While the Singapore Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand list brought plenty of cheer yesterday morning to the nine new entries on the list, not everyone from last year made the cut this time.
This year's list features 38 restaurants and hawker stalls - up from the 34 listed in the inaugural edition last year.
But popular zichar restaurant JB Ah Meng in Geylang Lorong 30 and The Fishball Story at Timbre+ were dropped from the list this year, along with Alaturka in Bussorah Street, Hjh Maimunah in Jalan Pisang and Wedang in Aljunied.
New hawker entrants are Ah Er Soup at ABC Brickworks Food Centre, New Lucky Claypot Rice in Holland Drive and Zai Shun Curry Fish Head in Jurong East Street 24.
More restaurants made their debut on the list. They are French restaurant Bar-Roque Grill in Tanjong Pagar Road; Japanese eel restaurant Man Man Unagi Restaurant in Keong Saik Road; Peranakan restaurant The Blue Ginger in Tanjong Pagar Road; Japanese restaurant Shirokane Tori-Tama at Robertson Walk; soya sauce chicken rice specialist Liao Fan Hawker Chan at 78 Smith Street; and ramen restaurant Tsuta at Pacific Plaza.
The list of Bib Gourmand eateries was released a week ahead of a gala event on June 29 at The Fullerton Hotel, where this year's recipients of Michelin stars will be announced.
Teppei Yamashita, 36, chef- owner of Man Man Unagi Restaurant, received his first congratulatory text message from a regular customer at 8.53am yesterday.
What diners think
This is my first time here because the queue is always long. The food is good and very reasonably priced. We even went for a second round of the soya sauce chicken. The chilli is also very good.
RETIREE TIM CHEN, 57, who was dining at Liao Fan Hawker Chan with his wife and son
I waited for about half an hour and I think it's worth the wait. The food is fantastic and I'm enjoying it. I think it deserves the award and it is encouraging to see hawkers achieve so much.
STOCKBROKER ELIZABETH NG, 67, who read about Liao Fan Hawker Chan in the newspapers and is aware that its original stall in the Chinatown Food Complex is famous
The fish is very fresh and the prices are reasonable. In the morning, I come for breakfast because the stall opens at 7am and serves porridge. Sometimes, I come back for lunch and have dishes including steamed fish.
BUS DRIVER TAN SONG CHUAN, 62, who has been patronising Zai Shun Curry Fish Head since its hawker centre days and dines at the outlet at least twice a week
Since Tsuta has a Michelin star in Japan, I did expect that it might get one here too. It hasn't been open for a very long time, so being on the Bib Gourmand list is good enough at this point. The queues aren't as crazy as when it first opened, so I'm quite worried the award will revive the queues again. I enjoy the shoyu ramen with the truffle topping.
MARKETING EXECUTIVE GERALD KOH, 32, who is not surprised to hear that ramen shop Tsuta made the cut for the Bib Gourmand
He says: "I am very surprised. I opened the restaurant because I wanted to make customers happy and share the true flavours of Japanese eel with them. I never thought I'd get an award."
Mr Brian Chua, 36, chief executive of Tsuta Global, says: "I'm very surprised because it is still a new restaurant. We're happy to replicate the success the brand has in Japan."
The brand has been expanding quickly, with a new outlet opening in Taiwan in April, followed by another in Hong Kong last month. There are plans for more overseas outlets as well as new items on the menu.
Although Holland Drive Market & Food Centre was closed for cleaning when The Straits Times visited New Lucky Claypot Rice, its secondgeneration owner Edmund Choong was at the stall sprucing up the space. The stall reopens today.
Mr Choong, 35, says: "I'm excited and expect a long queue over the weekend. I hope more people will come and try our rice."
His signature dishes are claypot chicken rice and claypot wu wei (five flavours) rice, and the average wait is about one hour.
Over at Ah Er Soup, owner Chen Hua Qiang, 50, and his wife Qu Fa Di, 46, were busy preparing soup before the stall opened. Its bestsellers are lotus root with peanut and pork ribs soup and watercress pork ribs soup.
Ms Qu says in Mandarin: "We are happy and surprised by the award. Our hope is that every customer likes our food."
Construction worker Peng You Shen, 57, a loyal customer of Ah Er Soup for the past two years, says in Mandarin: "When I'm tired, I order the herbal ginseng black chicken soup as it gives me energy. Otherwise, I order the lotus root or watercress soup. I'm not worried about the queues now, but I'm not sure about later."
The mood was sombre for those which were not listed this year.
The Fishball Story owner Douglas Ng, 26, was not aware that his stall had been dropped from the list when The Straits Times called him.
He says: "I didn't have high hopes this year because they (Michelin) might be looking for something fresh instead.
"Things didn't really change a lot for me after getting on the Bib Gourmand list last year. People in Singapore have their favourites, so I will still get my regulars. I did get more tourists because they may not know where to dine in Singapore. So the Michelin Guide caters to them more."
He has been busy with his new outlet at Geylang Lorong 28, which opened two weeks ago. He is also looking to open in malls and heartland locations.
JB Ah Meng's Wong Fong, better known to diners as Ah Meng, says in Mandarin: "I'm disappointed, but friends have been telling me that I may be in the running for a Michelin star. But I'm not going to speculate and we'll have to wait till next week to find out. But whether I get anything or not, it's okay."
While it was business as usual at the stalls and restaurants, foodies were abuzz over the choices this year. The Bib Gourmand is awarded to places that serve quality food at affordable prices. In Singapore, the meals must cost no more than $45.
Commenting on the list this year, engineer Fred Ho, 48, says: "I was hoping more hawkers would make it on the list and am very surprised that JB Ah Meng didn't make it.
"I do agree that Man Man Unagi Restaurant deserves the Bib Gourmand recognition - it's one of the few restaurants I'm willing to queue at.
"I haven't made it through last year's list and now there're so many more to try."
The Bib Gourmand 2017
• Bar-Roque Grill, 01-00, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road
• Ka-Soh Restaurant, 2 College Road
• Kok Sen Restaurant, 30 Keong Saik Road
• Lagnaa, 6 Upper Dickson Road
• Liao Fan Hawker Chan, 78 Smith Street
• Man Man Unagi Restaurant, 01-01, 1 Keong Saik Road
•New Ubin Seafood, Level 6, 63 Hillview Avenue
•Peony Jade at Keppel Club, 10 Bukit Chermin Road
• Shish Mahal, 01-20 Village Hotel Albert Court, 180 Albert Street
• Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, 01-01, 11 New Bridge Road
• The Blue Ginger, 97 Tanjong Pagar Road
• 328 Katong Laksa (Joo Chiat), 51 East Coast Road
• Shirokane Tori-Tama, 01-02 Robertson Walk, 11 Unity Street
• True Blue Cuisine, 47/49 Armenian Street
• Tsuta (Pacific Plaza), 01-01 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road
• Whole Earth, 76 Peck Seah Street
• Yhingthai Palace, 01-04, 36 Purvis Street
• Zaffron Kitchen, 135/137 East Coast Road
FOOD CENTRES AND COFFEE SHOPS
• A Noodle Story, 01-39 Amoy Street Food Centre
• Alliance Seafood, 01-27 Newton Circus Food Centre
• Ah Er Soup, 01-141 ABC Brickworks Food Centre
• Balestier Road Hoover Rojak, 01-06 Whampoa Makan Place
• Bismillah Biryani, 50 Dunlop Street
• Chey Sua Carrot Cake, 02-30 Toa Payoh West Market and Food Court
• Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa, 01-75 Alexandra Village Food Centre
• Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa, 02-66 Hong Lim Market & Food Centre
• Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee, 02-01 Tiong Bahru Market
• Hong Kee Beef Noodle, 01-42 Amoy Street Food Centre
• Hoo Kee Bak Chang, 01-18 Amoy Street Food Centre
• J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff, 01-21 Amoy Street Food Centre
• Liang Zhao Ji, 01-07 Whampoa Makan Place
• Na Na Homemade Curry, 01-47 Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre
• New Lucky Claypot Rice, 02-19 Holland Drive Market & Food Centre
• Shi Hui Yuan, 02-33 Mei Ling Food Centre
• Sin Huat Eating House, 659/661 Lorong 35 Geylang
• Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, 01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre
• Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, 02-82 Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre
• Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, 01-205, 253 Jurong East Street 24