My Singapore: Zina Alam of Khana Commune

Foodies love Singapore. This is no secret. “The multiculturalism of local food, the ready availability of international cuisine and styles, and their wide range in prices to fit all budgets at all times of the day and year” helps makes this city-state a paradise for those who live to eat.

But, the growth of supper clubs in Singapore? As far as I know, this is one of the island’s closely guarded secrets. Zina Alam of Khana Commune, the city’s first supper club, celebrates the anti-restaurant movement in Singapore. Every other week, she invites 14 food-lovers into her home for a delicious, elaborate five- to seven-course meal.

Born in Singapore, Zina left to study in the UK and then worked in London, Cairo and Dhaka before returning home. With Khana Commune, she hopes to kickstart the underground dining movement here and bring back a love for traditional home cooking. “My passion for food comes from extensive travel and, more importantly, eating home cooked food by the best chef in my life, my mother,” Zina says. “She is an incredible cook and inspires me every day.”

I’m quite delighted to welcome Zina to notabilia to share her Singapore with you!

Must-eats?

Buko Nero
Buko Nero, a small, trattoria-style restaurant serving Italian-Asian fusion cuisine is run by a husband and wife team and I’ve eaten there numerous times. The food is always delicious and the menu often changes. It is a small establishment and so what I love most is the service. Once, when I didn’t like what I had ordered, the proprietor promptly struck off part of my bill in compensation. It’s small gestures like this that keep me coming back. Not many restaurants offer this kind of personal attention to guests. I suppose it is the closest thing to a supper club that a commercial restaurant can get!

Smok’Inn Frogz
This hawker-esque joint in Bukit Timah recently added a new item to their menu: tiger prawn aglio olio. I have gone back twice or thrice already! I love the simplicity of this dish and it is very difficult to find someone in Singapore who does it well. Smok’Inn Frogz does a great job. It’s not too oily, has the perfect amount of spice, and the prawns are cooked to perfection. I ask for it extra spicy, of course, but I have a stomach of steel.

Bollywood Veggies
Singapore doesn’t have a lot of eccentric people, but Bollywood Veggies, a farm, is run by one. I love getting a good dose of the owner, Ivy, each time I visit. The food is decent, but the farm itself is the bigger draw. It has every imaginable vegetable you can imagine and it’s easy to forget you’re in Singapore. They do a nice otak omelette.

Must-shops?

I buy all my clothes at Stevie General Store. They sell vintage clothing sourced from around the world and the owners know exactly what suits me. Vintage clothing does not have to be frumpy or old, nor do you need the ‘perfect’ personality for it. I am a lazy shopper and greatly appreciate someone picking out what they think I’ll look good in and the owners have a great eye. I go in and immediately they bring out a handful of items I eventually end up purchasing! Their personal service, great collection, and affordable prices mean I have hardly bought clothing from anywhere else recently.

Must-dos?

GOHD Books is a bookstore currently run out of a home in Pasir Panjang. I like to support anyone running their own independent book business in Singapore; these establishments are dying out too fast! They might move into a commercial space later this year, but for now they run by appointment.

I’ve been buying second-hand books from Ana Bookstore since I was 14. I never, ever shop at Borders or Kinokuniya. The older a book, the more dog-eared, the better.

o o o o o

Need directions? Check out notabilia’s My Singapore guide!

Know a creative person who wants to share his or her must-stop spots with my readers? Please email all suggestions to me with the subject line ‘My Singapore.’

(Additional credits: Photographs by Zina Alam of Khana Commune. Used with permission.)

8 responses

  1. I’ve been to Stevie General Store! The owners are so cool and chatty, I love going in there. I bought a dress with sail boats on it and she told me she brought it back from Japan. Really amazing store! Heehee the underground movement of foodies meet-up sounds like Fight Club’s Operation Mayhem.

  2. I enjoy reading posts like this. There’s always a little part of Singapore that I never knew, be it a food establishment or a low-profile book store! Places like these are the true gems of retail here, in my opinion.

    On another note, I may wanna share some of my own stories too. :)

  3. Thank you for the lovely post. Marie, you can make a booking by emailing me at khanacommune@gmail.com. The blog has more details including upcoming dates and menus/pictures of previous dinners. Hope to see you all at my dining table soon (that includes you Pooja!) :)

  4. I went to Khana Commune last night. I have tested it, I loved it, and I will go back for more!

    Imagine a table of strangers: a half-Moroccan/half-Thai guest, two New Yorkers with Filipino roots, two British citizens, one Singaporean who lived in Dubai, one Australian with Filipino roots and me (a French-Swiss citizen). All different backgrounds, but with a common love for delicious food ;),

    It was awesome and we had a blast! Highly recommended.

  5. Thanks to your great introduction of Zina’s Khana Commune, I had a blast dining with a table of strangers at the burger commune! I have never knew about underground dining till your entry and I must say that I love the fact that you’re always introducing to us such great places and finds! :)