Food is a national pastime in Singapore. Bistros, eating houses, fine restaurants, and hawker centres serving home-grown Nonya, and all other conceivable cuisines, attest to a simple fact that Singaporeans live to eat.
In Singapore, you'll find a huge selection of local, regional, and international cuisine, served in settings that range from bustling hawker centres 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 décor and serving styles, hold their own special sense of theatre 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.
Most restaurants are open for lunch as early as 11 am but close around 2:30 pm or 3 pm to give them a chance to set up for dinner, which begins around 6 pm. Where closing times are listed, that is the time when the last order is taken. If you need to eat at odd hours, food centres serve all day and some hawker centres are open all night.
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 favourite national pastime and a lot of families take meals out for weekend quality time.
Several of mainland China's provinces are represented among Chinatown's eateries. Geylang has popular Malay and Indonesian hawker stalls. In Little India you can eat at no-frills, shophouse restaurants like Korma Vila and Banana Leaf Apolo, where you'll be rubbing elbows with locals.
Places to Dine
When you come to Singapore, do what the locals do and eat what the locals eat. The cheapest of meals available come from neighbourhood coffee shops (an open-air floor space with tables and chairs where customers order from the stalls and wait to be served or take it with them) and hawker centres (large open spaces with built-in tables and chairs where customers give the stall operator their table numbers and their order is served).
The city's best coffee shops and hawker centres include Maxwell Road Food Centre (a popular hawker centre known for cheap, tasty food), S-11 (a popular 24-hour coffee shop chain that serves adequately prepared food and is a hangout for art school types), Chin Chin (serves up excellent chicken rice as well as fresh Chinese dishes), and Newton Circus Food Centre. Look for the hawker centres and coffee shops near the bus interchanges and train stations located near satellite towns as well. Tampines and Bedok are good places to start your gastronomic adventure.
There are also air-conditioned food courts located in the basement of just about every shopping mall. These are usually pricier than coffee shops and hawker centres, but make up in comfort for what they lack in character. Scotts Picnic is a generic, standard-issue food court offering a mix of cuisines from all ethnic groups, while many of the eating options in Raffles City cater to the more sophisticated.
Restaurants & Cafés
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.
With a burgeoning expatriate community and a booming tourist industry, Singapore boasts a wide selection of European fare, cuisines from the rest of Asia, fusion food, and more. There's Sushi Tei, for instance, (where you pick the sushi off a revolving track in front of you), and almost all major hotels and shopping centres in Singapore will have at least one restaurant. The number of eating options is staggering, but a great place to start is at Chijmes, featuring a wide range of restaurants and cafés.
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