Restaurants to Visit in Singapore When They Re-Open for Dine-in Services During Phase 2
With dine-in restrictions being lifted tomorrow (June 19), some of the island's hottest restaurants are gearing up to welcome guests back but with safety measures in place
This story was updated on June 22, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic hit the global F&B industry extremely hard. In Singapore, restaurants and bars were forced to cease dine-in services during the circuit breaker period, and for two months, they had to rely on takeaways and deliveries to survive this difficult period. But even with government subsidies on the costs of manpower and high rental rates, not all establishments were able to sustain their business and had to shutter for good.
French restaurant Vianney Massot, which earned its first Michelin star in 2019, less than a year after opening, is set to close permanently by the end of the month. It’s the same sad story for Hashida Sushi Singapore, which moved to a bigger premise on Mohamed Sultan Road in 2018, as well as Maggie Joan’s and Salt Grill & Sky Bar.
It’s not all bad news, though. With the recent announcement that phase two of Singapore’s gradual re-opening plans begin tomorrow (June 19), dining in at restaurants will now be allowed but in small groups of no more than five a table and with safety measures put in place. Though some were caught off guard by the announcement, many are working hard and fast to be ready to welcome diners back, albeit with temporary changes to their daily operations and menus.
While the announcement of phase two was quite sudden, Les Amis marketing and communications manager Merissa Goh confessed that they’ve been gearing up for the re-opening for some time now. She adds: “When our guests walk into Les Amis ... we just want them to focus on enjoying themselves.”
To support this and ensure everyone's safety, the management has installed a standing thermal temperature scanner at the entrance. This prevents guests from crowding in front of the restaurant and ensures that the dining experience remains seamless. Guests will be ushered to their tables where specially placed cards will remind them to safely “check-in” before the meal begins.
The restaurant has always had its tables set at least one metre apart and will continue to accept up to 50 diners per service, which is the protocol it has always adopted. There’ll be no changes to the menu.
Oshino and Shinji by Kanesaka
When the government announced that dining in will be allowed from June 19, “both Oshino and Shinji were inundated with reservations,” shares Joni Ong, managing director of the Kanesaka Sushi group.
The restaurants will open this Friday but will start with a simpler version of their omakase menus this weekend, in light of the “unexpected opening dates”. When it comes to safe physical distancing, they've reduced the dining capacity by about 20 to 40 per cent to ensure groups are at least one metre apart; they've even installed glass partitions for added protection.
After being closed during the circuit breaker period, sommelier-owner Daisuke Kawai and his team are excited to welcome guests at La Terre from Friday. While there are no changes to the food menu and drinks list, meaning you can choose from over 1,000 wines and whiskies on offer, you can only do so until 10.30 pm (in keeping with the government mandate).
Required safety measures have also been put in place, and they include temperature checks, wearing of masks (for staff), and deep cleaning of work premises. To allow for the implementation of the rule requiring guests are kept one metre apart, the restaurant will only accommodate a total of 20 guests (down from 30) at a time.
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The sushi-ya opened with much fanfare in mid-February, only to be forced to close temporarily from April to mid-June. Now that they’ve been given the green light to operate starting this weekend, chef Akane Eno will start with one omakase menu (instead of the usual three for lunch and dinner), but this is mainly due to the difficulty in rushing in selected seasonal ingredients. To be sure, they'll be looking to serve their regular offerings as soon as possible.
To ensure the mandated safety distance of 1 to 1.5 metres, “we will accommodate six to seven diners at the counter table which seats 10,” confirms Karen Cheng, co-founder of Ichigo Ichie. The team is also working on an online menu and contactless payment as added precaution, in addition to the staff wearing masks and maintaining stringent hygiene practices.
Executive chef ArChan Chan and her team have been preparing for phase two of re-opening for weeks, which is why they’re more than ready to open their doors this Friday. A lot of thought was put into ensuring the customers’ well-being, which is why they’ve decided to offer a simplified menu (for easy ordering)."The menu is easier to read from and to order," explains Martin Bém, founding managing director of Level33 and the Ponte Group, adding that they've marked more clearly dietary options such as gluten-free and vegetarian options.
More importantly, they've updated their popular weekday buffet lunch to a "plated buffet" where a chef will be behind a counter to serve guests. "There will be no self-service, no use of utensils and similar touchpoint anymore."
In addition, only one wait staff will be designated per table to lessen contact with people. Other than the recommended wearing of masks and temperature checking, the restaurant has also had air purifiers installed. These contain anti-bacterial carbon filter and HEPA filters that also sanitise the air with UV light to increase everyone's safety.
The culinary team will be offering their tasting menu (with seven courses and six snacks) once they start welcoming back diners, but of course, the dining capacity has been reduced to adhere to the mandated safety measures. Says assistant manager Kat O'Keeffe: “We have removed several tables to cater to the one-metre-apart rule. The total number of guests that we will now be open to will be less than half of our usual capacity.”
Other safety measures put in place include temperature checks of guests upon arrival. Menus and chairs will also be sanitised after each use. As for the staff, O'Keeffe mentioned that they'll continue to closely monitor their temperature every four hours and uphold the strictest hygiene standards and practices.
Chef Rishi Naleendra and his team are all set to open this Friday, too. However, they’ll only be offering one seating between 6.30 and 8 pm and will stagger the timing of dinners when accepting reservations.
Like most restaurants, they’ll be reducing the seating capacity so the tables are set more than one metre apart. “After spacing out the tables, our capacity is now 24 diners,” shares marketing manager Rachel Tan.
The dinner experience though is per usual. There’s still no physical menu so guests can fully immerse themselves in chef Naleendra's culinary world. As for the wine list and take-home menus, they’ll be emailing them to the guests so they can check them using their mobile devices. Additional sanitisers have been placed at different touch-points within the restaurant.
When chef-owner Julien Royer and his team start welcoming diners again, their number one priority remains the safety of their guests. Aside from the necessary safety measures, including temperature taking (twice daily for staff), one metre distancing and wearing of masks by the staff, they’ve made arrangements to sterilise the air and surfaces using Cerafusion technology. It's said to eliminate up to 99.9 per cent of pollutants such as viruses, bacteria and other toxic substances.
The meal experience has also been tweaked. While they’ll still serve six courses for lunch and eight courses for dinner, the restaurant will be providing single-use menus for each guest. As for the wine list, diners can access it on their phones by scanning a QR code. The sommeliers are always on hand to offer recommendations.
Chef Kenji Yamanaka and his team have since started preparations to ensure smooth operations when they open for lunch and dinner this weekend. They’ll still be serving their omakase menus but will only accommodate a maximum of 18 diners at any time due to the required ‘physical distancing’ of at least one metre between diners. The team have also decided to do without the physical menu, offering instead a digital version that guests can access using their phones.
Not much will have changed in the dining experience offered by two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Zén when they re-open on June 25, confirms executive chef Tristin Farmer. "We have all our tables placed in the house at a safe distance, but we will seat all tables according to the social distancing guidelines of at least one metre apart," he adds. With strict safety measures put in place following the government's guidelines, guests will be able to enjoy the full menu in the same dining format spread out across three floors. Diners who book a table can choose from different timings: 7 pm, 7.45 pm, 8 pm and 8.15 pm to stagger dining hours (which takes about three hours).
When chef Han Liguang and his team re-open for business, they’ll be serving the Miss Vanda menu (instead of his usual menu) to shorten dining hours. There’ll be less people in the restaurant, too, as Liguang shared that they’ve reduced their maximum capacity to 20 people per service.
“This is a big drop from what we can do as in the past before the pandemic we have frequently done events for 40 to 50 persons,” he adds, so those who can’t get reservations may just opt for takeaway or delivery (which the team will continue).
All government guidelines will be followed, including the wearing of masks by the staff while working, daily temperature chefs at 10 am and 5pm, as well as easy access to hand sanitisers at different touchpoints.
Marcus Hanna, general manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, affirmed that they’re following the government’s strict re-opening guidelines for all their F&B concepts.
While they won’t have two seatings per service, they’ll stagger the timings of reservations to manage the crowds. Tables have also been re-arranged to observe safe distancing, and all tableware will be replaced with single-use napkins while cutlery will only be given once guests are seated. Even the physical menus will be replaced with digital menus which diners can access using QR codes.
There’s much anticipation with the re-opening of this popular steakhouse, too, and chef-owner Dave Pynt shared that they will stick to their normal seatings—lunch at 11.45 pm and 1.30 pm and dinner at 6 pm and 10.30 pm.
However, they’ll be able to accommodate 18 people per service, which is about 40 per cent of their seating capacity, to follow the one-metre apart guideline. In addition, they’ve already put in place a queue management system and have uploaded the menus to the website for easy access.
“We’ll be offering a pretty substantial a la carte menu, same as pre-CB. We’ll also be running our Chef’s Select menu that we create for each guest on the spot,” quips Pynt.
Much to the delight of loyal patrons, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant will open for lunch and dinner services in phase two. The latter will have two seatings as the team has reduced the capacity by at least half. “We can only accommodate nine people in the restaurant and another 10 on the al fresco rooftop level,” confirms chef-restaurateur Beppe de Vito.
The team has decided to re-open with a prix-fixe menu that can be customised according to the guest’s preference. They’ve also made some adjustments to the service, including contactless payment and a digital menu that can be accessed using a QR code. The staff’s temperatures will be taken twice daily, and they’ll be required to wear masks during service. Guests will also need to follow safety protocols such as check-in using the Safe Entry application.