How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. –A.A. Milne in Winnie the Pooh via my dear friend Medha
I watched G watch Singapore for the first time, holding my breath more often than taking it. I had been to Singapore once, and yet based on that 3-day trip alone, we had decided to move. But it wasn’t until now that the thought he may not like the place flooded me with worry.
To my advantage, the taxi driver had taken the scenic route, and as we came down from the palm-tree-lined airport road, Marina Bay appeared in all her nightly glory. I saw the corners of G’s mouth turn up, and in his eyes, the glow of the bay intensified.
G and I told our families and friends we’d stay a year at most, but Singapore turned out to make a comfortable home, and we stayed five.
As an expat coming for work in Singapore, life is likely feel like an upgrade. You’ll live in a lush condominium with a gym, swimming pool, and entertaining areas, and if you need one, a domestic helper to take care of your home and kids.
Besides these privileged comforts, the taxes are low, the crime rate still lower, healthcare options abundant, and most people understand English, as does the paperwork, which is often digital and a breeze to get done.
Furthermore, the public transport is excellent, taxies are cheap, and the city is clean and green, dotted with artworks and tropical plants and trees, all of which, at times, pop up from unexpected corners.
Also, it’s always summer, with the lows seldom dipping under 25°C. And if you want to escape the dot, that’s smooth too, with plenty of travel options to neighboring countries. Plus, I’m sure you’ve already heard everything about Changi airport.
Lastly, Singapore’s chart of greatest hits wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the city’s food choices. It has it all: from Michelin-starred hawker stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants and everything in-between in every cuisine you can imagine. And, if you’re more into cooking, you can have your groceries (also organic produce and grass-fed-anything from Australia and New Zealand) delivered to your doorstep with the help of a few apps.
Thus, with all these everyday comforts, you may see how G and I would’ve easily stayed in Singapore for years to come. That is, had it not been for the virus.
🚧 STORY IN PROGRESS 🚧
☕️ Coffee (+ a smidge of tea)
Common Man Stan
Stan is my neighborhood café where I come to soak up sweet staff vibes.
Nylon Coffee Roasters
Nylon makes for a nostalgic spot in Everton Park, one of the oldest hoods in the city.
Hvala · Chijmes
Where I get my matcha whisked.
I tend to order Bife de Lomo (beef fillet) or Ojo de Bife (ribeye), but I also love Bochinche’s lunch offer. All their meats are super smokey, prepared over a wood & charcoal grill. Plus, they have Argentinian wines.
Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House · Gemmill Lane
Get yourself half a dozen oysters, a Dirty Chophouse Martini, and their USDA prime ribeye “naked style” with confit garlic. I find Luke’s lunch menu also a hit.
I like to go for the pork sausage, pork belly burnt-ends, the Wagyu cheeseburger (bunless), and 14-hr smoked beef brisket–topped with a glass of red wine and a pickleback.
I love the foie gras and the Wylarah Wagyu New York Strip, which comes with a chunk of silky bone marrow. The lunch sets are a far better offer, though. The views are ridiculous.
🖇 Side note: Since moving to Singapore, my diet has changed plenty. While I spent the first couple of years eating three times a day at hawker centers, I went keto into my third year here, and nowadays, I eat a primarily animal-based diet. Meaning there’s not much room for carbs in my life. But since there’s likely in yours, here’s my list of old favorites.
A Noodle Story · Amoy Street Food Centre #01-39
A Michelin Bib Gourmand winner, serving high-quality Singapore-style ramen at hawker prices. In the words of the owners: “Super springy noodles tossed in our special aromatic dressing accompanied with Hong Kong-style wontons, soy-flavored hot spring egg, meltingly-tender cha-su, and a crispy potato-wrapped prawn. Beautifully garnished with freshly sliced scallions and red pepper.”
Ah Heng Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee · Hong Lim Market #02-58/59
Ah Heng serves one dish: curry chicken noodles in an addictive, thick gravy. It’s one of the first local spots I was introduced to and the place where I practiced my chopstick skills.
A hidden burger bar from New York, flipping high-quality buns. Get a cheeseburger with “all the works” and pair it with a couple of (sour) craft beers.
Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao · Chinatown Complex #02-135
For steaming baskets of Xiao Long Bao (pork dumplings), plates of pan-fried dumplings, and a good dirty-ish vibe. After picking up the folded goods, I like to waggle over to On Tap (#02-75) or The Good Beer Company (#02-58) for accompanying beers.
Keisuke Gyoza King
Keisuke Gyoza King serves gyoza sets including gyoza, two side dishes, Koshihikari rice, and a soup. My go-to used to be the pork gyoza, the deep-fried prawns with mayonnaise sauce, and stir-fried eggplant with miso. A counter spot completes the experience, but just don’t do that with freshly washed hair.
Mr Mrs Mohgan Super Crispy Prata
As the name suggests, you’re here for the super crispy pratas. Come as the Mohgans open because they do run out. Eat the pratas plain, sprinkled with sugar, or dipped in fish or mutton curries.
For thick, crispy, chewy Masala Dosas, stuffed with soft, spiced potatoes.
Start with 100 grams of the grilled Wagyu Skirt Steak (served with wood-fired veggies and a cube of potato gratin). Then move on to the pasta bolognese with handmade pappardelle (wagyu beef ragù, mascarpone, parmesan) or the wood-fired, Naples-style pizza Margherita–or ideally, both.
The Coconut Club
Dig into Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak (coconut rice, anchovies, peanuts, cucumber, fried egg, and sambal), done fancy. l tend to order the chicken leg or chicken breast set. The Iga Bakar (braised and grilled beef short ribs), Beef Rendang (dry curry of beef brisket in spices and coconut milk), and Sambal Lala (clams cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce) are delicious too.
Artemis Grill & Sky Bar
An under-the-radar rooftop terrace overlooking Marina Bay Sands. Reservations are a must.
Atlas is housed in a most impressive art deco building and has a gigantic gin library with over 1300 labels. G and I had our just-married-toast here.
A classic New York-style hideaway that makes you forget you’re in Singapore.
The Warehouse Hotel
I like to steal one of the sofa corners and settle in with a glass of champagne on my artist dates.
28 Hongkong St.
Speakeasy cocktails and glorious deep-fried Mac’N Cheese Balls with three kinds of cheese and truffle oil.
Writer’s Bar · Raffles Hotel
My preferred time to sip a Dry Martini at Raffles is Sundays, just when the bar opens at 16:00.
Ann Siang Hill Park
Tiny park with palm trees on one side, rows of air conditioning units on the other, and peek-throughs to the Central Business District. Right here is where my travels ended in 2015, and G and I would come to live next to less than a year later.
Don’t follow the signs. Instead, let your curiosity and the plants and trees guide you.
Duxton Plain Park
I alternate between a morning walk around Marina Bay Sands and a stroll in Duxton Plain Park. It’s an adorable stretch for watching locals do their elaborate morning gym routines or joining them with your own. G plays basketball in the court nearby while I practice my pull-ups here.
Fort Canning Park
Makes for a lovely, early morning stroll, with occasional whiffs of Pandan leaves. Also, G and I got married here.
🍯 Gourmet Groceries
Little Farms · Guoco Towers
For the best avocados and burrata. But also: organic eggs, berries, Medjool dates, and coconut yogurt.
🥑 For a simple salad: Cube an avocado · Tear the burrata in parts · Sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt Flakes · Drizzle with high-quality olive oil
The Cheese Ark
For serious cheese platters. Pro tip: Let owner Ai Ming Syu guide your cheese selection.
The Rare Honey Company
My favorites are the Jarrah, Creamed Kari, and Coastal Wildflower.
Get the Sourdough Country, Sourdough Rosemary, or Miso Baguette, and pair with all the above.