Serving more than just fresh hand rolls, fish sauce and pho, this trio of restaurants revs up regular Vietnamese cuisine
Pho: going the gourmet route in Singapore.
If Chinese and Korean cuisine can head the upscale route, so can Vietnamese.
While Singapore's Vietnamese dining landscape is flooded with moderately priced pho (rice noodle) eateries, the scene is swiftly changing to include upscale Vietnamese outlets.
While the trademark fish sauce remains omnipresent, three eateries are making the effort to justify their northward push in prices.
The recently opened Annam by the Les Amis Group, dishes up homey Vietnamese fare justifying the above moderate prices -- a bowl of beef pho for $28 and a chef's seafood dinner tasting menu priced at $168 -- through its use of fresh ingredients.
Others such as Le Tonkin Restaurant & Lounge ("Le Tonkin") opt to serve classic Vietnamese food with fine dining finesse and exquisite wines to match.
And NUOC capitalizes on its sky-high perch and elegant setting.
Le Tonkin Restaurant & Lounge
Le Tonkin's Vietnamese-inspired foie gras.
Le Tonkin is not a new player in the Vietnamese dining scene but this four-year-old restaurant by Nguyen Hang ("Hang") recently moved to the more up-market venue at The Club Hotel in Ann Siang Road.
While a bowl of Hanoi-style beef pho will set you back by $20, Hang is resolute in offering guests nothing less than a fine dining experience.
"We are set up as a modern, high-end Vietnamese restaurant with authentic Vietnamese and traditional French food," says Hang, who is married to a French man.
And true to her word, Le Tonkin's cuisine goes on a dual French and Vietnamese track offering Vietnamese classics of rice noodle rolls and beef pho against French delicacies of lemongrass-scented foie gras, coconut crème brulée and duck confit that would not look out of place in a French bistro.
The Club Hotel, 28 Ann Siang Road; +65 6808 2185: www.letonkin.com.sg
Annam's aromatic 24-hour marinated chicken with smoked kaffir lime salt.
A Les Amis alumnus, while chef Nguyen Quoc Nam boasts culinary credentials from London, Bali, Thailand and Singapore skewed towards French culinary art, his latest foray with Les Amis sees him going back to his Vietnamese roots.
The fresh-faced chef-owner of Annam is, however, determined to set himself apart from the rest of the Vietnamese restaurants.
"We want to be original, we want to create something fresh, not another ‘me-too' restaurant," says Nam.
And to elevate his cuisine above the others, Nam insists on using live seafood such as lobsters and Sri Lankan crabs delivered daily to his kitchen and stored in glass tanks.
"All our food is cooked to order using fresh, live seafood, Australian pork and beef as well as imported spices and sauces from vendors in Vietnam."
While we've yet to sample Nam's $168 seafood tasting menu, his à la carte menu beams with hearty creations including the Vietnamese-style Soon Hock fish soup with cherry tomatoes and bean sprouts as well as the aromatic 24-hour marinated chicken with smoked kaffir lime salt.
#02-11 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road; +65 6735 6656; www.lesamis.com.sg
NUOC's fresh Vietnamese rolls.
This two-year-old rooftop restaurant perched atop Orchard Central is probably one Singapore's better-kept secrets.
A joint venture between the Modesto's group of restaurants and a Vietnamese partner, the glass-wrapped NUOC offers unblocked views of Singapore's northern horizon in a contemporary, brown-accented space punctuated with chandeliers.
"Before NUOC opened, the Vietnamese restaurants in Singapore were relatively low-to-mid market," says Ashok Melwani, director of Modesto's. "NUOC seeks to move the experience up a notch by providing authentic cuisine in a more elegant setting, and at a moderately higher price point."
Lest you think NUOC offers an exorbitant fine dining experience, an average meal costs about $35-$40 per person.
A popular space for corporate events, the Vietnamese ambassador to Singapore has also been seen lapping up NUOC's signature dishes such as the traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup, tri-season salad of kang kong and green papaya with prawn and pork and fresh Vietnamese spring roll.
#12-01 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, +65 6884 6808; www.nuoc.com.sg