What’s On The Menu?

In The Age Of Covid, How Are Restaurants Wooing Diners Back?

It’s been a roller-coaster of ever-changing rules for dining establishments, as Singapore cautiously opens up — again. With the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions, how are restaurants wooing diners back safely, surely and more creatively?

In The Age Of Covid, How Are Restaurants Wooing Diners Back?
Alley on 25 Square Private Room

Refreshed menus. Exciting new setups. Stepped-up cleaning, safety and service standards. And, as always, innovative flair and creativity in the face of constant change, while embracing dine-in safety rules and vaccination checks.

After more than a year of being battered by changing rules on dining that tested their patience, adaptability and tenacity, dining establishments large and small are looking forward to the future with some measure of hope that things might finally stabilise.

But they’re not just sitting on their hands while waiting for dining as we know it, to return, either. Here’s what some establishments have been working on in the kitchen, to welcome their diners back.

Art

A neo-Italian restaurant now located at the rooftop of the National Gallery, Art promises a tantalising new culinary evolution with recently appointed group executive chef Daniele Sperindio. The first instalment of his seven-course tasting menu, An Italian’s Tale, features starters such as Scarpetta, A Way Of Living — a delectable combination of San Marzano tomatoes, aged parmigiano, farfalle, Altamura semolina bread and sauce classics.

Alley on 25 and Mr Stork

At The Andaz Singapore, innovative dining is key. Alley on 25, its high-rise all-day dining restaurant, offers the scrumptious Lazy Breakfast, which will take guests on a heady global spin. 

Director of food and beverage Franck Detrait explains, “What the Lazy Breakfast offers is a round-the-world menu. We reached out to our sister properties around the world to bring their local specialties to Singapore. For four months, guests can enjoy delights from Andaz Bali, Munich, Seoul and Tokyo to kickstart their day.

“In addition, as part of Andaz’s culture to support local and to partner with local artisans as much as possible, we will be teaming up with gelato company Birds of Paradise for a unique afternoon-tea concept, available from mid-September until mid-December.”

Meanwhile, destination rooftop bar Mr Stork continues to deliver cocktails that champion Asian spirits. “We have also introduced guests to shifts by top talents from local bars through the Mr Stork X: A Bar Pop-Up series. Negroni Week is also in the pipeline, which we are excited about.”

To accommodate space constraints in the restaurant during the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurants’ signature dishes are on the in-room dining menu so they can now be enjoyed by guests  in the comfort of their hotel rooms.

Firangi Superstar

New establishment Firangi Superstar at Craig Road presents a cinematic fantasy journey through India. Four “experience rooms” beckon — the Officer’s Club, Old Railway Room, Elephant Palace and Jungle Lodge. They are all splendidly configured to look like film sets.

What arrives at the table are head chef Thiru Gunasakaran’s reworked classic Indian dishes. With names like Prata Waffle, his take on the American favourite chicken and waffles, they encourage conversation with your server as you decipher what the dishes contain. We find out that the Prata Waffle features Madras-style fried chicken-pieces with curry leaves and garlic, sitting perfectly on a waffle-iron-pressed prata, with accompanying butter-chicken sauce and jaggery syrup.

At the point of going to press, piped-in music is still not allowed in restaurants. Michael Goodman, chief visionary officer of The Dandy Collection, which runs Firangi Superstar, says, “We’re optimistic that as Singapore opens, we can push the experience even further. Every great movie needs a great soundtrack, and we see Firangi Superstar in the same way. Once the music comes in, the entire place will really come alive the way it was meant to.”

Superior Beef Noodles at Blanco Court Beef Noodles
Superior Beef Noodles

Blanco Court Beef Noodles

Established in 1979, Blanco Court Beef Noodles had humble beginnings as a pushcart stall on Hainan Street. Under the stewardship of Chopsticks and Bibs — helmed by Mike Loh, the third generation of Blanco Court Beef Noodles owners, and entrepreneur Dion Lim — the brand refined its signature dishes and added new ones to the menu. 

The eatery’s newest 40-seater restaurant opened recently at Our Tampines Hub. Mr Lim says although high rental and staffing costs remain the biggest challenges, the staff have been staying positive and working to increase their reach. “We are planning to apply for Halal certification to introduce our wholesome heritage dishes to the Muslim community.” 

Iko

The kitchen at IKO is helmed by Singaporean chef Jeremmy Chiam, known for his signature European culinary flair and love for Japanese ingredients. Here, guests can enjoy contemporary Mod-Jap creations and robata grilled bites, complemented by a notable sake collection and Japanese-inspired cocktails.

The dinner menu is presented in six categories — Raw, Cold, Small, Robata, Rice and Noodles, and Sweet. The compact lunch menu includes some Cold and Small dishes and Zosui (traditional Japanese rice soup served in clay pot). Chef Chiam says, “With winter approaching, diners can look forward to more seafood items such as snow crab.”

IKO, on Neil Road, has ample dining space that accommodates up to 30 with safe distancing measures. “Reservations have not been as strong as before, but we hope that, as the situation gets better with more people getting vaccinated, our reservations will increase.”

Sen-Ryo

This popular casual-dining chain in Japan and Hong Kong opened at ION Orchard in April. Sen-Ryo — established in Tochigi, Japan in 1999 — offers a seasonal menu and a diversion from the Japanese restaurants that have populated Singapore’s dining scene.

For the newly opened restaurant, dealing with the new dine-in measures has been par for the course, but Jun Uchida, executive director of Genki Sushi Singapore, which operates Sen-Ryo, is positive that its innovative menu will bring a steady stream of diners back. Other than the restaurant’s popular DIY Hokkaido Uni, he says, “Diners can look forward to a new seasonal menu, along with exquisite desserts such as frozen Japanese fruit sorbets and an exclusive range of Japanese sake.”

For an elevated experience, he suggests the gourmet omakase menu, featuring off-menu dishes with unique ingredients imported directly from Toyosu Market.

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