Infrequently, because we know. And because we know, we’re telling you. No need to thank us. It’s our business. So without further ado, we present for your edification Think Magazine’s picks for the best late-late dining options in Singapore. Mind you, we didn’t leave the city proper, so if we missed someone’s favorite 24-hour roti prata hut up in JB, tough. We know you don’t have the time or sobriety to go very far, so we made sure to keep ’em close. Got your bibs? Bottle of Heineken? Good. Read on.
Just steps away from Raffles Place and a short cab ride from Boat Quay, lies a wonderland of late night dining, the Lau Pa Sat Festival Village (Telok Ayer Market), located in Chinatown at the corner of Raffles Way and Boon Tat Street, is open 24 hours a day.
Lau Pa Sat means “old market” in Mandarin. This was formerly a wet market, but it was scrubbed clean and restored in the 1980s. What you see now is a food market beneath a stunning Victorian structure. You can find anything here, from mee goreng, (fried noodles with chili and curry gravy) to masala dosai to katsudon.
And a meal can be had for under ten dollars! Lau Pa Sat is best visited at late night when the heat and humidity is less stifling. In addition, satay peddlers push out their pushcarts from 7pm daily, bringing you freshly barbecued meat-on-a-stick along a lane called Boon Tat Street. Hmmm… meat on a stick!
Like the open market in a bustling Asian capital it is, Lau Pa Sat offers a myriad of options for the ravished bar-closer. It’s always occupied and usually busy, but prime time is around 10. The din gets deafening and the service gets a little sharp, but the smells and tastes coat the atmosphere (not to mention stomachs sloshing with booze).
Say you close down Harry ‘s and bring the whole entourage for a posse feast. Order up a few of the crew-friendly appetisers, especially the Hokkien bak ku teh (boiled pork ribs in a seasoned soup), satay and homemade humus. Throw in an order of chicken rice while you’re at it – tonight we drink lime juice! – Share drunken war stories about Thai prisons, and wake up with pleasantly painful heartburn.
Or, suppose you’re wrapping up the first date with your future ex-wife. They say the quickest way into a woman’s bedroom is through her gullet, so ask for a hearty entree to share, such as Hainanese chicken rice (boiled sliced chicken breast served over rice cooked in chicken stock); the oyster omelet, flavoured with garlic and soy, or the ever-popular otak otak, a toasted mashed fish with coconut milk and chilies, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over flames.
Lau Pa Sat
If you’re worried about maintaining fresh breath, well then, you shouldn’t eat in Singapore in the first place. Hopefully the liquor will distract you both from your foul exhaust. If your agenda this night is rushing home to catch a Sex in the City marathon on HBO, food preparation time is of the utmost importance. For you, the socially challenged late-night diner, Lau Pa Sat has tapped the awesome might of the murtabak, a fried prata filled with minced meat, onion, and egg.
Virtually any item on their vast menu can be shoehorned into a prata or naan for handy transport to your ultimate destination. Even the lowliest among us, the vegetarians, can find solace at Lau Pa Sat. When sheep flesh doesn’t float your boat, try breads such as dosai, which are good for scooping up tasty lentil curries, or chickpeas in chili gravies. Exotic fruits are available as well, but what you need now, young one, is some sleep.
Clarke Quay is a good place to be late at night. Just ask any one of the many shuffling, barely-clothed/sane folks wandering about at say, three in the morning. Long after the Emerald Hill pubs have poured their last Stella Artois, long after the last tattooed Johnny Yahoo has hit on the last tired cocktail waitress, the most-touristy Quay in town (an appellation that Think just doesn’t believe, no matter what the real facts are) is still a-hustle and a-bustle. And a lot of said hustling and bustling involves, at some point, The Satay Club.
Just follow your nose and you will arrive at a street in Clarke Quay filled with little satay stalls and wooden tables. The Satay club is old school, not just because you get to dine outside the classic Victorian era architecture – although it is spectacular, and worthy of at least a gawk, especially since such buildings were rapidly being bulldozed into extinction – but because it’s cheap, greasy, unpretentious and open all the damn time. And, surprise, surprise, the food is lots better than you’d expect.
Stick with the Satay. Always. Not because other stuff on the menu is bad, but simply because satay is the perfect pre-hangover munch. Doesn’t matter what time you eat it. Succulent meat skewered and grilled over charcoal embers and eaten with ketupat (rice cake), cucumber, onion and sweet peanut sauce, this is the gas that drives our machine. The superglue that holds up our kicking construction worker. The fuzz in our pillows, the Green in our Lantern. All here, available for what amounts to pocket change, mere blocks from your tiny, sweaty River Valley apartment.
Which brings us to the other great benefit afforded by this location: weirdness. Nothing befits the spirit of Singapore more than the sight of a guy in a torn Newcastle jersey talking to the stains on the sidewalk. Missing teeth, hookers, kids who should probably not have run away from home, all of the stuff we used to have with Bugis Junction before those damn bulldozers arrived. And the cooks are funny guys. The Satay Club, with tiger beer girls and cheap chairs, is a nexus, bringing folks from different socioeconomic backgrounds together for a feast before sunrise, offering sanctuary to the weirdos and their owners alike. How many places in Singapore can say that? Daily 4:30 pm-3 am. No credit cards. Clarke Quay, Singapore.
Lau Pa Sat at night
It’s 4 am Friday night and you’ve got a mad case of the munchies. Where can salvation be found? Dharma’s Kebabs! The best greasy meat wrapped in bread in Singapore. The late night crowd is a melange of Singapore’s party people and miscreants. The food is reasonably priced and tastes great going down. Good meat and sauces (a staple of any late night diner soiree). If you’re in the mood to go Turkish with an Indian twist, the gyros are the best in Singapore – a jaw can only open so wide and these gyros test the limit. Brandon over at 1minreview.com described the taste of these kebabs as “I have seen God. I have licked his face. And it tastes like lamb”
Perhaps most noteworthy is the beef tenderloin! Don’t let the word beef fool you; this plate is not to be taken lightly! You can eat this dish at any time and be satiated. Tender, succulent beef chunks, naan bread, veggies and sauces. Whew. It’s a heart attack on a plate, but boy, is it yummy. If your late night has gone so late that it’s not technically night anymore, and you want to avoid heavy meats, there’s always the chicken tikka (which rules). The service is great, and if there’s a wait, it’s well worth it. Dharma’s is at the alley next to BQ Bar (40 Boat Quay).
People’s Park Complex Food Centre makes up in consistency what it lacks in, well, you know. This isn’t the place to have mom buy you dinner when she’s in town. What it is, is Singapore’s number one option for late night Chinese eats. Everyone knows People’s Park. Slightly scarred, a little bit like a communist collective on a rural Chinese highway, People’s Park packs in the drunks, the college students, even the movers-n-shakers. The food is typically greasy, but the selection of stalls is big enough and the servers are amazingly gracious, considering the quantity and relative quality of the patrons. You try slopping Fish ball noodles to soused club kids at 1 in the morning on Wednesday and see if you can still get it up for a smile. Betcha can’t.
Think’s favourite menu item? Can’t pick just one here, but that may be because we’re always loaded when we order. We know we eat Cantonese fish porridge/ chicken rice (yummy), Loh Mee, BBQ chicken wings and Oyster omelettes… We’ve had the Chestnut juice, which tops a stomach full of beer nicely. Other than that, you’re on your own. Not that you really need advice – ordering stall food is a talent decent Singaporeans are born with. We believe in you.
People’s Park Complex Food Centre is located on Eu Tong Sen Street. Daily 11 am-2 am. No credit cards. Right next to OG Shopping Centre. You can’t miss it, which is a good thing when the witching hour is long past and your vision is slightly blurry. It’s not maybe the first place you’d think of as far as late night eating goes, but Bencoolen Street’s 24-hour roti prata stall serves the necessary components all day and all night. And what’s more, it’s actually pretty good. Muslim food after a certain hour carries with it the implied impossibility of ordering more beers after you’ve sensibly left Chijmes, so it is always best to finish the drink you walked out with beforehand.
But this tidy little corner in the heart of Cool Singapore not only does inexpensive grub; it does it with more than the requisite amount of style. Nothing out of the ordinary – hearty standards that sop up booze – but the familiarity is what’s so refreshing. The famous 24 hour Roti Muslim Indian place located at the junction of Middle Road and Bencoolen Street (near Bugis).
With everybody and their rich Aunt hopping on the fusion cuisine bandwagon, it’s nice to have a big juicy roti prata (Indian pancake with spicy curry sauce), cooked right, with some big-ass dish of dal. And it’s nice to have them with those backpackers from the Hawaii Hostel (my first ‘home’ in Singapore) who travel for months and come just for the $1 roti prata.
So drop by, try the Teh-tarik as well. After a late-night meal here, you are guaranteed to feel truly Singaporean. Have some fried fish. This is the kind of place you’d miss if you blinked going by in a taxi, so don’t blink. Go straight in and tell ’em Think Magazine sent you (which isn’t going to get you anything for free, hoss, so settle down) and you wanna have a roti prata and some dal, and you wanna have ’em now.
They’ll oblige. If you’re lucky, they’ll even serve you some of that sweet iced coffee or you can ask for the delicious Teh Halia (Ginger tea). In the wee hours, this is also a great place to people-watch, as colourful Singaporeans from all walks of life converge here. We say, hmmm.
But if none of our favorite after-hours troughs sounds like a winner, be not afraid. For there is always the last, sometimes best, option: Pizza. But not any Domino’s/ Pizza Hut pizza, oh no. You are a discerning pie consumer, one not to be led astray by the flavorless corporate giants. You demand hot, tasty, a crust with just the right balance between crisp and chewy, lots of toppings. You want Mr. Bean’s Cafe pizza.
Opposite Paradiz center and the groovy Roomful of Blues, Mr. Bean’s, while not exactly famous as a pizza place, is nonetheless making its mark, and not just because they’re open all night. They have all sorts of food – lotsa pizzas, desserts, coffees; their mocha coffees are better than sex! I don’t even think they try to do it, but their pies seem so NYC that they might as well have just hopped off a red eye from La Guardia. As one Think associate, a native of the Big Apple, recently asserted, “…it’s freakin’ crack”. That it is. While it can get crowded and you’ll have trouble finding a place to sit down, – it’s aircon’d inside and smokers can sit outside, at least for now – that’s just a minor concern. What matters is the pie, big enough to kill large rodents with, delicious enough to kill your uncle over. Mr. Bean’s Cafe And Wine Bar is located at 30 Selegie Road +65 6333 3100.
So, get off that stool. They’re kicking you out anyway. Get yourself something to eat. We’ve given you the knowledge; all you’ve got to do is use it. Excelsior!
The Coffee Club at the Orchard Fountain Corner
Late Night Coffee fix and more
One place that has got to be the coolest spot for chilling outdoors on Orchard Road at four in the morning (and I’m not talking hanging out with the transexuals at Orchard Towers either) is The Coffee Club at the Orchard Fountain Corner. Late at night, when the traffic slows, pop by for a coffee or late night bite to eat at this cozy and comfortable al fresco cafe, with a huge soothing waterfall on the backwall to mellow you out and a really friendly staff who manages to keep the smiles going even ’til the break of dawn… that’s right, this cafe is open 24 hours… even if you’re not!– 232 Orchard Road (in front of California Fitness) Tel: 6736 2081 www.coffeeclubworld.com
LATE NIGHT DINING IN SINGAPORE
Midnight Curry Rice: This place is famous for it’s fragrant pork chop curry rice that’s liberally poured over a large serving of stir-friend cabbage. 1010 Upper Serangoon Rd., Opening Hours: 1pm to 8am
Punggol Nasi Lemak Centre: A popular supper place which commands crowds with their delicious chicken drumsticks, aromatic cocnut rice and well toasted ikan bilis. 965 Upper Serangoon Rd. Mee Sek Food Court, Opening Hours: 6pm to 5am (closed on Thursday)
Tiong Shian Porridge Centre: The perfect place for porridge lovers that’s also well known for it’s raw fish, deep fried intestines, and sharks fin soup. 265 New Bridge Rd. Opening Hours: 7am to 2:30am
Al-Ameen Restaurant: Prata lovers will adore this place; they have every variation of prata you can imagine – this eatery is definitely for those who love Indian or Malay food. 4 Cheong Chin Nam Rd., Open 24 hours
Banana Leaf Nasi Lemak: Their tasty nasi lemak draws hundry diners everyday with their variety of fish, chicken wings, spicy sambal and vegetables. Blk 443 #01-02, Pasir Ris Drive 6, Opening Hours: 6:30am to 2:30am (closed on alternate Tuesdays)