Friday, June 26, 2009

STI: Bishan Beckons

June 26, 2009


Bishan Beckons

It's more than just Junction 8 - go off the beaten track for hidden eats and treats

Say 'shopping in Bishan' and Junction8 is likely to spring to mind.

But the 24-year-old HDB new town in central Singapore has more than just the shopping mall.

After combing four streets - Bishan Street 11, 13, 22 and 24 - for three hours, Urban shortlisted six HDB shops and four eateries in the housing estate.

The search was well worth the time as our heartland finds are indeed gems.

There is the women's boutique which looks to be an auntie haven at first glance but turns out to be a vintage treasure trove.

Then there is the cosy photography studio where one can get family portraits and a makeover done for everyday prices.

Foodies would love the neighbourhood eateries with oomph.

Capolavoro, located in a coffee shop on Street 24, for example, is run by Peter Bontoi.

The former chef of Il Piccolo, a restaurant in Bukit Timah that has since closed, serves up hearty, restaurant- style Romanian and Italian fare.

Pontian Wanton Noodles at the S-11 coffeeshop at Block504 on Street 11, meanwhile, is also a heavyweight. The lunchtime queue and newspaper cuttings that plaster its wall are proof of its star status.

There is a good reason Singapore's funniest family - Tan Ah Teck and his brood - made their home in Bishan in the 1990s local sitcom Under One Roof.



01-62 Block 279 Bishan Street 24

This is probably as exotic - and yummy - as coffee shop fare goes.

Romania-born chef-cum-owner Peter Bontoi, who used to work at the now-defunct Il Piccolo restaurant in Bukit Timah, lovingly whips up cuisine from Italy and his hometown.

There is the curious- sounding tochitura ($8), a dish of meat in cornflour bread covered in a yogurt sauce, and the mysterious-sounding Romanian Dessert ($3.50), essentially biscuit and jello covered with whipped cream and raisins - a likely hit with kids.

Those less adventurous can opt for the wide variety of pastas ($5 to $10) and pizzas ($6 to $16) or Bontoi's popular handmade pork sausages ($7).

Western Chow and Pontian Wanton Noodles

01-444 Block 504 Bishan Street 11

These neighbouring stalls located in the area's famous S-11 coffeeshop are indeed one dynamic duo.

Western Chow serves up a mix of hearty American fare - think grilled chicken chop ($5.90) and oxtail stew ($8.50) - and fusion grub like Hainanese beef stew ($6.50) and dory fish cooked with assam or tamarind ($6).

Pontian, meanwhile, specialises in the popular Malaysian wanton noodle dish tossed in dark soy sauce ($2.70 or $3.20).

We love how its noodles remain springy even after take-out. This probably explains the lunchtime queue which started at 11.30am when we visited.

Ye Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant

01-390 Block 508 Bishan Street 11

Get a taste of traditional Chinese cuisine at this rustic restaurant.

Bestsellers include Shanghainese delicacies such as prawns in fermented rice wine and herbs ($12) and chicken stuffed with glutinous rice ($6).

The owners have even imported a special earthen pot (Photo 4) from China so that customers can savour authentic Beijing hot pot ($18 per person).

There is a special steamboat offer where four customers dine for the price of three.


ABC Photography

01-382 Block 509 Bishan Street 11

Live out your modelling dreams or capture precious moments without spending a fortune at this no-frills photo studio.

Owners Andy Tan, who has more than 10 years of experience, and Angela Chen, a former make-up artist, offer a slew of portrait packages.

A 30-minute Best Friends Forever session, for example, costs $268 and includes a CD of all the shots as well as a framed picture of your choice. Till Aug 31, the package goes for $148.

Check out for more promotional packages.

E Bi Ku Da

01-189 Block 151 Bishan Street 11

This tiny shop is crammed with sartorial gems.

Rummage its racks for pretty, breezy dresses such as this cotton one with floral cut-outs (Photo 6, $72) or this cute denim number (Photo 7, $26) that Paris Hilton would approve of.

Friendly owner Catherine Lau says she sources her chic garb from Hong Kong, China and South Korea, with new pieces arriving every month.

Prices range from $5 for a plain tee to $100 and up for a silk evening dress.

Chew's Optics

01-155 Block 282 Bishan Street 22

You know this place is a must-visit from its constant flow of customers.

Its frames are more classic than cool.

These wooden ones (Photo 8, $85 a pair without lenses), for example, are statement-making without being over-the-top.

Most of the patrons are from neighbouring offices who love the wallet-friendly prices - $30 to $400 a pair, excluding lenses.

I & U

01-147 Block 282 Bishan Street 22

This old-fashioned shoe shop houses a small but dazzling array of beaded handbags that both tai tais and fashionistas would love.

Sourced from Indonesia, these handbeaded totes are a steal with prices ranging from $15.90 to $50.90 - at least half that of those sold at department stores.

There is also a range of beaded purses in shapes like fruits, insects and hearts ($6.90 each) that would delight the young at heart.

W2 Trend

01-512 Block 513 Bishan Street 13

Imported from Hong Kong and South Korea, the clothes at this humble shop boasts some of the best workmanship we have seen.

Cotton shirts are comfy yet crisp, while linen blouses and dresses are light and floaty.

The best part: Design details like ruffles and the seamless combination of contrasting materials give the garb a high-fashion touch.

Prices range from $5 for a tank top to $49.90 for a jacket and tube top set.

Chao Yang Trading Kiosk

01-219 Block 152 Bishan Street 11

Do not sniff at its old-fashioned interior and name.

Set up more than 20 years ago, Chao Yang's vintage-style garb would thrill fashion fiends.

We spotted printed polyester blouses that, when paired with skinny jeans or an A-line skirt, look more chic than chintzy.

The discount rack on the side is also well worth checking out: We found this pretty paisley print dress (Photo 13) going for just $10 (usual price $22). Prices range from $5 for a cotton tank top to $50 for a blouse. The shop is closed right now but will reopen on Tuesday.

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