Sorry, we're fully booked: Many new fine-dining restaurants all booked up till next year

The 19-seat kappo restaurant Esora in Mohamed Sultan Road. PHOTO: ESORA

SINGAPORE - Popular high-end restaurants like the four-month-old Nishikane in Stanley Street are now fully booked for dinner till next February. And if you are thinking of dining at another Japanese restaurant, Sushi Kou at the Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre, the next available seat is in mid-March.

A Straits Times check with more than 10 recently opened restaurants shows that their wait lists are currently up to next year.

At some, only a smattering of seats are available for 5.30 or 9pm seatings on weekdays.

Five-star hotels, popular for Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas Day brunches, also report that their restaurants are full-house or filling fast for the festive holiday.

It would seem that fine dining has bounced back, especially for new openings, as a result of several factors.

With closed borders and leisure travel curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this year is seeing an unprecedented number of residents in town, at a time when many traditionally go away on holiday.

Some are spending part of their usual vacation budgets on fancy meals instead, especially at Japanese restaurants, to make up for not being able to travel to Japan, a popular destination for foodies here.

At the 13-seat Sushi Kou, where the average spending is $500 a person without alcohol, there is a wait list of 150 people hoping to snag a seat before March. The restaurant opened in June.

The 19-seat kappo restaurant Esora in Mohamed Sultan Road, which reopened in July after shuttering last year, is full till February. Its omakase menu starts at $338.

Some new restaurants are being propped up by support from long-time faithful fans.

Among them is chef Jason Tan, formerly from the one-Michelin-starred Corner House. His modern Western restaurant Euphoria opened in Tras Street on Nov 3 and has been full from day one.

The 26-seat restaurant takes reservations 30 days ahead, with the booking system refreshed at midnight daily. It has a long wait list of hopeful diners for its menus which start at $208 a head.

Tan says: "I am fortunate to have a group of loyal friends and diners who has supported me over the years."

Euphoria opened in Tras Street on Nov 3 and has been full from day one. PHOTO: EUPHORIA

At the 15-seat Fleurette, which opened in September in Rangoon Road, the rest of the year is already spoken for.

Diners hoping to have a taste of Singaporean chef Tariq Helou's $218 menu, based on his Japanese, Chinese and Lebanese heritage, will have to wait till the beginning of next month for January reservations to open.

It does not have a wait list, but announces last-minute cancellations on Instagram, as it has seen a fair number of cancellations and no-shows.

Co-owner Aidan Wee says: "Many make a booking first, then try to find companions. If they are unable to do so, they cancel or simply don't turn up, claiming they forgot they had a reservation when we call them.

"We also think some make multiple bookings across restaurants and pick one on the day itself."

To deter such culprits, the restaurant now asks for a credit card hold, something that a growing number of fine-dining restaurants like Euphoria and Esora also do.

Meanwhile, those planning to have their Christmas feasts in hotels have to act fast.

The Regent Singapore's Italian restaurant Basilico sold out its Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day brunch two weeks ago.

At The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, all-day eatery Colony is full for Christmas Eve lunch, Christmas Day brunch and Boxing Day brunch. Only limited seats are available for Christmas Eve dinner.

Its Cantonese restaurant Summer Pavilion is also full for Christmas Day lunch.

Butcher's Block at Raffles Singapore has been fully booked for Dec 24 and 25 for a few weeks now. Another of the hotel's fine-dining restaurants, La Dame de Pic, is almost full.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore's 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung is also full on Christmas Day, with limited seats for Christmas Eve dinner.

But hope beckons at Mandarin Orchard Singapore, which has just opened reservations for its Triple Three restaurant.

Bookings are coming in thick and fast though.

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