Crazy Rich Asians — the new flirty, feisty, modern romantic comedy that is delighting audiences and dazzling box offices — celebrates the glamour of lavish lifestyles and the power of true love. An Asian-American and NYU economics professor, Rachel Chu travels from New York City to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young (University of Oxford alumnus and NYU history professor) to attend the wedding of his childhood friend and to meet his family. Surprises ensue, secrets spill and intrigue swirls as she learns that her gorgeous guy’s relatives comprise a mega-wealthy (real estate) family and he is Asia’s most well-known, affluent bachelor desired by women galore — two details he hadn’t (ahem) mentioned during their dating, while he used public transportation and lived in a modest apartment. Add to this rapt romp a superlative cast, fireworks, champagne, abundant food, fabulous fashion, stylish decor, shimmering cityscapes, well-placed laughter, magnificent music and — to churn the plot — steely disapproval by Nick’s formidable mother of their relationship. Happily, Crazy Rich Asians also encourages interest in The Lion City itself. So I asked Singapore-born-and-raised actress, dancer, artist, model and activist Victoria Loke, who deftly plays the role of Fiona Tung-Cheng, Nick Young’s cousin-in-law, to reveal her beloved Singaporean hotspots as well as New York City’s cool bets, because Loke graduated from the Gallatin School at NYU, where she began her screen-acting career while living in the Big Apple for five years, stepping a stiletto-wearing foot in two worlds. Warner Bros. Pictures’ Crazy Rich Asians, directed by Jon M. Chu, is the first major studio movie to showcase a predominantly Asian cast in more than 25 years (since The Joy Luck Club), breaking barriers and inspiring Hollywood. The screenplay, written by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, is based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan. Here, eat up Victoria Loke’s delicious and artistic recommendations:
CRAZY FUN IN NEW YORK
1 Explore the Lower East Side.
“The moment I moved to the Lower East Side, I fell in love. I spent the majority of my free time within walking radius of my apartment. I would start my night with dinner at Zest (shout-out to John!) for excellent Japanese comfort food; Cafe Petisco when I was in the mood for Mediterranean cuisine and a solid glass of wine; or Bacaro, which is one of my spots for Italian food. All roads would ultimately lead to Vietnamese An Choi, whose sister restaurant Diandi just opened in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.”
2 Meander The Met Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan.
“Yes, going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue is on every to-do list when touring the city, but going to The Met Cloisters is a truly elevated experience. I am a huge nerd about Medieval culture, and the vast majority of The Met’s collection from the Middle Ages is housed in The Cloisters. Walk through the beautiful park that leads to the museum and enjoy the perfectly manicured pockets of garden space within the museum walls itself.”
3 Take a day trip to the Storm King Art Center in Windsor, New York.
“For those who drive, it takes about an hour to head along the Hudson River to the Storm King Art Center, where you can admire the grand sculptural works of amazing artists amidst lush greenery. Go in spring or fall, when the weather is cool. Ride your bicycles around the park.”
4 Relish eye-candy at the Noguchi Museum.
“At the Noguchi Museum in Queens, you’ll find architectural models, sculptures and furniture designed by Isamu Noguchi. The museum is so serene and so tastefully designed, a visit here almost feels like a meditative experience. Don’t forget to also check out Socrates Sculpture Park, which is a short walk away.”
5 Gallery-hop along The High Line in Chelsea.
“Last art-related recommendation, I promise! On a day-off, I love to spend the afternoon zig-zagging through galleries starting on 19th Street and then ending the day with a stroll down The High Line as the sun sets. There really isn’t a proper agenda or schedule. Just pop into whichever gallery strikes your fancy.”
6 Applaud a performance at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
“My college graduation ceremony was held in the Avery Fisher Hall (now renamed David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center on the West Side, so there is added sentimental value to this location for me. I highly recommend catching a show here while in the city. My favorite? The New York City Ballet. Although seeing The Metropolitan Opera is an experience unlike any other.”
7 Relax in Nolita — North of Little Italy.
“People-watching is a legitimate recreational activity here, I insist! On a summer afternoon, I love getting a table at Maman and Mimi to enjoy rosé and moules-frites while I watch an endless stream of people pass by the restaurant’s open doors. No one does day-drinking like the French!”
8 Slip inside New York City’s many speakeasies.
“New York was the first place that I was introduced to the concept of a speakeasy. While speakeasies have become popular all over the world now, I think New York still does them best! My favorite is Apothèke, tucked away on the now brightly painted Doyers Street. In its darker and gloomier days, it was still a lovely discreet place to enjoy a mixologist’s cocktail while listening to a jazz quartet playing right next to you.”
9 Dine at Peter Luger Steak House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“The steak at Peter Luger Steak House is unforgettable. I took my mother there when she came to visit me, and she still talks about it to this day! I recommend going as a family, because the steaks are gigantic. Be prepared for a massive food coma after you’re done. Worth it!”
10 Do dim sum in Chinatown.
“Saved the best for last! Chinatown is my absolute favorite neighborhood in the city. It has so much history and life that I am constantly learning and seeing new things. It’s not for the faint of heart (or faint of nose) that’s for sure. But I would love for more people to be respectful and open-minded toward this neighborhood and to support the family businesses in the area. A good place to start would be a round of dim sum [Chinese cuisine prepared in bite-sized portions, served in steamer baskets or on small plates] at one of the stalwarts Golden Unicorn or Jing Fong. Dim Sum Go Go has a lot of vegetarian options. And try famous Nom Wah Tea Parlor.”
CRAZY FUN IN SINGAPORE
1 Savor Southeast Asian art at the National Gallery Singapore.
“My first recommendation to anyone who travels to Singapore is to check out our National Gallery, which opened in 2015. It’s home to the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian and Singaporean art, housed within a historic setting that has been revitalized with a modern architectural touch. Aside from the permanent collection, there is always a phenomenal special exhibition put together by the gallery’s curators and that is worth multiple visits. The gallery also houses Odette, one of my favorite restaurants for fine dining, as well as Smoke & Mirrors, a great place for evening cocktails with a view.”
2 Dive into local literature at BooksActually.
“BooksActually is pretty much a household name to any bibliophile in the region and has been a mainstay of the local indie scene since it opened its doors in 2005. Friends of mine from New York sometimes ask me to pick up books from BooksActually, because they can’t find them anywhere else! Get to know some local writers as you browse through the collection and explore stories from Singapore that you don’t hear about in the movie, Crazy Rich Asians.”
3 Swoon over the night skyline at Marina Bay Sands.
“The top of the iconic Marina Bay Sands building is home to some great nightlife spots that are worth a visit for the spectacular view. I usually take my friends to Spago for a drink after dinner, and now that LAVO has opened up here, it is a cute place to go.”
4 Bar-hop in Tanjong Pagar neighborhood.
“If you take your booze seriously, you’ll really enjoy the bars that have come up within the past five years in Tanjong Pagar. Ann Siang Hill appears in Crazy Rich Asians. P.S. Cafe is my favorite. The restaurant and bar scenes have branched out significantly and I currently spend a lot of time at the bars on Amoy Street: You can probably find me at Employees Only Singapore if I’m out and about on a weekend!”
5 Dance the club scene at Headquarters by The Council.
“Now we get into serious business: Singapore has a thriving underground club culture, and the best place to get into the mix is at Headquarters, hidden away in the upper floors of a shophouse in Boat Quay. The owner Eileen has been a friend of mine since I was a young club kid and she’s doing a spectacular job putting together the line-ups. Across the street is Canvas, another club that often hosts gigs by my friends from Syndicate, an audiovisual collective.”
6 Eat at Maxwell Food Centre.
“If you’ve seen Crazy Rich Asians, you’ve definitely heard about and want to make a trip to Newton Food Centre, so I would like to throw Maxwell Food Centre into the mix, too. The fish soup here is better than the ones I’ve had in restaurants, and I always get the Shanghai dumplings when I’m in need of a quick dim sum fix.”
7 Stroll through the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
“This is a childhood favorite of mine. Whenever I need to take a breather, I walk in the gardens. The National Orchid Garden boasts more than 600 species of orchids. In the evening, the park also makes for a romantic stroll, with beautiful lakes and verandas.”
8 Indulge in the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo.
“This is the one touristy thing I’ll include in this list, because it is really so much fun! Everyone I know who has been to the Night Safari has found it to be the highlight of their trip to Singapore. The zoo’s entire Mandai Project has recently gotten a facelift with additional features and attractions. Singapore Zoo also adheres to a strict animal welfare and ethics code.”
9 Chill on the beach at Tanjong Beach Club.
“Weekends in Singapore are a great time to get away from the concrete jungle, and the many beaches in Sentosa are a much-needed escape. I like spending mine at Tanjong Beach Club, which has its own roster of local DJs on the decks serving up good vibes. Check out the nearby yacht club with boats available for rent so you can take the party out to sea Crazy Rich Asians style!”
10 Get late-night roti prata and teh halia anywhere (literally, anywhere).
“Now this is true Singaporean culture: You cannot say you have been to Singapore without having strolled into a prata shop past midnight, ordering a round of prata (flat bread made by frying stretched dough) and teh halia (ginger tea with milk). Everyone likes their prata a little different, and some prata shops offer pretty much every topping and stuffing available, so look through the selection to see what catches your eye. My prata order has and will always be the same: one cheese prata to eat with curry and one plain prata dipped in sugar.”
For more bright travel brainstorms: NYC Go and Visit Singapore.
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