Hubert Burda Media

Norman Hartono: My Favourite Things

The third-generation restaurateur of Tung Lok shares his top dining spots and more.

You’ve lived in the US for a number of years so where are your favourite places to dine with friends?

In the States, it would be the Boiling Crab or The Kickin’ Crab, which is where I found the idea for Dancing Crab from in California. Or we’ll go to different food trucks. I’d say 20 percent are worth trying so we’ll try to hunt these down. We’ll drive around California to a few places to find them or we follow their Twitter feeds. On every first Friday of the month, on Venice beach, they have a food truck fair where they get all the food trucks there to sell food.

Other places would be Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. If I lived in New Orleans, I’d go there all the time. It’s one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It’s a real American restaurant experience and in fact, we got a lot of inspiration from there for Dancing Crab too.

What about in Singapore?

In Singapore, I love Luke’s Oyster Bar. It’s a similar concept but they’re a bit more upscale. It’s also nice to see American fine dining because there’s a casual element to it. I like these kinds of restaurants.

What about a favourite chill-out place?

Third & Sixth on Seah Street. It’s my friend’s bar so I’m there almost every Friday. If not, I’ll make it up on Saturday, so I’m there at least once a week. I know everyone that goes there. It’s like that TV show, Cheers. You walk into the bar and you know everyone and everyone knows you. I’m glad I found a regular spot.

Do you have a favourite cuisine?

I don’t have any particular favourite because I favour dishes from many different cuisines. There’s no one cuisine that I can say is the best. I think there are great dishes in every cuisine to be found.

What about a favourite local dish?

Lor mee. And a lot of other noodles like lor mee, bak chor mee, yellow mee with Laksa, fishball noodles…

Any specific place for your local food fix?

For lor mee, it’d be Tiong Bahru Market. For laksa, it’ll be Katong. For bak chor mee, anywhere really. It’s hard to get wrong. Once in a while, I’ll get chicken rice. I don’t really crave it all the time but when I do, I really crave it. Just that one plate at Boon Tong Kee is enough to satisfy me.

Do you have any favourite travel destinations?

I go to Bali quite a bit. And every time I go back, I discover something new. It’s just a place that never disappoints. People are down to earth. It’s very third world yet it feels safe and comfortable, it’s not something you feel in other third-world countries.

Any others?

LA. It’s my second home. I don’t go back as much as I should because it’s a long flight. It’s usually a long commitment if I want to go there but I’m trying to go at the end of the year.

Pick up our Prestige Singapore October 2016 issue for our cover story with Norman Hartono