New places to break fast

File Photo: Satay from 1 Market by Chef Wan at Plaza Singapura.

The holy month of Ramadan begins on July 10 and Muslims can break their fast at a slew of new halal restaurants serving a range of cuisines. They include Western fare from Le Steak in Jalan Kayu, Chinese Muslim dishes from Mak's Place in Changi Road, Mediterranean cuisine from La Paella in North Bridge Road and modern European food from J's Restaurant in Purvis Street. Other older halal restaurants serving non-Malay cuisines include Fika Swedish Cafe & Bistro at Millenia Walk and in Beach Road; Shabu Sushi at Nex mall in Serangoon Central and Tiffany Cafe and Restaurant at Furama City Centre. Buffet restaurant 1 Market by Chef Wan at Plaza Singapura, as well as Pu3 in Bencoolen Street, will still whip up signature Malay dishes for the community. These add to hotel restaurants such as Carousel at Royal Plaza On Scotts and Straits Kitchen at Grand Hyatt Singapore that have become perennial favourites over the years for their special buffet spreads prepared by guest chefs. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn until dusk during the annual fasting month. The day begins with a pre-dawn meal, or sahur, at about 5am, and ends with a meal at dusk, after prayers. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the celebration which marks the end of the fasting period. It falls on Aug 8 this year.Western eatery Le Steak opened four months ago and its chef-consultant Amri Abdul Azim, 36, is looking to expose the Malay community here to more Western cuisine. Le Steak's menu highlights include wagyu steak, crispy prawn salad and braised short ribs. Weekend specials include freshly shucked oysters, Tasmanian mussels, caviar and sea urchin when it is available. To keep the flavours as authentic as possible, apple cider is used instead of wine in the dishes. Chef Amri is a familiar face in the Malay community: He has made appearances on Suria channel and conducts cooking classes at community centres and Cold Storage. He says: "I want to promote affordable premium products to my community and educate people on dishes that are considered fairly new to the Malay market. They can get the opportunity to try it at a halal restaurant, without burning a hole in their pocket." He notes an increase in Malay diners eating out during the Ramadan season to minimise cooking at home. But he chose to not do a buffet spread. Instead, diners can have free flow of bread and soup and choose a main course. He says: "How much can you really eat at a buffet? Many people always eat until they are bloated."Over at J's Restaurant in Purvis Street, the focus is on its a la carte menu, with the addition of dates and tea for diners to break their fast. This is the outlet's first year as a halal-certified restaurant and its spokesman says that it has received inquiries since early last month. It is also the first Ramadan for 450-seat buffet restaurant 1 Market by Chef Wan.The flamboyant Malaysian chef, Redzuawan Ismail, will bump up the buffet spread with new items such as fish head curry and braised beef with coconut paste. A fan of the convivial chef is housewife Nur Hidayah Karim, 47, who plans to dine at 1Market during the Ramadan period. She says: "I haven't eaten at his restaurant yet because I wanted my first time to be during Ramadan. "It will be more special and I can have my friends and family with me. It will be my day off, so I won't have to cook." For younger diners, Ramadan specials at new restaurants are an opportunity for them to try new dishes. Student Ramli Ahmad, 19, says: "I love Malay food, but it's also fun to try halal versions of Western and Spanish dishes."I have never tried a paella before, so hopefully my parents can take me to try one."