July 7, 2017

“So, what are your thoughts on this year’s Michelin Guide 2017?” An inquisitive dining partner asked me that question over dinner at a mod-sin skewer and claypot concept restaurant. I twitched my mouth in silent dissension and wondered if not having any views at all would be detrimental to my career in journalism.

Just a few days back, Executive Chef Pepe Moncayo of BAM! Tapas and sake bar shared with me in interview, about one of his most joyous, yet lamentable food memories. It was a dedicated foodie excursion to Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Switzerland, for a meal prepared by French-born chef, Benoît Violier, one that he describes as “impeccable”, and justifying the day-long trip back and forth.

Shortly after, tragedy struck and the talented Violier was found dead with a rifle by his side, in an apparent suicide. Were the pressures of earning and keeping the stars too heavy to bear? I would think so seeing that this isn’t the first suicide case in recent years. Bernard Loiseau shot himself with his hunting rifle in 2003 after the Gault & Millau guide lowered the rating of his renowned establishment in the Burgundy region.

In Singapore’s context however, restaurants aren’t dealt such a bad hand of cards, seeing that most awardees work within a tight radius of the city centre. According to Michelin, a three-star rating means that the restaurant is “worth a special journey”; two-star rating means that it is merely worth a “detour” while one-star refers to “a very good restaurant in its category”. Given the number of gastronomic tourists flying in through our airport gates, and the size of our tiny island, the pressure to ensure a steady flow of reservations isn’t as daunting as it would be for an establishment like Loiseau (point in case, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour journey from Paris). Distance factor in mind, this leads me to my point on leniency with stars in this years’ edition.

With an additional 11 new entries in 2017 that span across a ‘politically correct’ directory of cuisines, it appears that the panel is trying to make amendments for last year’s controversial results. This has however caused an awkward backlash.

Local talent received sufficient air-time this year, and the awarding of a star to Chef Malcom Lee at Candlenut, justifies the work of the passionate maverick  who daringly injects a twist of modernity into age-old Peranakan cuisine. We are equally delighted with Chef Han Li Guang’s new entry with Restaurant Labyrinth; putting Mod-Sin cuisine on the global culinary map. In a city well known for wallet-friendly street food, Han has pushed past layers of stereotypes to create avant-garde style local fare. It may be a bit pompous for locals to digest, but one bite in and you’ll recognise the underlying conviction.

Long-time fine dining institutions such as Saint Pierre, Garibaldi, Iggy’s and restaurateur Beppe de Vito’s Braci are predictable 1-star awardees. Stalwarts of the high-minded culinary pedigree, these establishments wave a too refined hand over the plates and deflate the wallet easily. Furthermore, with the possession of the star, would it mean that restaurants would require guests to pay a premium whilst cashing in on that repute? We sincerely hope not.

The prestigious red guide has locked in the same two vendors, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle as hawkers. And it’s evident that much more thought was put into this placement, judging from the stripping of the bib gourmand title from some household favourites such as Fishball Story and JB Ah Meng. Our only gripe would be the lack of footwork done when it came to curating the list.

As most of us would know, hawker fare was created by the people for the people, so imagine all the pending, unexplored stars waiting beyond the central districts. Our suggestion: Inspectors ought to invest in a sturdier pair of shoes the next year round.

The two and three-star list sees minimal movement with only celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin in Marina Bay Sands bumped up to two Michelin-star. Joël Robuchon in Resorts World Sentosa remains the only three-star in Singapore, and if you’re willing to squander $498 on a full tasting menu, this must be the place.

The 2017 Michelin Guide results appear a lot tamer, in stark contrast to last year’s contentious announcements, the energy (and carping) derived dwindling by heaps and bounds. There’s little to be said as most of the awarded restaurants deserved that recognition. All that’s left to do now, is to await the arrival of Andy Hayler (the man who’s dined at every three-starred Michelin restaurant in the world) to review our lonely French singularity.

On a final note, here are some restaurants we would like to see in the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018: Li Bai, Tippling Club, Nouri, Kappo Shunsui, and Aoki.



* denotes new entry to the list

3 stars: 

Joël Robuchon Restaurant

2 stars:

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Restaurant Andre

Les Amis


Shisen Hanten


Waku Ghin*

1 star:

Alma by Juan Amador




Cheek By Jowl*

Chef Kang’s*

Corner House

Crystal Jade Golden Palace



Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle


Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine*



Lei Garden

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle



Putien (Kitchener Road)


Saint Pierre*

Shinji by Kanesaka  (Bras Basah Rd/Carlton Hotel)

Shinji by Kanesaka  (Tanglin Road/St Regis)

Summer Palace*

Summer Pavilion

Sushi Ichi

The Kitchen at Bacchanalia

The Song of India