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Upper Thomson Road
Photograph: Good Migrations

The best hidden food gems in Thomson

Alternative joints to satisfy those post-hike hunger pangs

Cheryl Sekkappan
Pailin Boonlong
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan
&
Pailin Boonlong
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The leafy Thomson neighhourhood is blessed with beautiful nature trails that skirt some of Singapore's most scenic reservoirs. It's no wonder that the place attracts runners, hikers, kayakers, and nature lovers from all corners of Singapore.

All that exercising and time in the sun is bound to make anyone hungry. So, the next time you're exploring nature gems like MacRitchie Reservoir, Upper Peirce Reservoir, or Lower Peirce Reservoir – don't forget that Thomson is also full of food gems. We know the favourites like Casuarina Curry, The Roti Prata House, and One Man Coffee. But when those get crowded, here are the hidden food gems to head for. 

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants and stalls for nasi lemak in Singapore and The best rock climbing and bouldering gyms in Singapore

  • Restaurants
  • Ang Mo Kio

It's a different kind of smoke sesh at Social Smoker, an American BBQ smokehouse in Sembawang Hills Estate. Come here with an appetite, because large cuts of artisanal wood-smoked meat platters are on the menu, comprising USDA beef brisket, St. Louis pork ribs, smoked chicken leg, and more. You can have the meat stuffed into sandwiches and tacos too. Hearty sides include mac and cheese, cream spinach, and sweet slaw. Top it all off with a refreshing pint of craft beer.

TRY Feed yourself and one other with the OG Platter ($68), which comes with melt-in-your-mouth beef briskets, pulled pork, three sides of your choice and some tart house pickles. Sides-wise, we're partial to the mapled sprouts ($10) and corn bread bibingka ($5/slice). 

Nummun Thai Kitchen
Photograph: Nummun Thai Kitchen

Nummun Thai Kitchen

There’s a number of quality Thai restaurants scattered all around Singapore, but it’s Numnum Thai Kitchen that’s a well-kept secret of the Upper Thomson residents. True to Thai cooking, this casual eatery in Thomson Imperial Court is known for its unabashed use of flavours. There isn’t a particular standout dish, but the menu has all our favourites, from tom yum soup ($12) to mango sticky rice ($6). 

TRY It’s the khai jiaow that has a particular oomph to it. At $28, this fluffy omelette isn’t cheap but it uses real crab meat – none of the imitation crab sticks that a few other restaurants might rely on.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Bishan

What's a place called Serangoon BBQ & Curry doing in a list about food gems in Thomson? Well, this humble little hawker stall used to be in Serangoon (it first opened in 1983) but has since made the move to Sin Ming Road where it continues to serve up delicious nasi padang. Expect perfectly seasoned and perfectly barbecued mains – chicken leg, squid, fish – and a bevy of excellent side dishes that will have you struggling to decide. 

TRY The signature BBQ chicken ($5) which comes on a bed of butterfly pea rice and two side dishes. We like the begedil, achar and curry vegetables. 

Belo Café
  • Restaurants
  • Pan-Asian
  • Bishan
  • price 1 of 4

In recent years, a sprawl of cafés have burst onto the Upper Thomson stretch. Belo Café is one of them, but has proven to be a regular for café-hopping folks to revisit time and time again. It's quite the cosy setup, with pastel green panels and industrial-style lights. While the space does get filled up during weekends, you won't see snaking queues or have to go through one-hour wait times like at nearby One Man Coffee or Columbus Coffee.

TRY While they dole out brunch classics like a parma ham croissant ($22) and butterscotch French toast ($17), the evening menu is a classier lineup of plated mains. The slow-cooked lamb shank ($25) is a hearty choice, served with a side of buttery mash.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Bishan

This friendly neighbourhood café will have even the non-vegans coming back. WellSmoocht, which some of you might know from its Brownice days, keeps to its original ethos of "plant-based goodness" with a wholesome and entirely vegan menu. Visit its kitschy space in the quiet Sin Ming neighbourhood to enjoy a full spread of salads, sandwiches, tacos, pizzas, hearty mains, and desserts – everything is helpfully labelled so you know what is allium, gluten or nut-free. 

TRY The Smoocht Classic Lasagne ($18.50) is a favourite, and its delightful ice cream flavours will send the lactose intolerant into raptures. We recommend having the ice cream on top of WellSmoocht's popular waffles too. 

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bishan
  • price 2 of 4

Some of the best steakhouses in Singapore are classically American, with hefty T-bones and prime ribs. At Rubicon Steak House though, it's a decidedly Japanese joint – Hokkaido steaks (from $59) are the easy favourite, with cuts like tenderloin, sirloin, and ribeye. It comes with a side salad and fries, but you can also choose to add luxe toppings like foie gras ($12) or fried garlic ($2) for a textural crunch.

TRY Besides the Hokkaido steak, the menu features other Japanese dishes like a Japanese beef curry ($19.80) and beef hamburg (from $19.80).

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Buta Kin
Photograph: Buta Kin

Buta Kin

Tucked along Sin Ming Road is this unassuming ramen joint, Buta Kin. When a bowl of ramen starts at just $5.50 – you can see why it's a go-to in the area. Affordable prices aside, many enjoy the viscously rich broth that has been simmering for hours. The slices of chashu (pork) are also delightfully chunky and have an appetising char to each.

TRY The aptly-named Special Black Ramen ($8.90) which has a black garlic oil tonkotsu base. It comes with a generous heap of chashu, spring onions, and black fungus as well as an ajitsuke tamago, an oozy ramen egg.

  • Restaurants
  • Bishan

Mr. Bucket Chocolaterie is a wonderland of Asian chocolates. We say that because its founder Jerome Penafort has made it a point to source cocoa beans from Malaysia, Vietnam, and more in the region. His aim was to showcase the taste and quality of regional cocoa, which you can savour in the likes of the malty 45% Milk Sungai Ruan or tart 80% Dark Anaimalai. Mr. Bucket Chocolaterie also has a full menu of bon bons, chocolate bars, drinking chocolate, and chocolate liqueur – all made from regional cocoa – so go crazy. 

TRY The bon bons (from $19 for six) are a must-try. They come in delightful Asian-inspired flavours, including salted egg yolk, spicy mala and double soy caramel. 

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Xiang Taiwanese Desserts and Food
Photograph: Xiang Taiwanese Desserts and Food

Xiang Taiwanese Desserts and Food

As far as fried chicken goes, Taiwanese fried chicken is a constant winner in our eyes. And that's why so many head over to Xiang Taiwanese Desserts and Food. It's a no-frills casual eatery but they do up a tasty chicken chop ($8.80 with rice) that's equally crispy and tender. Some even claim that it's better than a few fried chicken specialty kiosks that they've tried in Taiwan. 

TRY The lu rou fan (braised pork rice, $7.80) since it's a classic Taiwanese dish and you can use it to gauge if the menu is to your tastebuds. Otherwise, they also have dan dan noodles ($6.80) and a drunken chicken set ($8.80).

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