Celebrity and French Michelin- starred chef Guy Savoy's eponymous restaurant at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) will close on Feb 3, and opening in its place will be a casual offshoot of award-winning Thai restaurant Nahm in Bangkok.
Guy Savoy, located at the integrated resort's atrium Level 2, opened in 2010 to much fanfare, but it is believed that business had not been as good as expected.
Australian chef-restaurateur David Thompson, who is behind Nahm, will be opening Long Chim at the space. It will be a casual restaurant offering "simple street food made with the best of ingredients and careful techniques" and served in a "more salubrious environment than the pavements of Bangkok".
Long Chim in Thai means "to come and eat". The chef says: "It will be casual and easy-going, unlike the more formal dining experience offered at Nahm."
The deal to take over the space currently occupied by Guy Savoy took place about three months ago.
Long Chim is expected to open in June or July. The restaurant's interior will be designed by New York-based firm AvroKo, which also designed steakhouse Bedrock Bar & Grill at the Pan Pacific Serviced Suites and Spanish restaurant Catalunya at The Fullerton Pavilion.
Thompson is best known for earning a Michelin star for Nahm in London, which opened in 2001. The restaurant, located at Halkin hotel, closed last year. It was the first Thai restaurant to be awarded a star. He was also behind restaurant Sailor's Bay Thai at The Rocks in Sydney.
He opened Nahm in Bangkok, where he is now based, in 2010.
Last year, his Bangkok restaurant was ranked No. 32 on the much-watched World's 50 Best Restaurants list and No. 3 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. Both lists are put out by British trade publication Restaurant Magazine.
On why he did not want to open another Nahm here, he says: "Nahm is unique and can be done only in Thailand. Even though I have run similar restaurants in London and Australia, opening Nahm in Bangkok made me realise it's the only place where I can operate a restaurant of this nature.
"Street food, however, is by definition far more accessible, transportable and affordable. It is a logical choice for any overseas venture."
Heading the restaurant here will be chef Matthew Albert, who has worked with Thompson for "over a decade". Thompson will also be here often.
Diners can expect "good street food that you would find anywhere in Bangkok". These include dishes such as charred rice noodles with chicken, squid and Asian celery; robust curries; grilled pork; green papaya salad and sticky rice; duck and pork roasted over wood and served with jasmine rice; and spicy grilled mussels.
Prices will be "affordable". Thompson says he has been wanting to open in Singapore "for a while" and had also been eyeing opportunities in Hong Kong.
"Singapore has a very vibrant dining scene and is very much a food mecca. I hope to add to the dining scene here."
After Long Chim opens, he plans to take the concept to Hong Kong and elsewhere around the world.
But restaurateurs here caution that restaurants, run by celebrity chefs or not, are not immune to the effects of labour shortages, less-than-optimal productivity levels and competition, among others.
Celebrity chef restaurants that have closed include Kunio, a high-end restaurant opened by Michelin-starred Kunio Tokuoka at Resorts World Sentosa, in 2011; and Santi, by the late three-Michelin-starred Spanish chef Santi Santamaria, which closed last year.
Food and beverage consultant Peter Knipp says: "Nobody is immune. Is it a question of too many restaurants? Is it a question of pricing? I can't answer that. But it is very sad that such an accomplished chef is closing his restaurant here."
Restaurateurs say the dining scene here is cut-throat competitive.
Mr Ignatius Chan, who owns Iggy's, a modern European restaurant at Hilton Singapore, says: "My challenges are high operating costs such as cost of goods, rental and maintenance."
He adds that Singapore is a very sophisticated, small and competitive market, with an abundance of restaurants.
Andre Chiang, chef-owner of high-end nouvelle French establishment Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh, adds: "We all know that over the past few years, restaurants here have been opening at a very fast pace. The new ideas and concepts are good, but it is after one or two years that we begin to see what works out. It's a healthy circle.
"But I think what people are looking for now is a close, intimate relationship with restaurants. Being a good restaurant these days is not enough."
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