Mondrian Singapore Duxton has been knocking it out the park with its dining array. First there was Italian superstar Bottega di Carna, then Omakase delight Suzuki. Of the latest to join the expanding lineup is Modern Asian grill restaurant Tribal.



The first thing to note is how good it smells the moment you step in. Most culinary establishments specialising in fire-focused fare tend to waft smokey scents—which is personally nice too—, but here, the savoury fragrance of seasoned food is what effuses.

Seating is cave-y (sure, I could afford better adjective choices, but why not the most effective?), with earthy tones and intimate lighting. Wood for warmth, bricks for texture, and intentional Asian touches like the handwoven rattan by weaving atelier BYO Living are the elements you'll notice thanks to Indonesian architect and firm Andra Matin.

Besides the open kitchen counter centering the space, there's a connecting path to bar counterpart Slate. Together with tribal, it is among the three concepts stemmed from Ebb & Flow Group's online grocer Modern Provision. In other words, keep your eyes peeled.



Under Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Japanese and Thai influences, the communal-style dishes carry elements of these cuisines rather than directly lift and fuse preparation methods.

To get a sense of what Tribal has to offer, start with the classic Flatbread, a hearth-fired slab served with house-whipped bone marrow butter. One to open up the palate would be the Yellowtail Umai, cured slices in chickpea water dressing and kaffir lime, chilli and garlic accented oil, with sliced preserved tangerines and tomatoes. Think Ceviche, but Sarawakian.

The Fried Duck Neck come dusted in house spice blend, deep fried yet with no hint of grease, complementing perfectly with the dips. That, and the three variants of Indonesian-Malaysian Claypot Rice and Japanese Donabe hybrids which sport the same charred flair.

The menu is overall conscious, primarily organic or sourcing ethically from smaller scale farms. Sadly, we did not get to sample the beef, so let me know how that was when you do because that's purportedly the strength of the restaurant.

Of course beer would be the choice of beverage here but a cocktail that matches the vibe would be Yuz Want More. Essentially a High Ball crossed with a Bloody Mary, the spot of yuzu soy, togarashi and pickled tomato is lightly savoury.

How we feel about it in a gif

Make your reservations here.

There is this pervading sense that once you’ve had one omakase, you kinda had them all. I don’t speak for native Japanese, or self-proclaimed connoisseurs (ace a blind taste test and I’ll be convinced). It’s a sentiment observed and shared with the ground, and not necessarily a bad one.

After all, it is the epitome of premium Japanese produce expressed in time-honed tradition. Apart from seasonal offerings and rare creative deviance, the over thousand-year-old culinary craft is not liable to accommodate great change. As a consumer, neither would you want it to.

The gleeful anticipation of getting to sit down for one though, never fades. In bid to experience it all afresh once again, I invited my mother, frequent patron of sushi chains but rookie partaker of the higher art form, to join me on this adventure.



It’s no spoiler to reveal that the courses were served in pretty standard sequence. Your zensai, onmono, -insert number here- kinds of nigiri, etc. As expected, you can’t fault the cuts that come your way. It was almost déjà vu seeing a newcomer’s reaction to seared kinmedai exactly mirror mine years ago—sheer delight.

If anything, you’ll discover that each omakase takes its distinct style after the chef whom the restaurant bears its name. At risk of sounding like a painfully obvious statement, supplement it with this. Not only do chefs display skill taught by the particular regions they understudied at, all those years of influences both inside and outside the kitchen forms the type of menu they envision best to share with their guests.

Or as my life-giver so profoundly articulates, “It’s not like the sushi sushi.”


It’s always fun to be reintroduced to familiar dishes prepared in a different way. While not squeamish, my first acquaintance with shirako i.e. fish semen was less than impressive. Here at Suzuki, lightly scorched and bedded with spinach sauce, its texture was able to shine with the flavours.

Another unique dish was Chef Suzuki’s signature palate cleanser. Perhaps stemming from common childhood indoctrination to “eat your greens” or a personal penchant for a healthy diet, the unconventional maki of shiso and wasabi leaves with white radish wrapped in nori was simple and brilliant.

The Shizuoka-born chef, who moved to Kyoto at the age of 18 to train at three Michelin-starred Kikunoi, inherited a respect for simplicity from its owner and head chef. Lessons on focusing on the original character of ingredients and keeping seasonings to a minimum are principles he carried through his career up till the most recent stint as head chef at Ishi, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay.


Reflecting this regard for purity are the interiors. As you may be familiar, most of these esteemed establishments come in an intimate setting. It’s no different at Suzuki, save the thoughtful designs by renowned Tokyo-based architect Kengo Kuma, whose work here marks his debut in a commercial project in Singapore.


Daylight filtered through Kyoto bamboo weaved along the full-height glass allow for a relaxed seating than an otherwise dark and intimidating environment. This is matched with a petite courtyard garden centering the restaurant, complete with faux skylight overhead, which was a surprise to learn given how natural it looked.

The fountain within is made from a solid piece of Nagano stone, and the pebbles surrounding the kakehi water feature are collected from Gifu, allegedly millions of years old. The largest however, would be the 600kg ancient plinth from the same region that serves as the reception desk you see at the entrance. Statement piece indeed.

Of the private rooms encountered thus far, the one here is certainly a choice. As the chef’s backdrop from where guests face, bottom panelled glass discloses an odd, below-the-knee peek at diners inside. Hello, foot fetish. Still, the half scrim is made of washi paper, and every single piece of furnishing in the restaurant is either bespoke or handmade.

Cloth napkins embroidered in hiragana by celebrated Kyoto-based calligrapher Tomoko Kawao. Antique soup bowls and classic modern birch chairs Kuma first created for Tokyo’s Nezu Museum café. All these curated touchpoints together with quality Japanese cuisine make a nice rendezvous that any beginner can appreciate.

Suzuki is located at 83 Neil Road, #01-09 Mondrian Hotel Singapore.

Intoxicating interiors at Christina's in the Mondrian Singapore.

I recently had a suit made at Marlo Bespoke on Club Street. Wanting to do something uniquely Singaporean, I decided to juxtapose a cloth that reflected this city’s position as a financial hub—banker-style navy pinstripes—with a vibrant tropical-motif lining, a nod to Singapore’s ‘garden city’ status.

The idea was to sartorially balance business and pleasure, sobriety and whimsy. I’m far from the first to have had this thought. Vishal Advani, managing director of Officine Paladino, the Singaporean cloth merchants responsible for the bold bird-emblazoned internal fabric I selected, says his range of splashy graphic linings have proven to be a tremendous success.

A bold lining from Officine Paladino at Marlo Bespoke.

“We wanted to give sartorial enthusiasts a way to express their individuality and their passions, whether that be golf, fishing or tennis, travel, automobiles or cryptocurrency, whatever the case may be,” Advani says. “It’s an opportunity they’ve really embraced—sales of our more outré designs have been brisk.”

In addition to its Italian-made viscose linings, Officine Paladino also traffics in an array of audacious suiting cloths, for those who fancy a more overt expression of maximalism. “Being from Singapore and dealing with a lot of tailors around Southeast Asia, we take inspiration from the situations and people around us,” Advani says. “In this environment, colour and pattern just come naturally.”

Shinta Mani Angkor's lobby

That’s a statement prominent hotel interior designer Bill Bensley would most certainly agree with. Since establishing his studio in Bangkok in 1989, Bensley says, “I have evolved into a serious maximalist. My personal taste craves layer upon layer of quirkiness and colour.”

Arguably the leading name in sustainable hospitality design today, Bensley (who was initially trained in landscape architecture) may seek maximum impact visually, but he always aims for minimal impact environmentally. His own Shinta Mani Wild luxury eco-resort in the jungles of Cambodia was built without cutting down a single tree, and at sibling property Shinta Mani Angkor in Siem Reap, greenery is just as important a part of the décor as the plush furnishings and glitzy fittings.

Shinta Mani Angkor's pool villa.

“Many of our projects are in lush, tropical places, and over the years tropical maximalism has become a way of life, especially in terms of gardens. This climate lends itself so easily to gorgeous, overflowing gardens,” Bensley says. “And being a landscape architect, one must always put nature first—the architecture and interiors follow.”

In building an urban Bangkok outpost of her family’s Chiang Mai luxury resort, 137 Pillars, Nida ‘Natty’ Wongphanlert referenced elements of the original property’s heritage aesthetic, traditional handcrafted touches and verdant setting within the new high-rise hotel. “We didn’t consider a minimalistic approach for our property,” she says. Instead, the goal was to provide guests with “a visually stunning and memorable experience,” Wongphanlert says, “combining boldness and elegance.”

At 137 Pillars BKK, Jack Bain's Bar

She explains, “We utilised luxurious materials such as marble, silk, and brass finishes. We integrated authentic Thai elements, like Jim Thompson curtains and pillow cases, to pay homage to local craftsmanship. To add warmth and depth, we incorporated dark, rich wooden tones along with a navy colour palette, as well as small areas of strong contrasting colours, such as red, and decorative ornaments like our elephant lamps.”

The overall effect could best be described as ‘tastefully maximalist’. “Material selection was incredibly important, aiming for a luxurious feel while incorporating local design in a modern and sophisticated manner,” Wongphanlert says. “Additionally, we wanted to showcase the works of local artists throughout the property, immersing guests in the vibrant local art scene.”

At 137 Pillars BKK, the hotel lobby

Eye-catching art is a core element of the lavish tableaux created at Singapore’s new Mondrian Duxton hotel by US-based interior designer, Robbyn Carter. She reckons the secret to crafting a maximalist space that bursts with visual interest, without warping the viewer’s mind, lies in “meticulous curation and intentional composition.”

Carter says, “While it may appear chaotic, each element should have a purpose and place within the design. I ensure that there’s a unifying theme or colour palette that threads through the space, anchoring it and preventing it from feeling disjointed.” Success lies in thoughtfully layering textures, patterns and colours to maintain a harmonious balance, she suggests.

“Ultimately, it’s about orchestrating controlled chaos, where every element contributes to the overall narrative, resulting in a vibrant and captivating space that never overwhelms, but continually surprises and delights,” Carter advises. Just as the layout of these magazine pages tempers rather hectic images with plenty of serene white emptiness, Carter says expertly executed maximalist design provides “areas of negative space that allow the eye to rest, preventing sensory overload.”

Nouri's picture-perfect narezushi

Chef Ivan Brehm of Michelin-starred Nouri restaurant is responsible for some of Singapore’s most visually stimulating cuisine. (It tends to taste pretty good, too.) Asked how he manages to create dishes that are aesthetically impactful, without being overly fussy or bombastic, he replies, “Obviously that’s the golden ratio, isn’t it? If it was easy, everybody’d be doing it. For me, content—the substance of what you’re doing—leads the way.”

In crafting a meal that is a visual feast and yet, aesthetically balanced, he says, “When done correctly, all of the elements are there to promote a particular idea; they are very much in agreement with one another.” Doing maximalism well requires you to ask yourself, “Are all the elements purposeful? Are they there for a reason? Are they driving a singular message in what you’re trying to express?” Picture perfect as his creations may be, Brehm decries our Insta-driven obsession with the look of food, reminding us that while the eyes eat first, it’s our tastebuds and gullets that savour a dish’s deeper beauty.

An international, multicultural melange he describes as ‘crossroads cuisine,’ Brehm’s cooking is difficult to pin down or categorise. This Brazilian with a German surname is inspired by the cacophony of colours and flavours, sights and sounds, spiritualities and philosophies, of the Mediterranean and North Africa, the Middle East and India, Europe and Scandinavia, South America and Southeast Asia, and beyond.

“When cultures interact, the tendency is for some form of aggregate to take place, which manifests visually, religiously, musically—all of those things start to become more complex,” Brehm says. “And the result is greater than the sum of its parts.” In Brehm’s view, it is the clash of opposing forces and the friction between different approaches that creates something of singular beauty.

“Every movement starts in opposition to another, and it’s because of that opposition that each moves forward,” he says. In much the same way that there can be no light without darkness, maximalism only exists in contrast to minimalism. Yet despite their stark differences, the two ends of the spectrum actually have much in common.

“It’s like a snake eating its own tail,” Brehm says. He gives the example of the type of severe, ascetic, unadorned churches designed by architects like Tadao Ando and John Pawson. “Those spaces are totally overwhelming,” he says. “What could be more maximalist than that?”