Julien Royer

What’s a chef born into a family of fourth-generation farmers in Auvergne, Central France doing in Singapore? Winning over international diners, and then some. Trained under legendary French naturalist Michel Bras, Royer is the chef at Odette, a three-Michelin-starred fine diner at the National Gallery Singapore and current holder of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Asia’s Best Restaurant title.

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Singapore’s Best Bao

The char siu bao (barbecued pork buns) at Tanjong Rhu Bao are outstanding. The place is nothing fancy. It’s just a small shop. But it’s very, very good. Its bao is the perfect balance between savoury and sweet. Don’t go too late in the day otherwise you’ll miss out. I would suggest going early at about 11am in the morning so that you can get the first batch. You’re going to get something really fragrant, really tasty, really warm and really comforting. I love it. Otherwise, I go to Din Tai Fung for my all-time favourite xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings).

The Comeback of French Haute Cuisine

Les Amis celebrates the comeback of classic French haute cuisine. It’s very high-end – it’s a three Michelin-starred restaurant – but once in a while, when I want to indulge, this is where I like to go. The dishes are very well executed. Chef Sebastien Lepinoy worked for Joël Robuchon for almost 20 years. He’s cooking some really old recipes like veal head, or tête de veau, which is difficult to find nowadays. It was actually one of the favourite dishes of our former French President, Mr Jacques Chirac. It’s a very classic dish, but when it’s done perfectly, it’s really outstanding. The wine list here is also outstanding.

A Taste Of Burgundy

You can order a great bottle of wine for very good value for money at Gaston Burgundy Bistro. It’s a little wine bar owned by a man from Burgundy. He has a really wide range of wines from quite affordable to high-end, but he also focuses on great Burgundy wines. You can find a good bottle of Puligny-Montrachet for $SGD100, which in Singapore is considered quite cheap. The food is very easy going. Again, it’s a toast to Burgundy, so you have traditional and rustic food from the region like escargot. It’s a very cute place as well. You can have a glass of wine by the terrace, maybe order a nice charcuterie platter, some cheese. It’s definitely one of my favourite places at the moment.

Oeuf en moeurette at Bistro Gaston. Photography: Courtesy of Bistro Gaston

The Island’s Best Selection Of Seafood

At The Naked Finn, you can find incredible seafood products that you can’t find anywhere else in Singapore. It’s a very casual restaurant, but the ingredients used are top quality. It’s owned by a friend of mine, Ken Loon. He used to work in tech for HP and Apple, but his passion is fish and seafood. He’s bringing some crazy, crazy products to Singapore. For example, he gets wild-caught rough-scale flounder from Hokkaido – I love it. It’s super expensive, super premium, and this is probably the only place on the island that you can find it. He’s also bringing some amazing quality sea urchin: varieties like bafun uni (orange sea urchin) and murasaki uni (purple sea urchin) from Rishiri. On the menu is always little tua tua – a kind of clam – from New Zealand that is very simply cooked with some white wine, a little fish sauce and some fried shallots. It’s super nice. He also always has beautiful Mozambique langoustine. It’s a really amazing selection of seafood. I love to hang out there. It’s about 15 minutes by car from the centre of Singapore, so it’s not far. In Singapore, nothing is really far.

You could also try Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chop House for a delicious selection of Boston Bay seafood, oysters and simple but beautifully prepared fish.

Modern European Cooking

For great rustic French classics perfectly executed with a unique Parisian atmosphere, I go to Brasserie Gavroche. At Cure, super talented Irish chef Andrew Walsh serves modern European food while both the atmosphere and service are friendly. For a high-end steakhouse experience, try Cut by Wolfgang Puck at Marina Bay Sands.

Elegant Seasonal Japanese Menus

Esora is a beautiful restaurant offering kappo cuisine. Kappo is basically several courses of seasonal dishes. Generally you start with cold dishes like crab, uni or a sashimi platter, then you have cooked dishes. It’s a really, really great Japanese restaurant. It’s very unique. Very elegant. Very feminine. The chef, Shigeru Koizumi, used to work at Nihonryori Ryugin in Tokyo. I really like the subtle approach to Japanese cooking that the chef presents. It’s really something special.

High-End Sushi In Singapore

The sushi at Ashino is not your regular sushi, but something really special. The chef specialises in ageing fish and uses different Japanese techniques including curing and ageing fish with kombu to develop umami in the fish. It’s really amazing. The chef also brings some very unique ingredients to Singapore. He has great access to top-end Japanese products and works directly with farms in Hokkaido and Fukuoka. Shinji by Kanesaka is an amazingly consistent sushi nigiri restaurant. I always go for the omakase menu with a sake pairing. It’s a truly beautiful Japanese experience. It’s very clean, very zen. You always have a great meal.

Cocktails With A View

Spago Bar & Lounge is great because the cocktails are simple. I’m not a believer in this trend of super over-complicated cocktails: I like classic cocktails. The cocktail menu is very smart and easy to understand. You’re also on top of Marina Bay Sands, so the view is amazing. The atmosphere is great too. It’s a cool place to hang out and have a drink with friends.

Two Bars That Define Singapore’s Drinks Scene

To me, Atlas Bar is the synonym of opulence. It’s very grand and the venue is very impressive. When I want to wow someone that’s coming to Singapore for the first time, I definitely take them to Atlas. The list of drinks is crazy impressive, too. There’s an outstanding wine and champagne list, and an amazing selection of gin. It’s probably the biggest selection of gin in the world. Atlas is great is you want to sit comfortably and enjoy your drink, but if you’re looking for something buzzy with a young crowd, go to Manhattan Bar. It’s a bit jazzier, there’s a bit more happening and it has a cool New York-style.

Guide last updated January 2021

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Julie Royer - Singapore - Odette

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