A fresh crop of fine-dining and casual restaurants swept the honours at the RAS Epicurean Star Award, which recognises eateries for culinary innovation, top-notch food and service quality.
The 11th edition of the annual awards was held yesterday at Raffles City Convention Centre and 12 first-time finalists emerged top in 20 categories. The awards recognise the best fine-dining, casual and chain Western, Asian, Chinese and Japanese restaurants.
The three restaurants which picked up the Best of Best awards, the highest honours, were all first-time finalists.
Italian restaurant Buona Terra in Scotts Road topped the fine-dining category, while spa restaurant Tangerine in Resorts World Sentosa led in casual dining. Winning the chain category was Fujian restaurant Putien, whose outlet in Kitchener Road was awarded a Michelin star in July.
New this year is the Best Japanese Restaurant (Chain) category, which went to teishoku restaurant Yayoi. It has six outlets at malls such as Liang Court and Eastpoint.
Other first-timers which clinched awards include Italian and Southeast-Asian bistro Supply & Demand in Esplanade Mall, for Best Western Restaurant (Casual); Kazbar in Church Street, which serves Middle Eastern food, for Best Gastro-Pub; and Common Man Coffee Roasters in Martin Road for Best Cafe.
The awards are organised by the Restaurant Association of Singapore, which represents more than 2,500 restaurant outlets here. It works closely with government bodies and food and beveragerelated associations overseas to develop the local industry.
The winners were selected by a panel of 20 judges, including The Straits Times food critic Wong Ah Yoke, chefs Bruno Menard and Daniel Koh and chef-owner Janice Wong of 2am: dessertbar. They judged chiefly on restaurant concept, menu and service quality after dining incognito at the restaurants in one month.
In a speech at the ceremony, guest of honour and Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say spoke about the challenges faced by the F&B sector, noting that "competition for local manpower will only get keener across all sectors as our local workforce heads towards zero growth in the next decade".
However, he also pointed out that some food companies are beating the crunch by turning to mechanisation such as self-payment and self-ordering machines. He cited the example of The Gratify Group, which implemented a manpowerlean concept called Omoomodon. It has a self-collection and return tray system and staff are trained to prepare food and attend to customers.