapore zam zam
Making roti; roti canai; teh halia and teh o; deer murtabak S$10

There is much to be said about the pleasures of having curry for breakfast. The roti was effortlessly light and flaky - we tore this into shreds and dipped it into bowls of curry.

deer murtabak at singapore zam zam
Deer murtabak S$10

Mutton is the traditional murtabak filling here, but we venture into deer territory. Unlike the heavier soggier murtabaks you'll often find in Sydney, this pastry was thin and crispy and filled with a tumble of finely chopped meat with slivers of sweet onion.

We eat the murtabak with the accompanying dish of cucumbers and tomato sauce, as I slurp down mouthfuls of sweet teh halia ginger tea.

haji lane singapore
Haji Lane

Kallang Estate Fresh Market and Food Centre

fishball minced meat noodle at kallang estate food centre singapore
Breakfast crowds and fishball minced meat noodle from Tua Buee S$2

We stumble upon Kallang Estate by accident, when our taxi driver drops us off here instead of Old Airport Road Hawker Market just a few doors up.

It's a smaller food centre centre here but it does give us a chance to explore the fresh market as locals go about their daily shopping.

locals shopping for food at kallang estate fresh market singapore
Locals at the Kallang Estate Fresh Market

newspaper stand at kallang estate fresh market singapore
Newspaper stands 

apam balik crepes and carrot cake at kallang estate food centre singapore
Apam balik crepes and frying carrot cake 

We find ourselves drawn to the food stalls of course, and we order an apam balik crepe with corn and a dish of fried carrot (or white radish) cake.

carrot cake at kallang estate food centre singapore
Carrot cake S$2

wonton noodle at kallang estate food centre singapore
Wonton noodle $S2

There's nary a tourist to be seen here, and it's reflected in the prices with most dishes starting at S$2. The fishball minced meat noodle stall has a dedicated queue of fans but I'm a sucker for the wonton noodles that includes fried and boiled wontons on a huddle of chewy egg noodles.

Old Airport Road Hawker Market

fried oysters at old airport road hawker market singapore
Fried oyster S$4 from Katong Ah Soon

Kallang Estate opens and closes early but Old Airport Road Hawker Market is more for the night owls. After a day of non-stop eating (seriously, I kid you not) we wander the stalls but only have room for a plate of fried oysters, fresh oysters flash fried in an omelette blanket made crispy with tapioca flour.

There's no shortage of stalls here, and I'm daunted when I realise there's another level of stalls upstairs. Instead we find the stalls closed in place of a local wedding reception, complete with multi-course banquet.

On my next visit to Singapore I'd definitely return for thorough gustatory exploration.

Amoy Street Food Centre

hawker stalls at amoy street food centre singapore
Hawker stalls doing dinner prep at Amoy Street Food Centre

The Singapore CBD has no shortage of hawker markets, feeding suits with hearty cheap meals. Unfortunately its stalls also tend to follow office hours so when we arrive in the late afternoon at Amoy Street Food Centre many are closed, or yet to commence the dinner trade.

curry puff from amoy street food centre hawker market singapore
Potato chicken curry puff S$1 from Crispy Curry Puff

What we do find are the most amazing curry puffs I have had the privilege of eating. These crescents of pastry are extraordinarily flakey, filled with a potato chicken curry that have plenty of punch, and are only S$1 each. I should have bought a dozen.

almond tofu dessert from amoy street food centre hawker market singapore
Almond soya beancurd dessert from Lao Dou S$1.50

We also hoe into a container of tofu dessert flavoured with almond, delicately wobbly and cooly refreshing.

buddhist temple telok ayer street singapore
Buddhist temple and Telok Ayer Street

Lau Pa Sat Festival Market

xiao long bao soup dumplings and satay at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
[Clockwise from top left]: Crab meat xia long bao soup dumplings $4.50 for 5 pieces; 
beef, chicken and mutton satay S$9 for 15 skewers from Asli Satay Club; 
Shanghai deep fried buns S$4 for 5 pieces

Only a few blocks away is Lau Pa Sat, a hawker market we visited twice. Also known as Telok Ayer ("Water Bay" in Malay), the market is noted for its distinct octagonal shape and Victorian-style cast iron structure.

inside lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Inside Lau Pa Sat

xia long bao soup dumplings at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Soup dumplings in the bamboo steamer at Shanghai Xiao Long Bao

We try the xiao long bao soup dumplings here - the crab dumplings turn out to contain little more than seafood extender - but the Shanghai deep fried buns are impressively free from residual oil, even if they are missing a skerrick of soup inside.

xia long bao soup dumplings at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Traditional xiao long bao soup dumplings $4.50 for 5 pieces

popiah at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Popiah S$2.50

Popiah is not as crisp and fresh as I expect but we have no complaints about our late night supper straight after a flight, a feast of cereal prawns (think sweet and salty oat crumble with curry leaves on top of deep-fried prawns) and barbecue sting ray smothered in spicy sambal.

cereal prawns, mee hoon, bbq sting ray, bitter gourd melon with salted egg at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
[Clockwise from top left]: Bitter gourd with salted egg S$15; 
crispy cereal prawns S$28;
Singapore mee hoon S$4; 
and medium bbq sting ray pari bakar S$15
from Ming Yen BBQ and Seafood

It's also my first time trying bitter gourd, or bitter melon, with salted egg yolk, that proves incredibly addictive, where the richness of the salted egg yolk is countered by the bitterness of the melon.

noodles at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Noodles with grace and dignity

bbq prawns on charcoal at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Prawns on the barbie, Singapore-style

Most people head to Lau Pa Sat for satay, especially at night time when the road is closed and tables are set up on the street. It's an intoxicating mix of charcoal plumes with the hiss and spit of animal fat hitting the fire.

satay chicken skewers on charcoal bbq at lau pa sat festival market hawker market singapore
Satay chicken skewers on charcoal

Maxwell Food Centre

yong tau foo fish balls at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Yong tau foo fish balls and stuffed bean curd stall

Just over the road from Chinatown is Maxwell Food Centre (also known as Kim Hua Market). More than 100 stalls are spread across three rows beneath a covered roof hung with slow moving fans that seem to stir the humidity rather than offer much of a cooling sensation.

maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Maxwell Food Centre 

The array of choice can be dizzying but it's hard to go wrong if you follow the queues.

fresh fruit stall at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Fruit stall with watermelon, pineapple, papaya, red dragonfruit and jackfruit

A simple display of freshly cut fruit makes me wonder why we don't have more of this in Sydney, but I'm then distracted by a bowl of red bean and peanut soup.

red bean and peanut soup at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Red bean and peanut soup and glutinous rice balls S$1.30

The soup tastes more like a Chinese savoury porridge, filled with a mix of soft and chewy grains and legumes. The glutinous rice balls are optional but they offer my personal highlight - filled with a sandy sweet mixture of sugar, sesame seeds and ground peanuts.

Zhen Zhen Porridge 

zhen zhen rice porridge congee at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Serving up congee rice porridge

It's congee that fuels most Singaporeans at breakfast time, a thin rice gruel that's amped up with a variety of fixings.

zhen zhen rice porridge fish congee at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Congee rice porridge with fish S$3 from Zhen Zhen Porridge

There's a huge queue at Zhen Zhen so we join it immediately, finally rewarded with a hearty bowl of congee that's packed with barely cooked fish fillet, ginger, scallions and deep-fried red shallots.

The couple here have been running this stall for over twenty years.

zhen zhen yu sheng raw fish salad at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore
Yu sheng raw fish salad $3

We also make like the locals and get a side order of yu sheng raw fish salad. It's similar to the yee sang raw fish salad eaten by Malaysians at Chinese New Year, albeit somewhat simpler. Raw slices of fish are squeezed over with the juice of fresh kalamansi limes, then jumbled up with scallions, fried red shallots and a snowstorm of toasted sesame seeds.

It's fresh, lively and deliciously invigorating.

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice

tian tian hainanese chicken rice at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore anthony bourdain
Tian Tian Hainanese chicken rice - even Anthony Bourdain approves

And hello, how could we forget Tian Tian. If anyone remembers anything about that 2008 Singapore episode of No Reservations, it's Anthony Bourdain waxing lyrical about the Hainanese chicken rice at Tian Tian.

Just in case you did forget, the stall holders here are more than happy to remind you, with a giant picture of Bourdain emblazoned across one window.

tian tian hainanese chicken rice at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore anthony bourdain
Whole white chickens and the tub of chicken rice

The queues here are notorious (even though I hear the former chef has moved to another shop a few doors down) but we arrive at 10.30am and are third in line. Half an hour later the queue is close to a dozen.

tian tian hainanese chicken rice at maxwell food centre hawker market singapore anthony bourdain
Hainanese steamed chicken with rice S$3

It's a humble plate of white boiled chicken with chicken-stock rice but that's the beauty of Singapore: you find the best things in the most unassuming of places.

Grab Your Fork visited Singapore as a guest of Marina Bay Sands. Meals at Todai, Cut, Pizzeria Mozza, db Bistro Moderne and Sky on 57 were complimentary. All other meals were personally paid for.

Marina Bay Sands 
10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956
Tel: +65 6688 8897

Cut - Wolfgang Puck
Level B1-71
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8517

DB Bistro Moderne - Daniel Boulud
Level B1-48
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8525

Din Tai Fung
Level B2-63, Canal Level
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6634 9969

Pizzeria Mozza - Mario Batali
Level B1-42/46
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8522

Sky on 57 - Justin Quek
Level 57, Tower 1
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Tel: +65 6688 8857

Level B2-01, Canal Level
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 7771

Toast Box
Level B2-62/64, Canal Level
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6636 7131

Waku Ghin - Wakuda Tetsuya
Casino Level 02-02
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8507

Singapore Hawker Markets

Amoy Street Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road, Singapore
Open 11am-8pm with limited stalls trading on weekends

Kallang Estate Fresh Market and Food Centre
Block 19, Old Airport Road, Geylang, Singapore 397972
Open for breakfast and lunch

Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
Corner of Boon Tat Street and Robinson Road, Singapore 048582
Tel: +65 6220 2138
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 12pm-10pm

Maxwell Food Centre
1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
Open Monday to Sunday 8am-10pm

Old Airport Road Food Centre
Block 51, Old Airport Road, Geylang, Singapore 397972
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 12pm-12am (closed Mondays)

Zam Zam
697 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198675
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Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 8am-11pm

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Singapore 2009
30 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/10/2012 03:05:00 am


  • At 9/10/2012 3:39 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    It's too much, it's too much! How can I comprehend all the seafood and desserty deliciousness, particularly when I'm still stuck on being terrified by that infinity pool?!

  • At 9/10/2012 4:55 am, Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said…

    Oh my goodness!

    What an epic wrap up of Singaporean cuisine. Amazing diversity.

    Thank you!

    SSG xxx

  • At 9/10/2012 7:12 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Got dizzy from so much awesome! lol The shops look extra special coz they're "shoppes". I could eat laksa everyday for breakfast!

  • At 9/10/2012 7:27 am, Anonymous TFP (The Food Pornographer) said…

    This is why you are my blogging hero. Spectacular post, brilliant pictures and an instant Singapore To Eat list. Bloody brilliant. :D

  • At 9/10/2012 9:14 am, Anonymous Lizzie - Strayed from the Table said…

    I missed out on eating stingray. Your photos are really fantastic.
    Hey do you eat laksa?

  • At 9/10/2012 9:47 am, Blogger K said…

    EPIC! I do want to go back to Singapore armed with this post and do it all in 5 days (I can't consume it all in 3). If only my local Sydney cafe/bakery will serve me kaya toast in the meantime. :(
    Your photos are amazing too!!

  • At 9/10/2012 9:50 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    epic. i miss singapore and all the amazing food!

  • At 9/10/2012 10:31 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    amazing food journey and that Marina Bay Sands Hotel infinity pool is giving me vertigo just looking at it

  • At 9/10/2012 11:27 am, Anonymous jessjoseph said…

    Sigh! This post makes me miss my hometown. LOVE LOVE LOVE! You visited some really good places. I've got a flight back in November = can't wait!

  • At 9/10/2012 11:59 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    amazing whirlwind trip! im bookmarking this post for my trip early next year! thanks!

  • At 9/10/2012 12:18 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    WOAH! what an amazing trip! am heading to Singapore shortly will definitely check some of the places out!

  • At 9/10/2012 12:28 pm, Anonymous Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Now that's how you write a wrap-up! Epic post Helen. I've still yet to visit Singapore but it's making me a little homesick for KL with the hawkers and food :(

    And that pool is amazing.

  • At 9/10/2012 12:38 pm, Anonymous Billy @ A Table For Two said…

    I am like Raff, a bit dizzy scrolling through all the phoodddd.... EPIC!

  • At 9/10/2012 2:04 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    so much food in 3 days! and lol at the "shoppes". I went to a toast box in Hong Kong and I loved the thick kaya toast there, but next time I'll have to get it with the butter sandwiched in between heh

  • At 9/10/2012 3:07 pm, Anonymous Corrie@Brisbane Devoured said…

    This post is simply amazing! It makes me want to jump straight on a place to Singapore... what a guide you have produced here, well done. So lucky to be asked to go on a trip like this!

  • At 9/10/2012 5:55 pm, Blogger Jackie B said…

    OMG!!!! This is an epic post!!! I want to head down to Singers NOW!
    Did you eat the Bambi murtabak? Poor Bambi...
    I am practically drooling like an idiot now.. ;)

  • At 9/10/2012 7:28 pm, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    SIGH!!! just... SIGH!!!

  • At 9/10/2012 9:21 pm, Anonymous Priscilla @ foodpornnation.com said…

    Wow what great coverage. Can't believe you managed all that in 3 days. I got RSI just from scrolling!

  • At 9/11/2012 9:03 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    That's one packed itinerary! That pool is... a little high for me, perhaps.

    I have a stopover in Singapore in a few months, but only long enough to check out Waku Ghin.

  • At 9/12/2012 12:25 am, Anonymous KFC so good said…

    you must be so tired after the trip!

    every time I looked at fine dinning dishes in Singapore, they seems to be trying so hard. However, there seems to be a lack of "soul". shiny, new and famous - however, all seems out of place.

    As soon as you zoom to the street food, now that's real, there's soul.

    I think Singapore is trying hard to dress up, lets hope the soul is still there to be discovered.

    I would make a trip to go to SG any day for a bowl of street food. Not sure if I will do the same for fine dinning.

  • At 9/13/2012 11:17 am, Anonymous SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said…

    Wow! Amazingly cool pictures that have made me SUPER hungry! Kaya toast and murturbak and dumplings, oh my!

  • At 9/14/2012 1:25 pm, Anonymous Poorna said…

    Wow! I have been a silent follower of this blog for a long time, and this post was so amazing that I just had to comment on the sheer range of food you guys consumed. Also, this is a very very helpful post, I am planning on a trip there soon, and so, its a good thing you pointed out a few great places that I will have to try!!

    Thank you Helen, you are really a lifesaver.

  • At 9/14/2012 2:39 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    Just looking at the photos of that infinity pool has given me the heeby jeebies - its WAY to high up. I'd be afraid of just leaning over a little too far and...plop!

    Kaya Toast = OMG, and I LOVE the behind the scences tour of the hotel, amazing.

    And, thanks for uncovering some new hawker centres for us. Lot's of stuff to explore on our next visit.

  • At 9/16/2012 10:23 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thank you everyone for your comments! I'm so glad you all enjoyed the post and the pics.

    Hi TFP - Nawww you are far too kind! Your Cambodia trip looked amazing too. Would love to visit one day!

    Hi Lizzie - The stingray was delish. You'll have to demolish some on your next visit ;)

    Hi K - Thanks, and yes I think 5 days in Singapore would be much more do-able! Too many hawker markets to visit!

    Hi Jessjoseph - Have an awesome trip! I can only imagine your eating list :)

    Hi milkteaxx - Heh you'll have a blast I'll bet.

    Hi Karen - Haha I figured I may as well put it all in one massive post! Can't believe you haven't visited S'pore! You'll have to make a detour on your next trip home to KL.

    Hi Jacq - Oh the normal toast is soooo much better. I also missed getting teh tarik in a takeaway plastic bag. Heh novelty.

    Hi Corrie - Thanks. I hope I did the delights of Singapore some justice! :)

    Hi Jackie - We did eat Bambi, and it was so delicious :)

    Hi Priscilla - lol, I think I got RSI from uploading all the pictures. Heh.

    Hi PJ Chow - You could worse then Waku Ghin. lol. Enjoy your meal!

    Hi KFC So Good - I agree that street food will always win my heart. So much joy and honesty in simply prepared meals :)

    Hi Poorna - Thank you for making your first ever comment :) Singapore is really easy to get around - the hardest part is finding room in your stomach for all the food. Enjoy your trip!

    Hi Miss Piggy - lol there's a walkway and huge ledge on the side of the infinity pool (otherwise the water would fall down the sie of the building, lol) but yeah it is a little freaky at first :)

  • At 9/16/2012 11:39 pm, Anonymous Vivian - vxdollface said…

    fabulous guide! will be very handy if i end up going at the end of this year :D

  • At 9/23/2012 7:02 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Wow! I loved everything about this post! You're so lucky, and you certainly made the most of the trip! I can't believe you saw, did and ate all of that in just three days!!

  • At 9/23/2012 8:10 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    Oh.MY.LOrdy! How jelly I am of that trip!! Looks freaking amazing!

  • At 9/24/2012 12:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    -I'm a Foodie Newbie-

    My eyes were in heaven browsing through the beautiful photos of your food adventure *_*

    Now I'm salivating and my stomach is gnawing imagining how all the food tastes :P

  • At 9/24/2012 9:40 am, Anonymous Pamela Heiligenthal @ Enobytes said…

    Amazing photos! I gotta get to Singapore! ;)

  • At 9/25/2012 6:25 pm, Blogger Eve said…

    Well done Helen! You managed to hit almost all the good makan areas in Singapore! =)

    Am heading to Pizzaria Mozza now for dinner. Gonna eat my share of hawker food before i head back to Sydney for a bit.

    Next time you are in Singapore, let me take you to more hawker centres. =)


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