Forget peanuts or pork scratchings. Bars these days are competing for the drinker's dollar with increasingly imaginative food and the global trend toward smokeless venues is creating pleasant environments in which to savor it. In Singapore, a cluster of gastrobars, as they're called, are becoming dining destinations in their own right, dishing out the likes of o-toro sashimi and Boston lobster to famished partygoers.
Located in a prewar Chinatown shophouse, the Majestic Bar, www.majesticbar.com, sports a menu that includes black-pepper crocodile puff, perfectly fried oysters accompanied by four sauces, and squid-ink spaghetti tossed in spicy XO sauce a Cantonese condiment made with dried seafood and chili, but containing none, incidentally, of the XO cognac from which it takes its name. Even the cocktails come with a savory twist one, Myth of the Orient, contains soy sauce and chili peppers. Proprietor Loh Lik Peng, who also owns the New Majestic boutique hotel next door, says that the bar's menu was intended to offer "a more substantial dim sum that can be paired with alcohol." And the biggest seller? Crispy pig intestines.
Over at the Goodwood Park Hotel, www.goodwoodparkhotel.com, fashionable Singaporeans gather at the Dim Sake Bar a name that reflects the venue's specialization in creative dim sum and Japanese rice wine. Patrons are greeted by 5,282 dim-sum baskets that line the wall, and can savor dishes such as grilled stingray fin with mayo and flying-fish-roe dip or xiao long bao shooters (a delicate soup dumpling sitting in a shot glass filled with warm chicken broth), as well as steamed fish worthy of a top Chinese restaurant. Those not in the mood for dim sum can seat themselves at a sushi counter run by one of Singapore's best Japanese restaurants, Tatsuya. As for liquid refreshment, Dim Sake offers over 100 types of cocktails, martinis, sake and shochu.
Don't forget to check out the forerunner of Singapore's gastrobar scene. Since its opening in 2001, the New Asia Bar on the 71st and 72nd floors of the Swissôtel, www.singapore-stamford.swissotel.com, has been famed for its superior quick bites as much as its fabulous view. Try the satay-chicken pizza a scrumptious Singaporean invention, made on a 12-inch base and served with julienned cucumber. There's also a great duck wrap, which stylishly updates the Chinese restaurant staple. Come for sundowners and graze at will. Any dinner reservations you might have for later that evening should prove superfluous.
Next Sea Change