ST Life's list of the best and worst of 2017

The Sunday Times rounds up the year with its list of highs and lows

It is that time of the year again, when one settles into a routine of social gatherings, festive jingle-humming and way too much feasting.

Another year-end tradition, of course, is the proliferation of end-of-year lists. They provide an aerial view of the cultural landscape of the year that was, allowing one to note its peaks and troughs.

People read them to find out about hidden gems they might have missed, say, a new amazing restaurant, book or film.

Take, for example, Jia Xiang Nasi Lemak, a "soulful" chicken rendang nasi lemak, which is Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun's pick for one of the best dishes of this year.

Sometimes, one reads these lists to find out if the critics agree with his choices of top dogs and top flops.

Whether you find the choices controversial, eccentric or predictable, you cannot fault The Sunday Times on lack of coverage.

In this issue, the newspaper rounds up the highs and lows in entertainment, the arts, lifestyle, fashion and food.


The general trend which emerged is that originality, that evergreen quality, is rare and always valued.

In a year when movie sequels and expensive Hollywood franchises dominated global box offices, film correspondent John Lui picked three entirely original films to be the best - Christopher Nolan's war film Dunkirk, Japanese animation The Red Turtle and French-Belgian horror film Raw.

Meanwhile, repetitive designs for Singapore memorabilia are called out by correspondent Bryna Singh, who laments the saturation of nostalgic products from SG50.

In the bar scene, reporter Anjali Raguraman criticises the trend of Instagram-friendly but gimmicky cocktails.

Do remember that this scorecard is not done in a spirit of judgment or cruelty, but out of the wish that Singapore's arts, culture and lifestyle scenes be diverse and exciting.

On that note, here is a toast to the end of 2017 - a turbulent year, to say the least - and a bright hello to the new year, whether it be fair or foul.


Chicken Rendang Nasi Lemak Set, Jia Xiang Nasi Lemak, 01-08 CT Hub 2, 114 Lavender Street, tel: 9889-3466; open: 10am to 3pm (weekdays), 11am to 4pm (Saturdays), closed on Sundays; go to

Longing for a taste of home can make people do crazy things.

The Lim brothers from Kedah, Kenneth and Shawn, gave up good jobs, in information technology and with an established restaurant group respectively, to recreate their grandmother's nasi lemak.

Jia Xiang's nasi lemak. PHOTO: JIA XIANG NASI LEMAK

Fish Noodle Soup, Swee Kee Fishhead Noodle House, 96 Amoy Street, tel: 6224-9920; open: 11.45am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 10.45pm daily

You would think that after decades in business, Swee Kee or Ka-Soh would have nailed the recipe for its fish noodle soup. The place is practically an institution, the sort of fail-safe, reliable restaurant to go to.


New Restaurants


Australian chef-owner Clayton Wells (standing, with Dutch chef Joeri Timmermans) of Blackwattle, which serves dishes with odd combinations of ingredients and flavours that work. PHOTO: ST FILE

Blackwattle, 97 Amoy Street, tel: 6224-2232; open: noon to 3pm (weekdays), 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Originality seems to be the trend in the Singapore dining scene this year, with new restaurants coming up with entire menus of dishes I have not seen anywhere else.

Some restaurants do it more successfully than others, however.

Blackwattle is especially memorable because of the way the odd combination of ingredients and flavours in its dishes, while not immediately appealing, grows on me.

Bistro November, closed down

This restaurant, which took over Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929 early this year, was to last only till November – hence its name – because the lease ran out that month. It was just as well because I did not know what to make of its food.



Dunkirk stars Fionn Whitehead. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Dunkirk (PG13, 107 minutes)

Like The Red Turtle (also in the Best List), director Christopher Nolan's depiction of an actual World War II event is a masterclass in the use of silence. In this powerful recreation of the military disaster that shattered national confidence, war is a series of lulls, punctuated by seconds of terror. Nolan also bucks war movie trends: No evil Germans are visible and there is little gore. Yet the film has more moments of hair-raising terror than any war film in recent memory.

The Emoji Movie (PG, 92 minutes)

This animated work and the eco-disaster epic Geostorm (PG13) competed for the title of worst movie. Geostorm is a stinker, but for its power to gnaw away at your will to live, this one wins.

In this attempt at "youth branding", a "meh" emoji (voiced by T.J. Miller) chases his dreams in a world set inside a mobile phone, while other characters tell him to stay in his lane. That premise, unpromising as it sounds, might not have led to this mess if just a few talents on this project cared about more than their pay cheques.


• What were your best and worst experiences at eateries, theatres or cinemas this year? E-mail

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Best & Worst 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe