The costs of living are at an all-time high. Transportation fares have spiked, electricity and gas tariffs are on the rise, and even the price of water has not been spared. Wining and dining yourself in this economy, even in the name of self-care, may seem like an extravagance.
But when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, ideally to a restaurant helmed by a chef with some Michelin restaurant pedigree without the Michelin-starred price tags. Here are 10 such places with meals averaging S$50 that guarantee maximum bang for your buck.
When the sun sets, Bincho, a humble 80-year-old kopitiam by day, transforms into an izakaya. With its industrial grit and heritage charm, the restaurant in Moh Guan Terrace whisks you away to the cyberpunk-esque alleyways of Tokyo. It’s like Alice In Borderland, but with more sake.
The restaurant has been around since 2014, and was recently taken under the wing of Chef Rishi Naleendra, who hails from Sri Lanka and worked in Australia for a decade before getting his big break in Singapore. With the two-Michelin-starred Cloudstreet and casual Sri Lankan restaurant Kotuwa under his belt, Chef Rishi lends his culinary finesse and signature hospitality to Bincho’s menu.
If you’re on a budget, don’t sleep on their lunch set (S$48++), which allows you to choose from mains including yakitori don, tsukune don, bara chirashi don, unagi don and salmon ikura don.
Located at 78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19, Singapore 162078. Check out the menu.
Chef Rishi’s Midas touch has likewise secured his latest venture, Fool, a place on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for the second year in a row. It’s got a cellar full of artisanal wines from around the world, but as you can tell from the name, this is no uppity wine bar. Instead, it proudly wears the label of an unpretentious and adventurous watering hole.
Now, onto the grub. There’s the Feed Me Menu (S$99), a programme where the chefs take the wheel a la omakase; and a Snacks Tasting Menu (S$33) for the full (or should we say, Fool) experience at dinner. Meanwhile, Thursday and Friday afternoons afford midday diners a golden ticket: Lunch sets are available from noon to 3pm. So if your descent into a food coma is inevitable, their latest masterpiece of handmade fettuccine bathed in prawn head butter may be worth the indulgence.
Located at 21 Boon Tat St, Singapore 069620. Check out the menu.
Hortus is part of a trio of culinary ventures masterminded by Chef Michael Wilson within Gardens By The Bay, together with Marguerite on the ground floor and the pet-friendly gelato shop Mylo. Formerly the executive chef of Pollen, he bagged his first Michelin star only five months after launching the French restaurant Phenix in Shanghai.
A meal at Hortus has all the makings of a perfect date. You not only get the royal treatment with a chauffeured ride from the main entrance at Gardens By The Bay, but they also sweeten the deal with complimentary access to the Flower Dome. Within the largest glass greenhouse in the Guinness World Record, the restaurant serves mains ranging from S$22 to S$118, if you’re in the mood for a quarter of a roast Iberian suckling pig. Eating “outdoors” in this sweltering heat is a crime, but not when it’s a blissful 20-degree climate at all hours.
Located at 18 Marina Gardens Dr, #01-09 Level 2 Flower Dome, Singapore 018953. Check out the menu.
Penangite Chef Mano Thevar and Korean Chef Sun Kim have a lot in common – and it’s not just because they’ve both fronted Michelin-starred restaurants in the same neighbourhood of Keong Saik. The two have also been longtime pals, and what could be a more fitting celebration of their accolades and friendship than a Southern Indian-Korean restaurant?
Pairing two distinct cuisines might raise an eyebrow or two, but at Tambi, they’re more complementary than one would imagine. For starters, fermented accompaniments such as kimchi, green chilli urugai and pickled onion can be found in dishes such as pork belly kimchi nasi goreng (S$18) and oxtail bone marrow murtabak with pickled onion (S$18).
The melding of spicy and tangy flavours, a shared characteristic of both culinary traditions, is also on full display in the half dozen Jerome Miet Speciale oysters with gochujang and rasam dressing (S$38).
Located at 47 Amoy St, Singapore 069873. Check out menu.
5. MS MARIA & MR SINGH
Since we’re on surprising couplings, it’s the perfect time to introduce Ms Maria & Mr Singh, a Mexican-Indian restaurant by Chef Gaggan Anand. The original Michelin-starred restaurant was initiated in Bangkok just two weeks before COVID-19 hit Thailand in 2020, but not even a global pandemic could douse Chef Anand’s fiery spirits, salsas and curries. In fact, he conceptualised the Singaporean outpost while serving quarantine, dreaming up a fictional love affair between a Mexican hometown girl and Indian city boy and eventually bringing it to life along Craig Road in 2022.
In an interview with CNA Lifestyle, Chef Anand shared that he had set out to make Michelin-starred dishes affordable, which is why the most expensive item on the menu, Gaggan’s Crab Curry, is priced at a reasonable S$32. An even greater treat for fans of MasterChef Singapore is their mango yuzu snowball (S$24), a dessert the contestants were challenged to create in Season Three.
Located at 43 Craig Rd, Singapore 089681. Check out the menu.
6. CAFE NATSU
Chef Lewis Barker clinched his first Michelin star for the European restaurant Sommer at the young age of 27, but his career began when he was a wee teen. At 15, he dipped his toes into the world of fine dining, working part-time at a spot called Anthony’s in Leeds. By 16, he was cashing in his birthday wish for a meal at the swanky two-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London.
Chef Barker didn’t just stop at earning Michelin stars; he conquered two neighbourhoods in a mere six months with Cafe Natsu, setting up shop in both Orchard and Joo Chiat. There’s something about adding “Japanese” before brunch that makes you feel more virtuous than if you had started the day with, say, fried chicken and waffles.
So, go on and dig into their sandos (S$26 each), somen (S$16), and souffles (S$8) without a trace of guilt, and spy the occasional local twist as seen in the bandung kakigori (S$14) – an elevated ice kachang featuring sakura meringue and the beloved Oatside.
Like Chef Barker, Chef Davide Giacomelli started as a 14-year-old kitchen assistant before cutting his teeth at a legion of Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe, moving from Italy to Monaco and France. He kickstarted his journey in Southeast Asia with InterContinental Singapore’s Global Chef Hunt, where he was handpicked – from over a hundred chefs, no less – to establish Luce by Davide Giacomelli.
Chef Giacomelli’s reverence for fresh seasonal produce continues to be a hallmark of his creations on this side of the globe. Luce’s menu spotlights signatures such as the Acquerello lobster (S$58), a risotto crafted with Carnaroli rice, and Luce-misu (S$20), a version of the timeless tiramisu laced with espresso syrup and chocolate.
Located at 80 Middle Rd, Singapore 188966. Check out the menu.
8. ALKOVE BISTRO
Like many of his contemporaries, Chef Haikal Johari led his team to secure and retain their coveted Michelin star at the acclaimed Spanish restaurant, Alma by Juan Amador. But what makes him both a remarkable professional and human being is that he achieved this feat while recovering from a motorcycle accident that left him paralysed from the neck down in 2015.
Fast forward eight years, Chef Haikal now channels his experience at French establishments like Joel Robuchon and Les Amis into Alkove Bistro in Kovan, serving staples like French onion soup (S$12.90) and duck confit (S$23.90) and distinctly Singaporean creations such as the smoked otah muffin (S$18.90) and orh nee green tea (S$6). It appears the crowd at Lola’s Cafe down the street are missing out, though I may be biased because I once got a kouign amann on the house at closing time.
2 Kovan Rd, #01-10 Simon Plaza, Singapore 548008. Check out the menu.
9. CLUB STREET WINE ROOM
Chef Andrew Walsh’s career has taken him places from the Michelin-starred kitchens in the Big Apple to Pollen Street Social in London, where he earned a Michelin star within six months, all while still in his twenties. The following year, he relocated to Singapore, making a mark in the local culinary scene with his one-Michelin-starred Irish restaurant, Cure, and popular venues like Catfish and Butcher Boy.
Club Street Wine Room, the latest addition to his portfolio, was inspired by his travels in Australia. The charming 45-seat bar is laidback without compromising on haute cuisine, and caters to both oenophiles and foodies alike. Expect an eclectic wine list featuring regions like Morocco, Lebanon and Israel, alongside hearty mains like pumpkin ricotta tortelli (S$34) and wood-fired grilled meats under S$50.
Located at 87 Club St, Singapore 069455. Check out the menu.
10. THE DEMPSEY COOKHOUSE AND BAR
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten needs little introduction, having married his Michelin-starred repertoire with Eastern culinary sensibilities at five-star hotels in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. But the attention to detail you’d expect from a world-famous chef isn’t confined to the kitchen. Chef Vongerichten has a reputation for being a hands-on restaurateur, meticulously overseeing every aspect from architectural design to staff selection.
The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar, his flagship establishment at COMO Dempsey, is no exception. Within a monochromatic interior befitting of the neighbourhood’s colonial history, an open kitchen puts an Asian-European spin on locally-sourced ingredients. Dishes such as the seared sea trout served with bok choy and ginger-chilli vinaigrette (S$38) showcase Chef Vongerichten’s culinary duality, which can be savoured as part of their three-course set lunch (S$68).
Located at 17D Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249676. Check out the menu.