10 best private dining restaurants in Singapore
From regional Italian fresh pasta made the way nonna would to a Cantonese roast duck that takes three days to make, here are the best private dining experiences you can get in Singapore.
- November 2018
Welcome to the private dining scene where people wait months to score a seat at the dining table in someone’s home. For locals, it gives them the chance to try fare that’s too laborious for conventional kitchens to make. For travellers, it gives them the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the chefs behind their food. Here are some of the best private kitchens to check out.
1. Ben Fatto 95
Ben Fatto 95 is dedicated to the craft and integrity of pasta making, with a focus on regional Italian cuisines. Expect pasta dishes you won’t find at Italian restaurants. “With most Italian restaurants that operate on a scale, it is challenging to focus on details and some steps in the process may be disregarded. For instance, the labour-intensive methods of folding Tortellini and Cresc' Tajaive thrive out of home kitchens because the pasta matriarch believes that family and friends are worth the effort,” home-chef Lee Yum Hwa explains. Be sure to ask for a tour of his pasta making room — the space was designed to give him control over the temperature and humidity that’s ideal for making fresh pasta, and it’s filled with all types of beautiful traditional tools that Yum Hwa laboriously sourced from obscure shops in Bologna, and artisanal wood makers in Tuscany.
2. Uncle Tan’s Kelong
Everything about Uncle Tan’s Kelong is old school. There’s no website or Facebook page to refer to — just a mobile number (+65 83569547) to make your reservation at this family-run restaurant/home/farm. On the day of your dinner, a bumboat is arranged to take you there where you feast on 8 courses of fresh seafood like stir-fried flower crabs, and tze char-style dishes like sambal kangkong.
3. Nonya Bong The Peranakan
Some might call 68-year-old Jeffrey Chia of Nonya Bong The Peranakan a stubborn old man who refuses to move on with times. He insists on frying his own kueh pie tee shells — a time-consuming process where a brass mould that can only make one shell at a time is dipped into batter and fried in hot oil till it becomes a thin crisp. You’ll never see him swap his pestle and mortar for a food processor — even his nasi ulam that contains over 10 ingredients like wing beans, fresh herbs, rojak flower and shallots are meticulously cut and mixed by hand. But we’re glad he obstinately refuses to give in to shorter, easier cooking methods because that way, we get a taste of his heritage dishes.
4. Lucky House Cantonese Private Kitchen
Lucky House Cantonese Private Kitchen (+65 98237268) has at least a three-month waiting list. There are a few reasons it’s worth the wait: the Cantonese boiled soup that’s slow-cooked in a traditional clay pot over a charcoal brazier for over eight hours, and the steamed wild-caught prawns with aged chye poh come to mind. But the showstopper is the roast duck — it’s marinated with five-spice powder, rice wine and soy sauce for two days, then air-dried for a day before being roasted in a charcoal over for 50 minutes.
5. Bombay Howrah Dining Car
Masterchef Asia 2015 contestant Priya Barve, and her husband helm the kitchen in her Singapore home where they serve up six individually plated courses that celebrate their Indian heritage, and childhood memories of visiting family in India. A creamy prawn malai curry from West Bengal, a dish of mutton chops simmered in a turmeric and cumin-spiced curry from inner Maharashtra … the meal at Bombay Howrah Dining Car is a well-curated ride through different parts of India. This is also one of the few private dinners in Singapore where you can request for a vegetarian menu.
6. The Ampang Kitchen
While Peranakan food from Malacca and Singapore are much more influenced by Portuguese and Indonesian cuisines, Penang’s close proximity to Thailand means that the Peranakan dishes from there have a distinctly tart and brighter flavour profile. Retiree Raymond Leong flew to Penang to learn from a master of the cuisine, and today he and his son recreate these recipes from their home restaurant, The Ampang Kitchen. Enjoy dishes like kerabu prawn — a salad of banana blossoms, mango flower, prawns, sambal (homemade, of course) that’s livened up by a generous splash of lime juice, and rounded off with coconut milk.
Expect inspired interpretations of Peranakan favourites like her nonya mee siam. Annette twice fries the beehoon — the first fry coats the beehoon with a tasty rempah; the second crisps up the edges so you get almost a mee siam rosti. Topped with a prawn and quail egg sambal and a heady mee siam gravy made with a rich prawn stock, the dish is reason enough to make a booking at FatFuku.
8. One Kind House
Believe it or not, the gates to Mummy Soh’s double-storey house from the 60s are open all the time, and you’re encouraged to go in and have a walk through her garden that bursts with herbs and vegetables, and explore the beautiful interior that’s filled with knick-knacks collected over four generations of family living in that home.
This open-door policy is just one part of One Kind House’s mission to bring back the good ol’ days of kampung life. The other comes through her cooking classes and lunches that Mummy Soh runs for Airbnb Experiences twice a week. Forage for fresh herbs in the garden, and learn how to make well-loved family recipes before tucking into a three-course meal, which might include dishes like blue-pea flower rice or assam prawns. It’s simple fare done right with market-fresh ingredients and homegrown aromatics. And of course, just like back in the day, all dishes are made from scratch.
9. The Mustard Seed
Chef Gan Min Kiat has cooked at Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut, and the now defunct but once one of the pioneer kaiseki restaurants in Singapore, Goto. At his private kitchen The Mustard Seed, he curates a culinary journey through the flavours of his childhood told through the refined lens of his experience in professional kitchens. Beef tartare is piqued with a buah keluak sambal and laksa leaves; Singapore’s chilli crab is reimagined as a rich sauce for a pan-fried fillet of yellow croaker.
Chef Shen Tan has done the gamut from catering, running restaurant Ujong at Raffles Hotel, setting up her own eatery, Wok and Barrel to even being a hawker at Maxwell Food Centre. At her private kitchen, Ownselfmakechef, she lets her creativity run wild, conjuring up themed communal dinners ranging from a seafood centric one to an all-barbecue session at her cosy apartment “It’s precisely because I’ve done everything that I decided that it’s time to do private dining. I can really get to know my diners and tell the stories behind what I serve, use quality ingredients like Wagyu short ribs without worrying about the other aspects of an F&B business like rent, labour, and keeping food stocks,” she shares.