[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he 2016 Heritage Heroes list by Slow Food Singapore includes restaurants that are at least 30 years old and they span a melting pot of ethnic and dialect cuisines, such as Cantonese, Euro-Hainanese, South Indian and Indian Muslim.
Recipients include Islamic Restaurant in North Bridge Road, which is famed for its Turkish-Indian style of briyani; Spring Court Restaurant in Upper Cross Street, which serves Singapore Chinese food; Indian vegetarian restaurant Ananda Bhavan in Syed Alwi Road; and the Russo-Hainanese Shashlik Restaurant in Orchard Road. The list also mentions speciality dishes that the eateries are known for.
Heritage restaurants is a new category in the annual listing, which is now in its third edition.The Heritage Heroes Awards is organised by Slow Food (Singapore), a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to safeguarding local gastronomic heritage and promote food traditions.
Daniel Chia, its president, hopes that the accolade can help sustain heritage food businesses so that future generations can savour their delicacies.
He says: “These restaurants are a major part of our culinary heritage and identity as Singaporeans; they will not be forgotten and will remain as venues for people to celebrate their family occasions.”
Christopher Tan, chairman of the Heritage Heroes programme, adds: “These restaurants are weathering the same pressures facing the food and beverage industry, such as rising rents and staffing issues. By honouring these heroes, we hope that they will receive more recognition and support from food lovers.”
Given the wealth of restaurants here, a panel of eight food and beverage professionals took two years to shortlist, assess and name the winners. They researched the restaurants and dined there incognito to “determine if the dishes and flavours are reflective of the traditions of each cuisine”.
Chia adds: “Unlike other food awards that also look at service quality, we focus on the old-school taste and presentation of the restaurants’ dishes.”
Recipients can display labels bearing the “Heritage Heroes” status, which has lifetime validity.
Established restaurants say that being bestowed with the Heritage Heroes accolade will spur them on to continue their businesses.
Mr Alan Tan, a second-generation co-owner of the 31-year-old Shashlik Restaurant at Far East Shopping Centre, is “surprised and deeply honoured” by the accolade. The restaurant, which was set up by nine employees of the long defunct restaurant Troika when it closed, serves comfort food such as borsch, steaks and old-school desserts such as Cherry Jubilee, flamed tableside.
He says: “I hope that the restaurant can continue to be a small and unique part of Singapore’s food culture. This award motivates us to work harder to preserve the legacy of the restaurant’s founders.” On the restaurant’s longevity, he says: “Generations of Singaporeans are used to coming to the restaurant to celebrate important life moments such as birthdays and anniversaries, and they like the sense of familiarity with the longtime staff. It is also unusual for a local restaurant to retain tableside service, serving flambé desserts that diners remember.”
For Islamic Restaurant, the award is “a form of appreciation for my family who have kept the restaurant going for decades in a competitive business climate”, says Irfan Akram, a fourth-generation member of the family that runs the 95-year-old eatery.
The 27-year-old hopes that the award can widen exposure of the restaurant to younger diners, who prefer to hang out in cafés.
“Hopefully, this can spark their curiosity about how the restaurant managed to last for so long and learn about its history. It also helps that the taste of our biryani has stayed the same, with our multi- generational chefs who have been cooking the same dishes all these years,” he adds.
To celebrate the awards this year, veteran chefs Sin Leong of Red Star Restaurant and Hooi Kok Wai of Dragon Phoenix Restaurant will team up for a one-night-only dinner on 10 December at Red Star Restaurant (Block 54 Chin Swee Road #07-23). It is themed after a birthday celebration in the 1950s and 1960s, with classic dishes such as duck with glutinous rice, and garoupa stuffed with prawn paste. Tickets are available at S$130 per person on Peatix.
1. Dragon Phoenix Restaurant (Specialty dishes: Prosperity Yu Sheng, Yam Basket, Phoenix Spring Chicken, Kyoto Pork Ribs)
2. Lai Wah Restaurant (New Year Yu Sheng, Yam Pot with Shredded Meat, Mandarin Stewed Chicken)
3. Moi Lum Restaurant (Majestic Roast Chicken, Golden Coin Beancurd)
4. Hillman Restaurant (Claypot dishes, Paper Chicken)
5. Capital Restaurant (Shanghai Hairy Crabs, Sultan Fish)
6. Red Star Restaurant (Dim Sum)
7. Manhill Restaurant (Claypot dishes, Paper Chicken)
1. Colbar Eating House (Pork Chops with Mushrooms, Sausages and Eggs, Ox Liver Chips and Peas)
2. Foster’s Restaurant (Fillet Fantastique, Oxtail Stew, Devonshire Cream Tea)
3. The Ship Restaurant & Bar (Ship Steak, Chicken Maryland, Oxtail Stew)
4. Prince Coffee House (Beef Kway Teow, Steaks, Oxtail Stew)
5. Mariner’s Corner Restaurant (Colonial Oxtail Stew, Lobster Bisque, Escargot)
6. Shashlik Restaurant (Borsch Soup, Beef Shashlik, Chicken a’la Kiev, Bombe Alaska)
1. Lee Do Restaurant (Red Wine Chicken Soup, Fried Pig’s Liver, Seafood Soup and White Rice Cake, Cold Crab)
1. Chin Chin Eating House (Chicken Rice, Hainanese Pork Chop, Hainanese Mutton Soup)
2. Mooi Chin Place (Hainanese Pork Chop, Deep Fried Pomfret, Hainanese Mutton Soup)
3. Yet Con Restaurant (Chicken Rice, Hainanese Pork Chop, Steamboat)
4. Nam Kee Chicken Rice & Restaurant (Chicken Rice, Hainanese Pork Chop)
5. Golden Mile Thien Kee Steamboat Restaurant (old-school steamboat, sets replete with tripe, pork liver, sea cucumber and cockles)
1. Pow Sing Restaurant (Chicken Rice, Nonya Otak,Crispy Fried Chicken Wing with Prawn Paste, Fish Head Curry)
1. Goldhill Hakka Restaurant (1997) (Abacus Beads, Yong Tau Fu, Steamed La-la – Manila Clams)
2. Plum Village Restaurant (Salted Vegetables with Pork, Hakka Yong Tau Fou, Abacus Beads, Fried Prawns with Hakka Wine)
1. Ming Chung Restaurant (Stir Fry Clams, Fried Mee Sua, Lor Mee)
1. Beng Thin Hoon Kee Restaurant (Fujian Style Duck Salad w Fresh Mango, Braised Pork Bun, Fish Maw Soup, Roasted Suckling Pig)
2. Quan Xiang Yuan (Jing Ji) Seafood Restaurant (Prawn Rolls, Fish Maw Sea Cucumber Stew)
3. Beng Hiang (Hokkien Fried Noodles)
1. Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant (Murtabak)
2. Islamic Restaurant Singapore (Briyani)
1. Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant (Thosai, Appam and Vegetarian Briyani)
2. Komala Vilas Restaurant (Thosai, Vadai)
1. Sabah Menanti II Restaurant (Nasi Padang, Beef Rendang, Ikan Bakar, Opor Nangka – tripe with jackfruit, Dendeng Balado)
2. Warong Nasi Pariaman (Ayam Pangang, Ikan Bakar, Beef Rendang)
1. Mackenzie Rex Restaurant (Black Pepper Crab, Cereal Prawns, Hainanese Chicken Rice)
1. Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant (Ikan Bawal Assam Nanas Pedas, Ayam Buah Keluak)
2. House of Peranakan Cuisine (Nonya Ngoh Hiang, Otak Otak, Itek Sio, Ayam Buah Keluak)
1. Roland Restaurant (Chilli Crab, Black Sauce Prawns, Fried Baby Squid)
2. Hua Yu Wee (Crispy Baby Squid, Sotong Yutiao, Chilli Crab)
1. Spring Court (Popiah, Fried Chicken with Prawn Paste, Steamed Chicken, Ham and Kailan, Peking Duck)
2. (Old) Lai Huat Seafood Restaurant (Sambal Pomfret)
3. Fatty Weng Restaurant (Chilli Crab, Deepfried Soon Hock, Peking Duck)
4. Westlake Restaurant (Braised Pork Pau)
1. Samy’s Curry Restaurant (Fish Head Curry, Chicken Masala)
2. Indian Muthu’s Curry Restaurant (Fish Head Curry)
3. The Banana Leaf Apolo (Fish Head Curry)
1. Nan Hwa Chong Fish Head Steamboat Corner (Fish Head Steamboat)
2. Hung Kang Restaurant (Cold Crabs, Braised Goose, Oyster Omelette and Steamed Pomfret)
3. Teochew Restaurant Huat Kee (1998) (Crispy Sea Cucumber, Prawn Rolls, Braised Duck)
4. Ban Heng Air-conditioned Restaurant (Teochew Cold Crab and Buddha Jump over the Wall)
5. Chin Lee Restaurant (Chye Poh Kway Teow, Oyster Omelette, Hae Chor and Orh Nee)
6. Liang Kee Teochew Restaurant (Braised Duck, Steamed Pomfret, Sambal Crayfish)
7. Kian Seng Seafood Restaurant (Steamed Kampong Chicken, Suckling Pig)
8. Yuan Xin Chao Zhou Restaurant (Braised Goose, Fried Liver Roll, Pork Trotter Jelly, Steamed Pomfret, Oyster Porridge)
This story is adapted from The Straits Times.