Cover Chef Jeremy Gillon (Image: Restaurant Jag)

They share their thoughts on whether there is a shift from strict fine dining to more casual experiences in Singapore

There’s no doubt that Singapore has one of the most vibrant and buzziest dining scenes in the world, with choices that run the gamut from fine dining restaurants to casual and affordable places.

This was especially evident after the results of the recent Michelin Guide Singapore were released, where a total of 44 restaurants representing this diversity made the cut. While Les Amis and Odette, two French fine dining restaurants, were bumped up to the coveted three-star rating, more casual dining concepts were also included in the prestigious list. 

(Related: How Les Amis Thrives In Singapore's Volatile Dining Industry)

One of these is Resorts World Sentosa’s one-starred table65, by Dutch celebrity chef Richard Van Oostenbrugge who pioneered the art of ‘fine-casual’ dining with his lauded Restaurant 212 in Amsterdam. He tells T.Dining: “What we strive to do is serve our guests a world-class meal, and let them have a good time while eating it.”

This is done through a focused menu that pays attention to seasons and ingredients, served in a cosy setting where diners sit comfortably at the chef’s counter and are free to banter and crack jokes with the staff.

(Related: 5 Reasons To Visit Table65)

Chef Rishi Naleendra, who runs Cloudstreet and Cheek Bistro, thinks that chefs and restaurateurs are no longer boxed by the strict concept of fine dining, admitting that “the best restaurants in the world have moved away from that”. In fact, he made the bold move to close one-Michelin-starred Cheek by Jowl early this year and rebrand it to Cheek Bistro with a more approachable concept. He’s proud that he and his team have managed to create a space “where you could have a regular meal but still retain elements of surprise”.

Speaking of surprises, head chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive of Basque Kitchen by Aitor was the first one to introduce a Basque-focused concept in Singapore, earning the restaurant one Michelin star a year after its opening. While his contemporary Basque fare is fine dining in the sense that it’s crafted with premium ingredients and plated so elegantly, he has veered away from white tablecloths and old-school tableside service to provide a relaxed ambience.

This amalgamation of both experiences reflects Singapore’s appreciation for both fine and casual dining. “I think there has just been an overall increase in awareness and appreciation for both types of dining experiences,” he affirms.

(Related: Iggy’s Ex Chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive Opens Basque Kitchen By Aitor)

French chef Jeremy Gillon agrees, adding that “casual and fine dining both have room to succeed alongside each other.” After all, food is what matters the most to diners. One-starred Restaurant Jag offers an interesting French herb-inspired menu that experiments with over 40 indigenous herbs from the Savoie region, transformed into innovative and delightful dishes.

For executive chef Vianney Massot, it’s always about good food being “accessible to everyone and enjoyed in a myriad of ways, not just in the traditional sense of fine dining”. Fine dining is still at the heart of his eponymous restaurant, but he has lightened the mood with an open kitchen concept that encourages conversations between the culinary team and guests.

(Related: 5 Reasons To Visit Vianney Massot Restaurant)

It’s the same story with Zén, which earned two stars less than a year after it took over the space formerly occupied by now-defunct Restaurant André. The three-storey restaurant offers a ‘moving experience’ where you start with small bites on the ground floor, followed by the meal proper on the next level where personable staff explains in detail the ingredients-focused menu. Dinner culminates on the third floor, fashioned after a warm and cosy living room, where guests can linger while finishing off their petit fours.

Executive chef Tristin Farmer shares: “We are not trying to be groundbreaking or to set new trends. We simply try to offer good food and offer memorable experiences to our guests. And that’s the bottom line of what diners really want when they go out for a meal.

(Related: What To Expect at Björn Frantzén’s Newly Minted Restaurant Zén)