LOOKING BACK: THE YEAR IN FOOD TRENDS

What we loved, what was meh, and what needs to stop” ¦ just stop immediately!

1. Lobster rolls (YAY!)
With the opening of Pince & Pints ($48), modelled after London’s Burger and Lobster, suddenly everyone was craving a hot dog bun filled with fancy pants chunky buttered lobster. Try also Platypus Lobster Shack ($19.90), or Boston Seafood Shack’s “Lobstah”  roll ($18).

2. Mixologists (YAY!)
It’s the year of the bespoke bars. And along with it, barkeeps became the hottest commodity in town. The dapper Mike Cheong from WOOBAR, champ of La Maison Cointreau Singapore 2013, will be at the Regional Finals in Jan. We also like Mixes from Mars, Spiffy Dapper, Anti:dote, Ah Sam’s Cold Drinks Stall, Bitters & Love, Tess, Nutmeg and Clove, Operation Dagger and The Secret Mermaid.

3. Pet cafés (YAY!)
For furry therapy: stroking one relieves stress and lowers blood pressure. For cat lovers: Neko no Niwa ($12/pax for first hour), The Café Café, Meomi Cat Café, Cuddles Cat Café and The Company of Cats. And for pooch pals: We are the Furballs, Doggiestyle Café and III Café (they also held a bunny event) for a barking good time.

4. Affordable upscale dining (YAY!)
We returned for Sushi Kou’s oh-so-affordable $50 omakase sets. Try Restaurant Labyrinth for a Mod-Sin molecular $98 five-course prix fixe that aims to tease all your senses: the mango tomato bruschetta arrives looking like steak tartare, and chilli crab ice cream is a mindbender.

5. Honeycomb (Neutral)
While everyone was braving the line at Honey Creme ($5.90), the real trend was in honeycombs. Beegurt (opened 14 Oct) has frozen yoghurts topped with raw honeycomb from New Zealand; HoneyComb (opened 25 Oct) has both milk soft serve and yoghurt options with South Korean honeycomb.

6. Food pop-ups (Neutral)
Pop-ups became mainstream. We wonder if they’re really “guerrilla operations” , like the In-N-Out Burger stand (12 Nov). Then you have ANDSOFORTH had actors and stage crew working with the culinary team for a surreal feast ($88). Markets abounded, like Crateful, Creatory, 9MCM, and Naiise (#supportlocal!). Also notable: #FIJIWaterLimeTruck (15-16 Aug), MAGNUM Pleasure Store (23 May to 23 Aug) and Singapore Food Festival’s Nyonya Mobile (12-17 Jul).

7. Collagen/beauty hotpots (Nay!)
In the case of Tsukada Nojo ($25/person, min. 2 pax), the secret’s in the stock, made from carefully-raised Jitokko chickens. Collagen is said to aid in your body’s renewal (like the elasticity of skin). You’ll find similar versions in Shirokiya ($38.80, feeds 2-3 pax) and buffet restaurants Shabu Sai (yuzu and salt beauty pot in May-June) and Momiji Shabu Shabu. Our cheeks ain’t glowing yet” ¦ waitaminit, we have to take it everyday?

8. Juice cleanses (Nay!)
You must have at least one friend who went on a juice cleanse/detox this year. This liquid programme of cold-pressed juices is supposed to “spring-clean”  your system. Check with your doctor if it’s suitable for you before starting. Then check your bank account as it doesn’t come cheap (easily $300 for a three-day programme).

9. #desklunch food delivery (Neutral)
If you work in the CBD, this #desklunch phenomenon is huge, with specialist vendors. Grain offers healthy options like stuffed tofu with goji berry black rice ($9.95, 443kcal); Lunchbox.sg has largely Asian cuisine meals like minces pork noodle ($11). Try also food courier Feedex (pick-up from a central location) and Boxgreen (healthy snacks under $20/month). Thinking of the delivery business? Check out Oddle, a platform for F&b business owners. Cubicle rats, just remember to get some fresh air!

10. Nostalgia (NAY!)

Nostalgia isn’t real anymore- it’s there to sell you some romantic versiono of the past. Yet we fall for it every single time. We do actually like Tian Kee and Co. (in a 54-year-old provision shop), The Dispensary (an old Chinese medical hall), My Awesome Cafe Singapore (Chung Hwa Free Clinic) and the Tastemaker (Shing Lee bookstore belonged to the owner’s grandpa), but let’s hope 2015 brings us back to the future with new ingredients and fresher concepts.

THE GOOD

TOTALLY WORTH THE CALORIES

Calories? What Calories?

Oyster Omelette from Green Sky (A)

We chomped through Bedok Corner in October’s edition and found an amazingly crisp orluak ($5) from a family-run Halal stall. #01-14 Bedok Food Centre, 1 Bedok Road.

Mont Blanc from Henri Charpentier (A+)

We love this French-inspire Japanese patisserie’s Mont Blanc ($9): a slightly savoury glazed chestnut, light cream, and finally, the chestnut cream with a hint of rum. All this sits atop a buttery financier (also a star item). 9A Dempsey Road. Tel: 6479 5518

Fish noodles from Hai Tien Lo (A)

Part of the celebratory six-course menu ($108, till 6 Dec) by master chef Lai Tong Ping, the springy noodles are steeped in flavours of the rich broth, with a tinge of wok hei. Level 3 Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard. Tel: 6826 8240

Steamed minced meat with aged radish from Chui Huay Lim (A)

This Teochew muay staple ($12) featured hand-minced meat paired with 10-year-aged radish native to Swatow (not your usual chye poh)-available in limited quantities from painstakingly sourced family-producers. #01-02 Chui Huay Lim Club, 190 Keng Lee Road. Tel: 6732 3637

Moly milk strawberry green tea from Moly Cafe (A)

The homemade creamy topping is seasoned with sea salt, adding punchiness to the fruity and fragrant tea- we’re also loving the strawberries and cream ($3.20/4.50). Also newly refurbished, with a cooler and a larger seating area. #01-304, 109 Toa Payoh, Lorong 1. Tel: 9382 6613

BEST OPENINGS

These standout establishments got us excited.

Sufood (A+)

The Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant’s packed, service impeccable, and it’s great value for money ($25++ for an eight-course set menu). We’re still yearning for the eye-catching signature appetizer ($5.80): Japanese yuca root with blueberry coulis, oriental white water snowflake greens, and cherry tomato jelly. #02-19 Raffles City, 252 North Bridge Road. Tel: 6333 5338

Khun Mee Thai (B+)

Thai-Chinese Teochew owner Khun Aum shadowed her favourite Bangkok street food vendors: try the ba mee (Thai wanton mee) with dumplings, charshu, lava egg and crabmeat ($8.80). #02-32/34 Bedok Point, 799 New Upper Changi Road. Tel: 6445 9932

Nickledime Drafthouse (A+)

From the 15 seasonal craft beers on tap to the takeaway Liquor Store, we’re beery happy. Throw in beer-infused nosh like stout meatballs and a beer crepe, take-home growlers, a screaming neon sign, and a boozing octopus to seal the deal. #01-06, 273 Thompson Road. Tel: 6256 0261

FAVOURITEST DINING EXPERIENCES

Be it service, ambience or food, we can’t get get these out of our minds.

Waterdrop Teahouse (B+)

A hidden find in Punggol. The tranquil vegetarian eatery serves crispy ginger ($5), braised rice ($4.50) and teas. Level 3 Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, 1 Punggol Place. Tel: 6411 0596

Hairy Crab at Home (A)

Premium seafood, or Hairy Crab at Home, impressed us with a delivery of wriggling, healthy crustaceans from Lake Taihu; storing, cooking and eating instructions included ($108 for the Silver Mixed Package: three 125g females and three 150g males). www.fb.com/hairycrabathome

Pek Kio Market & Food Centre (A-)

We staked out the nostalgic food centre for our patriotic August issue: silky smooth handmade HK-style chee cheong fun (#01-25) and crispy peanut pancake (#01-32). 41A Cambridge Road.

Hai Di Lao 313@Somerset (A-)

While you wait, get a manicure, read magazines, snack and drink for free, play games, sit and chit chat with kakis. Once inside, you’re “royalty”- handphone covers, hairties; a hand-pulled noodles show. Level 4, 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road. Tel: 6835 7227

Pizzeria Da Mario (A)

Authentic Italian hospitality by the riverside. The family-friendly restaurant does delish pizzas ($22, marinara with fresh prawns and tender squids and scallops, marinated in garlic parsley) and pastas ($36, tagliolini tartufati, topped with black truffle shavings, Parmesan cheese and cream). The laidback vibe’s also a hit with regular patrons (mostly Italians). #01-05/06 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay. Tel: 6235 7623

NIPPON ROUND-UP

Memorable Japanese restaurants (A-)

We loved centrally-located Shin Minori’s a la carte buffet lunch ($34++) with a beautiful and fresh sashimi platter, and wide choice of dishes; EN Japanese Dining Bar for kindly hosting our buffet blogger hot seat Melicacy (Sept issue); and Ootoya for their family-style fare with a taste of home.

Ramen (A+)

Keisuke Takeda, known for his restaurants, re-opened Keisuke Tokyo in Suntec City (June) and launched Keisuke Tonkotsu King – Matsuri in Parkway Parade (July). We also wrote about 53 ramen brands here in September’s issue.

Oishii Japan 2014 (A)

From 16-118 Oct, we covered out first major event, Oishii Japan, as the supporting food paper, along with official gourmet magazine, epicure (our big sis). Go, BiTES, go!

THE BAD

POOR BEHAVIOUR

Shame and blame is the name of the game.

Arrest at Vienna International Seafood and teppanyaki buffet (D)

Refusing to pay for food wastage, a woman hurled vulgarities and physical items at the hapless staff.

Food dumping at Eighteen Chefs (D)

A dissatisfied freelance photographer dumped food on the table and posted it on Facebook.

Singaporean reports JB eatery (E)

Yes, a police report. Their crime? Too-spicy nasi goreng kampung.

Forum Seafood Village Restaurant overcharges tourists again (C)

The restaurant served Alaskan King Crab instead of mud crab – and a resulting bill of $1,186.20.

A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS

Hawker deaths an restaurant closings.

Hawker deaths (E)

Mr Tay Khang Huat of Heng Kee Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee, and Mr Andrew Lim Seng Ann of Ye Lai Xiang Cheng Tng, passed away from heart conditions.

Patron death (F)

A four-year-old boy died after eating at a nasi padang stall at Northpoint Shopping Centre.

Restaurant closures (E)

Rising rentals and the labour crunch have forced several big names to close: Guy Savoy Singapore, Bomba and Kha, One on the Bund, and Au Jardin, just to name a few.

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT

Fails and wails all around.

De Burg eviction (E)

Rising rentals are one thing, but we were stunned when De Burg was evicted by their landlord with minimal notice in May, leaving them stranded.

Cafe Fest disaster (C)

The “exclusive event” became a crowded public free-for-all on the spot and perks and goodies vanished. Weak excuses and poor compensation failed to appease ticket buyers as the festival’s Facebook page exploded into a fiery ball of fail.

Shisha ban (C-)

We’re still not quite over the sudden shisha ban that bars and their clientele are calling foul over.

THE FUNNY 😀

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

Famous names want to be in F&B.

Haig Club Whisky (C+)
David Beckham visited our shores for the launch, but does his name really make a difference to the product?

The Papa Shop (B)
Actor Keagan Kang’s bar and alcohol shop opened in March.

Babette (B-)
Backed by DJ Darren Wee; dishes out French-Japanese fusion.

The Mama Shop (B)
Opened by Felicia Chin and Sora Ma and two shadow backers.

Zhen Zhou Dao (E)
Opened by actor Moses Lim and family, the restaurant folded in March.

STRANGE NEW WORLDS

New food trends and products.

Savoury cupcakes (C+)
From Royal Plaza on Scotts. Polenta and spring onion weren’t our fave desserts of the year.

Ramyun” ¦ and rice? (C)
Korea’s new Samyang ramyun and rice cup noodles are just amusing.

Ramen burgers (A-)
Fried ramen noodles replace regular buns, found at The Travelling C.O.W.

Black burgers (C-)
They’re charcoal from bun to bun–and don’t look all that appetising.

Pudding ramen (A)
The Taiwanese added caramel pudding to their instant noodles.

U-TURNS AND ROUNDABOUTS

The more things change…

Bye-bye, chef (B-)
Ujong heralded a Mod-Sin menu with chef Shen Tan at the helm… for just seven months. Too bad the new menu has been totally overhauled.

Wild Rocket stays put (B)
Wild Rocket closed in 2013, citing rising rents–only to reopen in July in the same spot: the landlord agreed to lower rents.

Kay Lee roast Meat Joint… sold! (B)
Finally, for a whopping $4 million to conglomerate Aztech Group.

Bincho at Hua Bee (A+)
An old-school mee pok eatery stays put at the front, with a yakitori joint in the back.