Best Modern Asian for Dinner with Friends

This ‘Modern Asian’ post comes to you courtesy of ‘Penny the dentist’. Penny is the best dentist I’ve ever had. I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me extolling her virtues to the blogosphere but she inspired this post so she deserves credit. Penny the dentist emailed me a couple of weeks ago with the following, “We have a night out planned for dinner with 3 others and the ex Singapore lot would like to eat Asian – though I know not old fashioned Chinese, more trendy and atmospheric.”

Which led me to this post about modern Asian restaurants. As a cuisine descriptor ‘Asian’ is sooooo broad that it’s akin to asking for a book in a bookshop. Luckily Penny the dentist made some key points, “not old fashioned Chinese,” along with, “trendy and atmospheric.” Penny also helpfully mentioned that some of the visitors were previous residents of Singapore. So I deduced that the restaurant needed to be kinda cool, somewhere that would impress people who’ve lived here before.

Penny and her friends were catching up after some time so it also seemed important to pick a modern Asian restaurant that wasn’t going to be too raucous. And one that was possible to book. There is nothing worse than turning up for dinner with friends and finding there is no space for you 🙁 Finally Penny the dentist had also mentioned she didn’t want the restaurant to be uber expensive.

What all of the restaurants in this post have in common is a contemporary factor and, to varying degrees, a cool factor. I’ve included my ‘cool’ rating to help you. Never forget though, sometimes cool substitutes style over substance 😉 So, in no particular order, here are five modern Asian options, followed by another two that didn’t make the cut for different reasons.

The Cool but Casual Thai Option – Ding Dong 

Ding Dong has a few key factors going for it. The new location in Amoy Street is brilliant. This is because Amoy Street just gets better and better with the restaurants and nightlife vibe. Pricing is on the reasonable side with mains that are sub $30++ and a sharing menu from $56++. Ding Dong do draft red and white wine (becoming more common and a great option for smaller quantities) at $36++ for 500ml. Bottles of red start at $78++ and all are sub $100++. And you can even get a bottle of Miraval Rose for $85++.  Oh, and the food is great. A range of standard and quirky modern Asian options including my favourite, Vietnamese Scotch Eggs. You can read more about Ding Dong here.

Cool factor: 8/10

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The Iconic Option – National Kitchen by Violet Oon 

Have you been to the National Gallery since it re-opened last year? I love the space. Whether you’re in the gallery or peering out over the Padang from one of the bars it’s a particularly good choice for friends from out of town. Violet Oon’s doesn’t offer any views, but you can visit one of the bars before or after for that. And book a table at Violet Oon’s for dinner. The gorgeous art deco room is the space for modern Peranakan food. Violet’s kids manage this restaurant, and whilst service is far from perfect, the food is good. With the bonus of showing people a little about the traditional food from this region. Mains range from around $20++ to $40++. You can read more here.

Cool factor: 7/10

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The Intimate Japanese Option – Bincho at Hua Bee

For something a little more on the quirky side, and for visitors who are a little more adventurous, head to Bincho. This small modern Japanese restaurant is one of those venues that are ‘hidden’ behind an otherwise inconspicuous hawker stand. Once you’re in the restaurant though it’s all about choosing one of the omakase style menus (starting at $68++) to suit your tastes. Or enjoying a fabulous cocktail in the cool galley style bar at the back. You can read more here.

Cool factor: 8/10

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The Celebrity Thai Option – Long Chim

Moving into celebrity territory for Thai food we have David Thompson’s Long Chim. Even though it’s located in Marina Bay Sands this Thai restaurant is a favourite of mine for several reasons. The food is great, the influences from Thai street food are clear, they’re executed well, and you can get a glass of good wine too 🙂 Whilst Long Chim may be in Marina Bay Sands the prices aren’t tooooo steep. Expect to pay around $30++ for mains. You can read more here.

Cool factor: 7.5/10

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The Cool Japanese Option – Neon Pigeon 

Ramping up the cool factor is Neon Pigeon. You can now book Neon Pigeon making it a very cool modern Asian choice. Visitors from Australia enjoyed the excellent service on our last visit. I was actually blown away by our uber attentive and informed waiter (he was actually one of the chefs, not sure why he was on the floor but glad he was).

My only complaint about the menu is an over use of truffle in the heirloom carrots, and the pork ribs were a bit tough. On the positive side chicken thighs were awesome, tuna tataki was sublime, bone marrow was rich and decadent, soft shell crab bao delicious and crab cakes were light and fluffy with a punch from the wasabi and avocado topping. Most dishes come in two sizes with smaller sizes around $15++ and larger ones around $30++. Neon Pigeon does get uber noisy as the night wears on, maybe something to do with the sake shots that were going around? You can read more here.

Cool factor: 9/10

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Two other classics that didn’t quite make my list (reasons below)

Chopsuey at Dempsey 

If you like to sit outside on a balmy evening and enjoy a wide ranging menu of modern Asian food then Chopsuey is a good choice. You can also sit inside, and the black and white interior is classically colonial Singapore and lovely. Service is good, wine is good and food is good. The menu is perhaps too lengthy with too many choices but it’s a good one for people who haven’t visited before. On the plus side there are different Asian options from dumplings to szechuan tofu and Singapore chilli soft shell crabs. The downsides are that Chopsuey is in Dempsey so it’s a little out of the way, pricing is a little on the higher side and wine is particularly expensive from memory. You can read more here.

Cool factor: 6.5/10 – which is really why it doesn’t make the grade

Labyrinth

Now at Esplanade I haven’t been to the reincarnated Labyrinth location. Labyrinth only offer set menus so it is slightly restrictive but that also gives you a chance to try unusual dishes. You can read more here.

Cool factor: 6.5/10 – which is really why it doesn’t make the grade

Do you have any modern Asian options to add to this list? We’d all love to hear about them! 

Visit Singapore Foodie website.
Penilaianmu: MagBe