More than a century after its inception, the Michelin Guide has finally bestowed its stars upon various eateries in Singapore, including a global first for hawker food, Peranakan cuisine and Australian fare.
The guide was first put together in 1900 by the Michelin brothers who wanted to boost the automobile movement, as well as their French tyre company. Thus, the annual books were bound and distributed to the scarce number of European motorists at that time, containing handy information such as how to change a tyre and where to go for a good meal..
Today, with a gastronomic foothold across almost 30 countries, the Michelin Guide has bolstered itself as the benchmark for high-quality dining instead. Its star ratings are the accolades that generate plenty of buzz.
On 22 July 2016, a day after the 29 Singapore star selections were announced, longer queues were observed snaking into the new Michelin-starred eateries, cementing the guide’s influence.
A total of 200 establishments were listed in the inaugural Singapore guide, but only one was crowned the city-state’s first three-Michelin-starred restaurant. Joël Robuchon’s contemporary French cuisine set on Sentosa Island was given the highest award for offering dishes that were “executed with masterful panache”. Six other restaurants obtained two stars: André, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Les Amis, Odette, Shisen Hanten and Shoukouwa.
Michelin often says that its stars “are in the plate and only in the plate”. This is because quality of the cuisine is the sole factor for evaluation while the restaurant’s location, décor, service or equipment are not taken into account. Hence, Singapore’s wide range of culinary culture were inspected and food establishments of all stripes stood a fair chance in the assessment.
Two hawker stalls, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, were awarded a Michelin star each, making Singapore the home of the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meals. A plate of chicken rice from Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle starts at only S$2, while a bowl of minced-meat noodles from Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is from S$4 onwards.
The first local edition also picked 20 other one-starred restaurants, covering all cooking styles and cuisines. Among them is another breakthrough: Osia restaurant, where young chef Douglas Tay, under the direction of Scott Webster, offers innovative dishes created with Australian and Asian products. This meant Australian cooking obtained a star for the first time in the entire Michelin Guide collection’s history.
Michael Ellis, director of the Michelin Guide, said: “Singapore is a real crossroads of trade and commerce, with multiple culinary influences and repertoire that is enjoyed by both locals and visitors. As the city has a worldwide reputation for its street food and a high-flying gastronomic scene created by talented young chefs who have emerged over the last few years, here’s where our inspectors have discovered real jewels.”