Arts & CultureFeaturedTravel

Singapore Tourism Board brings the Lion City’s most remarkable flavors to Manila through limited collaboration with Chefs Daniel Sia, Nicco Santos, and Quenee Villar 

MAKATI, PHILIPPINES — It almost isn’t fair to have this much flavor on one table. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently hosted a collaboration between Chef Daniel Sia of Singapore’s The Coconut Club and Chefs Nicco Santos and Quenee Villar of Sambar, infusing each establishment’s signature flavors into bold new dish pairings. The limited event, organized by STB in cooperation with the Asian Culinary Exchange, was held on October 21 at Chefs Nicco’s and Quenee’s Café Aurora in Pacific Star Building, Makati City. 

Chef Daniel earned his first Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2018 for The Coconut Club’s Nasi Lemak, with the establishment being included in the Michelin Bib Gourmand Lists twice more in 2021 and 2023. His signature Nasi Lemak is made with a special coconut milk blend, using a variety of coconuts sourced from a family-owned plantation. 

“Coconut milk has always been the key ingredient to unlocking the flavors of our Nasi Lemak,” Chef Daniel said. “Through this convergence of flavors and textures, I believe diners can literally taste the unique diversity Singaporean cuisine has to offer.” 


Adding to this convergence of flavors are Chefs Nicco’s and Quenee’s own takes on Southeast Asian cuisine, through their delivery-focused concept, Sambar. The pair are familiar faces in the local casual dining scene; Chef Nicco made his debut with Your Local, one of Makati’s best Asian fusion restaurants, before teaming up with Chef Quenee on Peranakan establishment Hey Handsome and Sambar. 

The opportunity to tie up with Singapore’s Chef Daniel was too good for the two to pass up, given how the country’s robust food culture has always lent itself to discovery and experimentation. “Singaporean cuisine always brings a wide range of flavors together in one meal,” said Chef Nicco. 

The collaboration was sterling proof of that. The Coconut Club’s balanced, aromatic Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken paired perfectly with Sambar’s creamy Shirodai and Coconut Crudo, which brought brightness to the palate with its use of soured coconut cream and kale. The pairing was just one of five set menus made available to diners throughout the day; The Coconut Club also served their Nasi Lemak with an incredibly tender Beef Rendang, to go with Sambar’s Sakura Ebi and Banana Blossom Kerabu.  

Other pairings in the collaboration were Sambar’s Nasi Sambar with Fried Duck and The Coconut Club’s Prawn and Green Bean Kerabu, and Sambar’s Nasi Sambar with Prawn Satay & Pork Ribs and The Coconut Club’s Gohu Ikan. adobo Magazine ordered the event’s hottest pairing: a Laksa Lemak with Lobster Tail from Sambar, and a Sambal Timun from The Coconut Club. 

This writer started his meal with a Jamu Sour, a delightful cocktail that invigorates whiskey with the heat of ginger, before mellowing out with earthier notes of turmeric towards a more floral finish. A few shakes with egg white gives the cocktail a slight creaminess that harmonizes the flavors beautifully. 

The drink was followed by several small bites shared by the table: a joyfully chewy Roti Jala served with a full-flavored curry dip; a Kueh Pie Tee that delights with its mix of textures, wrapping chopped prawn and egg in a crunchy black rice wafer; and a Laap Puri that balanced its more indulgent blend of creamy potatoes and umami chicken with the freshness of mint. 

The main course was, in many ways, an experience unto itself. The Sambal Timun was served first, and immediately caught this writer’s attention with its spice level—this was not for the weak of tongue, but in the best way. The heat of Chef Daniel’s sauce opens up the taste buds for all the other flavors the dish brings to the table, from the sheer umami of the thinly sliced pork rolls to the pleasant gaminess of the chicken gizzard slivers. Stalks of green onion provide a punch that awakens the nose, while slices of cucumber tame the tempest of bold flavors, creating a powerful, though not overwhelming, experience on the palate. 

It paired wonderfully with Sambar’s eye-catching Laksa Lemak, which drew oohs and aahs from other diners with a full lobster tail peeking out from underneath the rich, hearty broth. Sambar’s take on laksa is less lemongrass-forward, opting instead to let its curry spices and seafood flavors take the spotlight as they coat the palate. The bouncy QQ noodles provide a delightful bite to the dish, while the sweetness of the lobster balances everything out. 

While the Sambal Timun was a welcome jolt, the Laksa Lemak was pure comfort food, and the interplay between the two dishes created a full-on sensory experience from bouquet to mouthfeel. Rather than clash, the intense flavors of each dish complemented each other in a way that alternating bites only made diners want more.  

In many ways, this collaboration between The Coconut Club and Sambar epitomized what Singaporean cuisine is all about: passion made possible through the harmonization of diverse flavors. It was clear that the three chefs brought out the best in each other, each one driven to deliver at a high level what Southeast Asian food means to them. 

STB will be writing another love letter to Singaporean cuisine through its upcoming partnership with Grand Hyatt Manila in November. Two of Singapore’s most sought-after Michelin-starred chefs, Chef Rishi Naleendra of Cloudstreet, and Chef Mano Thevar of Thevar, will be bringing their own cross-cultural offerings to Manila. And if the collaboration between The Coconut Club and Sambar is any indication of the dining experience STB aims to create with these two chefs, Filipino diners can expect nothing short of fireworks on their plates. 

Get updates on the Singapore Tourism Board’s upcoming dining events by following STB on Facebook.  

Partner with adobo Magazine

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button