01-02 Merchant's Court, 3A River Valley Road, tel: 6661-0197; open: noon to 3pm, 6 to 11pm daily
VLV is not your usual Chinese restaurant. For one thing, its name does not mean anything. For another, the dining room is shrouded in darkness in the evening - except for isolated lights trained on tabletops for Instagram photo- taking. And the music is lounge, not Chinese muzak. The food by chef Martin Foo, however, is authentically Chinese and very good.
Family restaurant this certainly is not - shrieking kids running around have no place here and I would not suggest you make your grandparents negotiate the dimly lit staircase. But the executive crowd can dine here, safe in the knowledge that they are not charged inflated prices for pretentious cooking. If you do not order live seafood, you can keep your food bill at under $100 a person.
The Kagoshima Kurobuta "Char Siew" is the star dish. It tastes of honey, but is not cloying; it is charred, but not burnt; and it is succulent, but not soft or overly fat.
If you prefer something with a lighter taste, the Sri Lankan crab steamed with hua diao wine and egg is lovely. The aroma of the Chinese rice wine is the perfect complement for the sweet crabmeat.
• Fat Lulu's
297 River Valley Road, tel: 9236-5002; open: 6 to 11pm (Sundays, Tuesdays to Thursdays), 6pm to late (Fridays and Saturdays), 11am to 4pm (brunch on Saturdays and Sundays), closed on Mondays
Fat Lulu's is not just one of the best new restaurants in Singapore. It is, for me, just one of the best - period. It is rare to enjoy almost everything that comes out of a kitchen but I do here.
Chef Sam Chablani's grilled dishes come with bold flavours from spices that do not overpower or set the palate on fire.
The cooking is basic - everything from meat to seafood to vegetables goes on the charcoal grill - but the food is not run-of-the-mill. The Spicy Iberico Pork Sataytay, for example, is not only whimsically named, but also comes in generous chunks that are so tasty that they do not need a gravy.
The restaurant offers good value too. For example, the Spicy BBQ Full Rack Pork Ribs - with enough meat for two - is priced at a decent $28.
Dessert chef Pang Ji Shuang cannot be more different from Chablani in philosophy, as he employs modern techniques involving liquid nitrogen and foams. But the contrast provides welcome surprises that refresh the palate at the end of the meal.
Two brilliant chefs in one meal. There are not many places you find that without having to pay a bomb.
• Paradise Teochew Restaurant
03-04 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road, tel: 6538-0644; open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 10.30am to 3.30pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), 6 to 10.30pm daily
The first Teochew Paradise Restaurant opened last year at the Chinese Swimming Club, but the second outlet - opened in July this year at Scotts Square - takes the brand to new heights. The cooking is more refined and the service more attentive.
The piece de resistance is the Braised Sliced Duck. Using Irish duck, the chef has come up with the best version of this traditional Teochew dish I have eaten.
Unlike the Malaysian ducks used by many other restaurants here - which tend to be a bit coarse - this is smooth and juicy, with the meat oiled by a layer of aromatic fat.
Teochew Style Roasted Suckling Pig is another masterpiece. Unlike the Cantonese, the Teochews eat not just the crackling, but also the meat. This is what I prefer too, as the meat not only adds more layers of flavour, but also balances the grease in the skin.
And at $178 a pig, this is cheaper than what you pay at other Chinese restaurants in Orchard Road.
• The Peranakan
Level 2 Claymore Connect, 442 Orchard Road, tel: 6262-4428; open: 11am to 10pm daily
The smell of the stale fish is still fresh in my memory, half a year after I encountered the Assam Pedas Fish at The Peranakan. As expected from the stink, the fish tasted so foul that after my friend and I had a small bite each, the dish was untouched. And the waiter who removed it did not think of asking us why.
That was not the only bad dish. The chap chye was so undercooked that the cabbage was crunchy.
And the pig trotter in the babi pongteh?
The pig could certainly do with a good wash because, well, the meat had a pong too.