Nestled a few minutes away from Orchard Road is the quaint and hip neighbourhood surrounding Dempsey Hill. It was once a nutmeg plantation in the 1850s, before getting repurposed as a military camp, known as Tanglin Barrack. Today, the tranquil neighbourhood still boasts the unique rustic charm of yesteryears and is known to be one of Singapore’s leading dining and shopping destinations.
In this special series, we interview staff from not one, but three renowned dining establishments in Dempsey Hill — COMO Cuisine, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, and Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh — all of which are within spitting distance from one another.
Read on to hear from Sous Chef Sorasit Duangeesai and Service Leader Tan Li Yee from COMO Cuisine; Executive Chef Lisa Revilla-Thien and Guest Relations Assistant Manager Natasya Jaaffar from The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar; Restaurant Manager Alexis Wong and Assistant Restaurant Manager Chloe Ong from Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh.
Sorasit Duangeesai, Sous Chef at COMO Cuisine
37-year-old Sorasit Duangeesai, or Tar as his colleagues call him, has had over 10 years of culinary experience with the COMO Group. His impressive resume entails working as a Chef de Partie in COMO Metropolitan Bangkok in Thailand and COMO Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as a pastry chef at COMO Uma Paro in Bhutan. For the Thai native, comfort food entails a fresh serving of spicy green papaya salad of which, according to him, reminds him of home.
When asked about his favourite dining haunt on the sunny island, Tar reveals that a meal at Hanashizuku Japanese Cuisine at Cuppage Plaza is extremely satisfying and akin to what he had tasted in Japan. According to the sous chef at COMO Cuisine, the restaurant’s Alaskan King Crab Tempura is well-worth every penny. He says: “The texture on the crab is superb.”
Hanashizuku Japanese Cuisine
Address: Cuppage Plaza, 5 Koek Road, #02-01, Singapore 228796
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 11.45am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Denyse Tan, Service Leader at COMO Cuisine
COMO Cuisine’s service leader Denyse Tan prides herself as a purveyor of good Japanese grub in Singapore. One of her favourite Japanese restaurants here is Gaijin Japanese Soul Food, located in King Albert Park (KAP) Mall in Central West Singapore. When not at work, she would find herself indulging in a light and flavourful bowl of dumpling soup. “My friend recommended this place,” she says. “I find the food here value-for-money and I like how cosy it is.”
“I would recommend the Ebi Tempura Udon,” she says. According to the 27-year-old, the udon noodles hail from the Akita prefecture in Japan, and are known for their chewy and easy-to-slurp properties.
Gaijin Japanese Soul Food
Address: KAP Mall, 9 King Albert Park, #01-40, Singapore 598332
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 9.30pm
Lisa Revilla-Thien, Executive Chef at The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar
Growing up in the Philippines, executive chef at The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar Lisa Revilla-Thien frequently reminisces about the time when her parents would bring her sister and herself to the famous restaurant chain ‘Pancake House’. “They serve the best spaghetti with meat sauce,” she adds. “It just gives me a warm, fuzzy, comforting feeling each time I have a warm bowl of noodles with meat sauce and cheese.” Married to the French-born Eurasian chef David Thien, Mrs Revilla-Thien is also the first Filipino to become an executive chef for Michelin-starred Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar.
On what is her definition of a good meal, she says, “The best meal is always cooked by my husband.”
For her, a post-work supper escapade with her fellow colleagues to Beauty in a Pot had her fall in love with the quintessential soup dish. “Not only is the broth rich and satisfying, but I also love how you can customise your own sauce with their wide range of condiments. All these yield a different taste and texture with each bite.” Her go-to soup base is the beauty collagen broth and some of her favourite toppings include otak otak fish paste, fried beancurd skin, and sliced meat.
Beauty in The Pot at The Centrepoint (one of seven outlets)
Address: 176 Orchard Road, The Centrepoint #05-16, Singapore 238843
Opening hours: Daily 11.30am – 3am (Last order at 2.15am)
Natasya Jaaffar, Guest Relations Assistant Manager at The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar
Guest relations assistant manager of The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar Natasya Jaffar prefers staying in and binging on the latest TV series on her days off. But when she does head out, she would dress up and pamper herself and her friends, with a hearty meal. Ms Jaffar recommends dining at tcc – The Connoisseur Concerto, specifically the branch at International Building. Her favourite dishes there include Soft-Shell Crab Tacos and Baby Crabfish Spaghetti.
tcc – The Connoisseur Concerto (one of nine outlets)
Address: International Building, 360 Orchard Road, #01-01, Singapore 238869
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 10am – 3am
Alexis Wong, Restaurant Manager at Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh
“I love izakaya (a type of Japanese bar that is neither a full-fledged restaurant nor a pub, but offers up affordable bar bites, such as grilled skewers or fried snacks, and booze) and I’m always on a lookout for good casual restaurants,” says Alexis Wong, restaurant manager at Ippoh Tempura Bar. For the 36-year-old, the casual izakaya Yakitori Yatagarasu located at Circular Road ticks all the boxes for a satisfying chow down.
Replete with plenty of wooden accents, the walls along the narrow bar are adorned with Japanese memorabilia — sake bottles, ornamental fans, and exquisite clay or porcelain potteries — while a small sushi counter is placed in the middle. There, a good selection of izakaya food, bar bites and booze beckons. Ms Wong recommends that first-timers savour the Bonjiri Yakitori, a succulent, collagen-rich chicken tail skewer, and rounding up the meal with a hearty bowl of chicken soup noodle. “Sharing is caring, so I don’t mind recommending this place to others, even though doing so might make securing a spot more difficult.”
Address: 72 Circular Road, #01-01, Singapore 049426
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 6pm – 10.30pm; Closed on Sundays
Chloe Ong, Assistant Manager at Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh
Ippoh Tempura Bar’s assistant manager Chloe Ong is a fan of local zi-char (which is Hokkein for ‘stir-fry’) dishes. “I am a believer that good food ought to be shared, especially with friends,” she says, noting that her go-to zi char restaurants include Long Ji Zi Char and Keng Eng Kee — the latter is also Candlenut’s chef-owner Malcolm Lee’s favourite dining haunt. One of her favourite dishes to try at Long Ji Zi Char is the Crab Bee Hoon, comprising rice vermicelli and a whole crab, served in a claypot and milky broth. For an even more savoury option, Ms Ong suggests trying the Pan-fried Coffee Pork Ribs. “It’s flavourful and the coffee taste is neither too bitter nor sweet; it’s just nice.”
Long Ji Zi Char
Address: 253 Outram Road, Singapore 169049
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 5pm – 10.30pm