JBN Eats: Food Recommendations in Singapore’s Chinatown and CBD

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Wise words from Steve Jobs, and we at John Brown Novus are all over his first command. Nothing stirs the appetite like creative work, so we are constantly ravenous.

Luckily, our offices are at the centre of the food universe — Singapore’s CBD and Chinatown area.

So where does our team head to when their belly rumbles?

Nominated by Juhanna Adam, Group Accountant

I have two favourites at the moment:

Royz et Vous, 137 Telok Ayer Street

A place for divine food and better coffee. Most times, the place is crowded so place your reservation early to avoid disappointment. And keep your eyes peeled: occasionally, local celebrities will make their appearances. Go and check it out! My personal favourite dish? Soft shell crab pasta!

YOLO, 12 Gopeng Street

“Everyday healthy dining”: Do not get turned off by their tagline, because the food tastes better than it sounds! Every meal is carefully advised by their nutritionist. Some might find the portion is a little small for the price but hey, health beats all. YOLO, right? Personal favourite — chicken and mashed sweet potatoes with kailan vegetables.

Nominated by Vicki Yang, Senior Writer

Keisuke Gyoza King, 1 Tras Link, #01-15, Orchid Hotel

The Keisuke brand is renowned among foodies with an urge to bust their bellies and stretch their stomach linings with gargantuan bowls of ramen, particularly at Keisuke Tonkotsu King.

Nothing stirs the appetite like creative work, so we are constantly ravenous."

But ramen and free flow marinated bean sprouts and hard-boiled eggs may be too decadent for lunch and a definite cause of afternoon snoozes at your desk. So look just two shops down to Keisuke’s gyoza outlet, Keisuke Gyoza King, for a lighter but equally soul-satisfying experience.

What really ignites my appetite here is not just the golden-brown seared skins of dumplings with lightly charred skin or the prawn or pork fillings and ramen broth encased in the womb of the gyoza. It’s the side dishes that come with the gyoza set that are the highlight of a meal there.

You can pick from an array of selections such as chicken nanban with tartar sauce, stir-fried egg with Chinese chives, stir-fried eggplant with miso, deep fried chicken with spicy sauce and mixed sesame and deep fried potatoes with minced pork gravy.

Suffice it to say, when I’m on my death bed at a retirement home, a suitable dish to satisfy my palate for the final time would be the stir-fried egg with Chinese chives. The simplicity of the dish and the soft yet not runny texture of egg, alternating with the crunch of chives, evokes feelings I never knew I had within me, reminding me of dinners at home in my childhood. You’ll find me at Gyoza King with tears streaming down my face.

Nominated by Chin Wei Lien, Senior Writer

Keisuke Gyoza King, Orchid Hotel (yep, same place — that’s how good it is)

This is my default place for comfort food. It serves the kind of dishes that I imagine my non-existent Japanese grandmother would serve: soft and fluffy stir-fried eggs with chives, deep-fried chicken with spicy sauce and mixed sesame, pork sukiyaki and, of course, gyozas.

The piping hot miso soup doesn’t hurt on a rainy day and the restaurant also has free flow of soup, imported Japanese rice and marinated bean sprouts and mixed vegetables. If you are waiting in line, there is even a little dispenser outside with free roasted barley tea.

Gyoza King is by no means a high-end restaurant, but I love how simple and quintessentially Japanese it is. From the narrow walkway to the hooks beneath the table to hang your bag, everything here feels like a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Tokyo that only locals know about.

Nominated by Iva Sa’adon, Digital Designer

Fat Saigon Boy, 14 Ann Siang Road

The duck pho is so awesome. Oh, also go to Aloha Poke! Best healthy lunch ever.

Nominated by Luke Clark, Head of Consumer Content

Neon Pigeon, 1 Keong Saik Rd

Pitching itself as an “effervescent modern izakaya on Keong Saik Road” with its own upmarket spin on Singapore counter-culture, Neon Pigeon’s low-lit, funked-up take on fusion and mixology would be as comfortable in New York or London as this still-atmospheric corner of Tanjong Pagar.

There’s often no booking required for a small groups, as much of the time they’ll start feeding you at the bar before finding seats for you once available. Enjoy the open kitchen and bar-gymnastics, both of which tow the line between a good show and not taking themselves too seriously.

Don’t go if you are going to compare the cost to the (also delicious) pork-rice in the coffee shop on Keong Saik's other corner. The prices are admittedly in the special-occasion zone, especially if you’re drinking. But I reckon it’s more than worth it considering the quality of the drinks, the food and the fun, interactive service.

Do go if on a Friday evening after a stressful week, when the loud hiphop-infused music and urban art on the walls (Mike Tyson kissing a headphone donning pigeon) will appeal as much as dishes like their amazing take on roasted bone marrow — which has itself developed its own a cult-like following (hint: request on arrival).

Nominated by Amala Pillai, Senior Business Writer

Aloha Poke, 92 Amoy Street

Heaven awaits just a seven minute walk from our office! They offer sexy salads for seafood lovers, featuring premium ingredients like ahi tuna and salmon. They’ve even managed to elevate the common tofu to new tantalising heights. What’s more, there’s a wide range of Hawaiian craft beers available to complete your foodscapade. 

Nominated by Elly Amir, Office Manager

Food Emporium at Clifford Centre, 24 Raffles Place

Why do I love this spot? There are halal Japanese and Korean stalls — not an easy find in Singapore. Saba fish and chicken karaage together on your lunch plate? Yum.