My brief brush with greatness: Bourdain’s Singapore suggestions

In March 2012 I scored an award seat on the Newark-Singapore nonstop flight. On relatively short notice I was headed to the tiny city-state with nothing resembling a plan. I asked around of a few folks and a neighbor offered me an amazing option. A friend of hers worked with Anthony Bourdain shooting one of his shows in Singapore and could probably get a few recommendations. To say that I was keen on that would be a mighty understatement. Since then I’m sure many of the recommendations on the list have circulated widely. I don’t think it holds any special secrets. But I was impressed by the variety of the selections and the smart reasons behind them. Reading it again today, some six years later, I still am.

I read Kitchen Confidential relatively soon after it came out. Turns out we’d been eating at Les Halles for a while by then. It was an accident that we found it at all, but it really was amazing. We didn’t know why, but we soon figured it out. But the book also exposed some of the internal demons. The challenges. The bits I was not at all jealous of. Like many others I enjoyed Bourdain’s travel adventures vicariously. I loved that he had those experiences. I wanted to live that life, too. At least parts of it. But I don’t find it at all hard to believe that the demons eventually won.

I’m in Oslo this evening. I woke up in Dublin this morning. I’ll sleep in London tomorrow. I spend roughly 40% of my nights away from home. I’m traveling plenty. It is not Bourdain’s travel, but that’s fine with me. Even on days like today where I’m exhausted and not really sure I want to be on the road another week before I get home. But I manage to stumble into great situations often enough that I’m generally satisfied. Of course, sometimes getting to the right outcome is a less than perfect path.

Some urban beach action on the Oslo waterfront. Of course I want in on this fun!
Some urban beach action on the Oslo waterfront. Of course I want in on this fun!

With the short layover in Oslo I didn’t plan much in the way of touristing. I need to catch up on some sleep and some work and I figured I could use the top of the opera house as an office for the afternoon. From that vantage point I saw an urban beach just a bit further along the harbor. Plans changed and I headed over to sun and relax (and work) amongst the crowd. I quickly began to regret not having a bathing suit on. Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying the refreshing plunge off the dock. I wanted that, too.

So I did it anyways. I slipped down to my underwear and took a leap off the edge. It was spectacular. And I’m sure I’ll dry out eventually.

Was my decision motivated by Bourdain? Maybe a little bit. I’d like to think I would’ve done it anyways given it proved to be a very low risk, high reward situation. But I’d be lying if I said his death this morning didn’t hit me a little.

Anywho, enough of the jet lag-induced ramblings from Oslo. Here’s the list of restaurants in Singapore I worked from six years ago. Most are still open last I checked and still damn good. Go eat something new, somewhere new. It’s always a smart choice.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Tom

Date: Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 2:43 PM
Subject: Re: Hello
To: Andrea

  • Chin Chin Eating House (Colonial District, 19 Purvis St., Singapore)
    Hainanese restaurant, nice local vibe and great for the classic chicken rice.
  • Bismillah Biryani (50 Dunlop St., Little India, Singapore)
    Chef Arif grinds his own spices fresh and procures his own supply of whole sheep.
  • Tiong Bahru Market (Tiong Bahru District, 83 Seng Poh Rd., Singapore)
    Indoor food court with lots of yummy things.
  • Samy’s Curry (25A Dempsey Rd, Singapore 247691)
    Great fish head at restaurant that specializes in southern Indian cooking.
  • Candlenut Kitchen (25 Neil Rd., Singapore 088816)
    It’s a blend of Chinese and Malay, with spice blends and flavors from the whole China straits — Indonesian, Malay — and unique to this part of the world.
  • Geylang Claypot Rice (639, Geylang Rd., Lorong 33, Singapore 389570 )
    Great claypot in the red-light district.
  • Tanglin Halt Hawker Center (1 Commonwealth Drive, Singapore 141001)
    Tony suggests the original “peanut pancake” at the Tanglin Halt Hawker Center. Tony says, “These guys are famous for handpicking, roasting and grinding their own peanuts … something most other operations take a shortcut
  • Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (Block 466 Crawford Lane. #01-12, Singapore)
    Good place for bak chor mee, a local Singapore dish. The dish is noodle-based with shrimp, fish balls, pork and several other ingredients.
  • Golden Mile Food Center (Golden Mile Food Center, Beach Road, Singapore)
    Where to go for the famous haji kadir (sup tulang) an Indian specialty of bright-red-dyed meat and bone marrow.  Also lots of other great things too….

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I am generally not overly affected by celebrity deaths, but Tony’s has me reeling. And like you, I read Kitchen Confidential long before he was “famous”. I will save this list. I have also been to a couple of Anthony Bourdain suggested dining establishments in Singapore and other places, and I’m never disappointed. Thank you for a very appropriate post and a swim in Tony’s honor.

  2. I will really miss Anthony Bourdain. I eagerly waited every Sunday, to watch Parts unknown, even if it was a repeat. Now we will only have repeats. It is sad that he didn’t know how much people really enjoyed his talents.

    1. Seth-I continue to vicariously enjoy your posts from everywhere. Especially the food notes. Enjoyed Bourdain’s shows and writings too.
      Cousin Larry

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