Is This the Best Restaurant in Singapore?

I often get asked, “If I was going to have one meal in Singapore, where would it be?” Well first of all, it would be a mistake to only have one meal in Singapore. BUT, if that’s all you have time for then The Blue Ginger Restaurant on Tanjong Pagar would have to be the one to choose. Blue Ginger ticks most of the boxes for a good dining experience in Singapore. It’s reasonably priced, the setting is an old shophouse in a lively area, and  the dining room is a nice space in which to dine on a unique brand of Asian cuisine. Blue Ginger has a long tradition of cooking Peranakan cuisine. What is Peranakan cuisine I hear you say? Peranakan is the word used to describe the culture that evolved in the early 19th century with intermarriages between Chinese settlers and the indigenous Malays in the Malacca Straits area. The words Nyonya and Baba are also used as the words for females and males (respectively) in a Peranakan household, and Nyonya is often used to describe Peranakan style cooking. In Singapore I had seen references to Peranakan cuisine and culture but never actually experienced it first hand until I visited The Blue Ginger Restaurant.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere, a place where you can go after work or for dinner with friends, or take visitors from out of town, then The Blue Ginger Restaurant will be perfect. The decor is simple but a few nice pieces of Peranakan art make the atmosphere warm and inviting. I’ve been seated on all three levels at Blue Ginger, my favourite so far was the second level and  next time I’d ask for a table out on the ‘balcony’ that overlooks the street to try for a bit of a view. It’s a good tip to dine here with a large group so that you have the option to try more of the unusual dishes that you may not have encountered before. As much as I love a romantic dinner here with Husband, I always feel both full and like I’ve missed out on sampling as much as I would have liked.

Starters at Blue Ginger run the gamut between traditional Asian bites like spring rolls to Otak Otak (fishcakes wrapped in banana leaves) that are a Peranakan specialty. The Otak Otak at Blue Ginger is the best I’ve had in Singapore, the fishcakes are firm and textured with just enough spice to give a gentle kick but not to blow your head off. The Ngo Heong, pork and prawn filled rolls that are shallow fried giving a crispy outer are fabulous. I had hesitated to order them previously because they’re described as fried but they’re not oily at all, just crispy with succulent meat inside. The duck salad and tasty Nyonya (Nyonya is the term used to describe the women of Peranakan culture) rolls have also impressed me. The spiciness is perfect for my liking, but if your group is unaccustomed to spice then I suggest you seek guidance from the staff on which items to order. Portion sizes can be on the small scale for some items so it’s also worth asking the staff how many servings they recommend for your party.

As for the main dishes, the best I’ve had yet was the fish head curry. It’s a huge portion of, you guessed it, a fish head, a red snapper fish head with a sizable chunk of meat still attached. Everything about this dish is a stand out. The flesh is so succulent it almost melts in your mouth, the spices and sauce are so more-ish that you can eat it like soup. The okra, eggplant and tomatoes in the curry are perfect accompaniments. I could easily eat this dish alone and be satisfied. But then I would be missing the Blue Ginger chicken, tender deboned chicken thighs in coconut milk and spices, or the cod with Nyonya spices where the fish flesh is almost translucent but fills your mouth with gorgeous texture and flavour, or the beef rendang, a traditional but super tasty dish.

The vegetable sides are also well worth trying. Fried eggplant with chilli and soy is one of my favourite, the eggplant is described as deep fried but is not battered, more it’s been simmering in a little oil to bring full flavour to the succulent flesh, and combined with a bite of chilli is awesome.

The only dish that I haven’t been overly excited by was the Ayam Buah Keluak. This is a chicken dish that is served with Indonesian black nuts, quite a delicacy in these parts. Although the chicken was tender I found the sauce extremely overpowering and the paste made of the nuts was slightly bitter and a grainy texture that I did not enjoy. It’s not unpleasant, I just didn’t enjoy it. I would still suggest others tried it given that it’s a traditional dish and it’s very popular.

Blue Ginger offer a decent wine list at reasonable prices, with wines that match well with the Asian food. If you’d like to bring your own wine along they charge $25 corkage.

I’ve been to The Blue Ginger Restaurant many times now and it remains the best Peranakan food I’ve tasted in Singapore, and all at reasonable prices and served by helpful staff. It’s also a great venue for a private dinner. We reserved the whole upstairs room for New Year’s Eve in 2012 and had 20 for dinner up there. Blue Ginger provided everything including free flow wine, dedicated staff and fantastic food for  $85++ per head, which on New Year’s Eve in Singapore was just about the cheapest option other than staying at home!

You’ll normally pay around $50++ each, including appetisers, mains and a couple of glasses of wine each.

The Blue Ginger Restaurant
97 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore, 088518
Phone +65 6222 3928

Note: All prices quoted are in Singapore dollars (SGD). To convert to your local currency click here

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