Chefs and restaurateurs share their favourite places to eat overseas
From Parisien bistros to sushi in Ginza, Tokyo — industry insiders share their favourite dining spots.
Executive chef of Zén
Here’s something to know about Tristin Farmer. The frequent flyer (once every two months or so) is every bit of a gourmand as his guests. “Even if it is just for a weekend, I like to check out different cities for their restaurants,” confesses the executive chef of one of Singapore’s biggest openings last year - Zén, the first and only overseas outpost of Stockholm’s Frantzén.
The Scotland native has found “home” in Paris on several occasions. “I’d have croissants and coffee at Du Pain et des Idées to start the day, followed by lunch at Septime. It’s an understated restaurant. You’ve got food that looks simple but is incredibly complex and well thought out, plus the hospitality is great. After whiling my afternoon there with a glass of wine, I’d make my way to E.DEHILLERIN that’s all stocked up with a wide range of kitchen equipment. If time permits, I’d do another glass of vino at the bars around Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Châtelet–Les Halles,” he enthuses.
When in Milan, Chef Farmer raves about Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia. “It was the end of a long week working in Milan. We dined as a group of chefs and the hospitality and passion from the family running the restaurant was much-needed. It was as if we were dining in their home. And they had this outstanding dish, which was their family recipe for onion linguini.”
Chef-owner of Cheek Bistro and Cloudstreet
Rishi Naleendra needs no introduction, having been the first Sri Lankan chef to attain Michelin status for his now defunct Cheek by Jowl. Not resting on his laurels, the industrious chef continues to set Singapore’s dining landscape abuzz with two new establishments – CHEEK BISTRO and Cloudstreet - this year.
When not busy in his open kitchen, he’s hopping on a plane with wife Manuela Toniolo. “We’d go to Sri Lanka for a slice of home, Australia for the amazing produce and New York for some of the most exciting and dynamic food scenes in the world,” says Chef Naleendra.
He specifically recalls Dunkeld’s award-winning Royal Mail Hotel, when Dan Hunter was leading the kitchen, as one of his most memorable meals. “It was some of my first farm-to-table dining experiences and the precision Dan Hunter brought to the table was amazing,” he enthuses. Chef Hunter’s iconic nature-based cuisine can now be enjoyed at Brae, where organic produce from his garden and surrounding farmers in the Otway hinterland take pride of place on his menu.
But it appears Chef Naleendra is headed West on his next break, citing the farm-driven Single Thread Farm and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck as his next conquests.
Han Li Guang
Chef-owner of Labyrinth
Since earning acclaim for his inventive take on Singapore dishes at Labyrinth, homegrown chef Han Li Guang - who cut his teeth at Garibaldi, Mirazur and Bo Innovation – has become the poster boy of local produce.
Which is perhaps why the former banker named Nihonryori Ryugin (in Tokyo) as the place to go for an unforgettable meal.
“Chef-owner Seiji Yamamoto is all about top-notch produce, method of cooking and presentation; it’s the best of everything,” says Chef Han, who has nothing but praise for the Japanese chef. “Whether it’s the wild caught eels, sashimi or the sake souffle, it’s a revelation. His deep understanding of traditional culinary techniques and making it accessible with contemporary touch inspires me as a chef.”
Next on his bucket list? He is looking towards Copenhagen for Noma 2.0 and Geranium, and Chicago for Alinea.
Chef-owner of Morsels
“I have a couple of favourites,” says Petrina Loh, chef-owner of MORSELS, who dedicates time for two monthlong trips each year. Most recently, the adventurous chef hopped onto a Holland America cruise, taking her from Singapore to Colombo and Mumbai. “Goat brains and malabar fish at Bombay Canteen – Mumbai was easily one of the best meals I had this year,” she eagerly reveals.
Even so, she would head to Tokyo at the drop of a hat. “There is Sushi Masa Ishibashi, an eight seater sushi-ya at Ginza, for one. I love the shari (sushi rice), the way they treat the fish as well as the excellent selection of sake.” Bonus: the husband-and-wife owners speak English. She also recommends making reservations for Ky Imai Ryokan for its kaiseki, particularly when nodokuro (blackthroat sea perch) is in season, and Restaurant Kabi. The latter is known for their Nordic approach to Japanese produce, along with a strong focus on pickling and fermentation.
Founder of Spa Esprit Group
Chances are you’ve dined at Cynthia Chua’s many F&B concepts, such as Tippling Club, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Open Farm Community. Most recently, the gutsy entrepreneur unveiled a more eco-friendly approach with the natural wine bar Drunken Farmer and Noka, a modern Japanese restaurant that’s accompanied by an urban farm (by Edible Garden City) atop Funan Mall.
When not building her business (which includes her string of beauty concepts), Ms Chua craves another spectacular meal at Le Suquet at Laguiole, France. “Having the father-son duo of Michel and Sébastien Bras cook for us was a dream come true. The taste of that steak with jus reduction still lingers in my memory,” says the effervescent entrepreneur who also waxes lyrical about Michel Bras’ signature vegetable-centric dish Le Gargouillou de Michel Bras.
“I love Michel’s vision. He pioneered the gastronomy scene for the humble countryside and that took a lot of guts and hard work.”