If flying 9,000 miles in 24 hours to get to Singapore isn’t your idea of fun, five restaurants in the city will make you feel like you’ve landed on the tropical island.
From a Union Square bar to an Upper East Side restaurant to a dessert shop in Chelsea, these places offer spicy and flavorful dishes from the small city-state.
- Chard – Open in late February on E. 13th St., Chard’s specialties include roti john, an open-faced omelette sandwich with curry-seasoned beef, Japanese mayonnaise, and sweet chili; the “Ramly” burger, with a smashed beef patty wrapped in an egg with a black pepper sauce seasoning, chilli and mayonnaise. Its bestseller is its Api Api burger, which translates from Malay to “fire, fire”. Filled with heat, the crispy and juicy piece of chicken is nestled in a brioche bun, topped with marinated papaya and carrots, chili and served with shrimp crackers. “Being from Asia, it’s all about powerful flavors and powerful spices and translating that into our food,” says owner Salil Mehta.
- Singlish – Perched atop sister restaurant Chard is the Singlish bar which opened in June. Singlish – an amalgamation of the words “Singapore” and “English” – means an English-based creole that is commonly spoken in the island nation. Serving Singapore-created cocktails, the 16-seat bar serves food from its ground-floor restaurant. If you’re wondering how important cocktail culture is in Singapore, the country had six bars – the most in Asia – on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 list. The drinks feature Singlish-style monikers, like ” Die die must have” or “Chio bo” which means “pretty lady” in the Hokkien dialect. “Hopefully when you climb those stairs, we can transport you to Singapore,” Mehta said.
- Native Noodles – What started as a Queens Night Market favorite is now a 600 square foot counter service restaurant with 12 indoor seating on Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights. Owner Amy Pryke counts healthcare workers from New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia Schools of Medicine and Public Health among her regulars. She is particularly proud of her laksa noodles for $13.
- Lady Wong – Opened in late February by couple Seleste Tan and Mogan Anthony, this East Village dessert shop sells traditional Southeast Asian desserts called kuih, usually made with rice or sticky rice. After growing tired of matcha and oat milk tastes, they decided NYC was ready for pandan and coconut milk and virgin palm sugar — all traditional Asian flavors used in desserts. The most popular are his angku kuih, a starchy treat filled with mung bean paste, shredded coconut or peanuts, steamed durian layered cake and steamed pandan cream cake with sticky rice.
- Wau – Pronounced “wow”, this hip spot along the Upper East Side row of restaurants on Amsterdam Ave. and W. 81st St. opened earlier this year. “We weren’t focusing on residential neighborhoods and when the pandemic hit, it was actually residential neighborhoods that were thriving and they were more successful because people were stuck at home. Becoming a neighborhood restaurant was the goal,” said Salil Mehta, who also owns the place. Chef’s specialties include beef rendang, caramelized beef curry, simmered and braised in spices and coconut milk, and braised pork belly in soy sauce.