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AUGUST 14, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 6

Illustration for TIME by Davy

Singapore, the United Nations of Food

Close your eyes, stab a finger at the globe and see what country you hit. No matter where your digit lands—Senegal, Israel, Mexico—chances are there's a restaurant in Singapore that offers the national cuisine. The city is a United Nations of gustatory delights that can satisfy the most cosmopolitan of tastebuds.

Like any good adventure, a Singaporean quest for epicurean ecstasy should start with African cuisine. Look no further than Science Park Road. African Heartbeat, (65) 775-7988, replete with thatched roof and tiki torches, is home to rich, hearty comfort food from various corners of that enormous continent. Whole baby lamb on a spit is a favorite; and make sure to try South African chef Jeremiah Leso's butternut soup. If you're watching your fat intake, a leaner red-meat option is ostrich. Highlight of the week is the Sunday evening buffet featuring an enormous barbecue. Main courses are good value, averaging around $12. Mama Africa (532-9339) also serves up tasty eats in Zulu-influenced surroundings: baskets, masks and scary prints are so prevalent that you'd think the place doubled as a gift shop—which it does. An outlay of $30 a person should get you through dinner.


Singapore, the United Nations of Food
Singapore is a United Nations of gustatory delights that can satisfy the most cosmopolitan of tastebuds

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If your passion is Mediterranean cuisine, try Café Gypsy (227-7769). Couscous, Moroccan chicken with dried apricots, raisins and razor-thin slices of almond are served up gracefully in this palm-fringed locale. Mains average $20. For those with a taste for Middle Eastern fare, the informal and relaxed Kibbutz CafE (438-2221) is the place to go. The liver paté is delicious and the hummus is laced with enough garlic to make Dracula tremble. Best of all, it's possible to dine heartily for less than $20 a person.

If you're in an eclectic mood, Mezza9 (730-7189) in the Grand Hyatt Hotel offers an upscale international eating experience. Nine dining themes are available, including Western, Japanese and Chinese cuisine, martini bar and cigar room, as well as private dining suites. Ambitious as it is, the concept actually works. The ambience is warm and the light flattering. And instead of attempting too much, each of the highly visible kitchens focuses on its specialty. The size of the check will depend on your choices, but to do it right, count on spending $70 a head.

Another hotel eatery not to be missed is Blu at the Shangri-La (730-2598). This is Singapore's premier gourmet destination of the moment. Mix live jazz, a stunning night view, Philippe Starck lamps and a provocative barrel-shaped ceiling with California cuisine, and it's small wonder that this place has been packed since it opened this past January. The menu changes every three months, but favorites include melt-in-your-mouth crab cakes and thyme-roasted hen with foie gras. The bill? Well, if you have to ask, don't go.

Once you're finished with California, it's time to head south of the border, and that means CafE Iguana (236-1275) for Mexican food. Forget sombreros, stuffed lizards and ponchos; this place is both tasteful and tasty. The decor runs to lime green, chili-pepper red and fuchsia, and the fare is mostly made on site. After noshing on delightfully fresh tacos and burritos, as well as traditional fish dishes, turn your attention to the divine ancho chili flourless chocolate cake served with margarita sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Don't leave Singapore without tasting Peranakan cuisine, the fusion food born of the marriage of Chinese and Malay influences. Blue Ginger Restaurant (222-3298) serves up authentic Peranakan in surroundings that mix traditional furniture with a modern sensibility. Ayam Panggang Blue Ginger—boned chicken thigh and drumstick infused with coconut milk and spices and then perfectly grilled is one of their signature dishes and not to be missed. And it proves the point that even if your tongue roams the world, it will be more than happy to end up right where it started, in Singapore.

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