Sunday, June 21, 2009

STI: What's hot, what's not

June 21, 2009

What's hot, what's not

New eateries are springing up in new malls from Orchard to Ang Mo Kio. LifeStyle checks them out

By Huang Lijie and Valerie Wang

Tertiary student Pauline Su, 21, found herself walking in dazed circles at Iluma in Victoria Street during lunch time on Tuesday.

She says: 'I didn't know what to eat. There are so many restaurants to choose from and some of them are new brands. It's hard to tell which is good.'

Indeed, as shopping centres debut and old malls revamp their food offerings, a slew of no fewer than 19 new eateries have popped up on the dining scene from Orchard Central to Ang Mo Kio Hub.

Gastronomes salivating over the exciting array of fresh offerings are spoilt for choice.

Will it be an American-style diner for sliders or a fusion restaurant for burgers in Chinese mantou? Or what about a fast- food chain selling Portuguese-style spicy grilled chicken?

Diners whom LifeStyle interviewed say price, ambience and cuisine type are major considerations when picking a new eatery to sup at.

These factors, however, do not provide a reliable indication of the quality of food. Hence, disappointments are par for the course when consumers try out new outlets.

Risk management consultant Gordon Song, 29, takes it all in his stride.

He says: 'It happens a lot that I go to a place expecting the food to be good but it turns out to be mediocre.'

To hedge her bet, polytechnic student Tan Hui Ling, 20, patronises restaurants that are filled with customers.

She says: 'If there are a lot of people in the restaurant, the food is probably not bad.'

To eliminate the guesswork, because no one should be wasting hard-earned money over bad food in these tough times, LifeStyle tells you what is worth eating at recently opened eateries.

Mall offerings


Where: 181 Orchard Road

The soft launch of this swanky new shopping centre is not until next month but some food and beverage outlets have already opened.


Where: 07-06, open: 11am to 11pm daily, tel: 6238-7976

What: This familiar tonkatsu (Japanese deep- fried pork cutlet) restaurant has outlets in Ngee Ann City, Shaw House and Suntec City, but what sets this one apart is its 16-seat outdoor dining area with aerial views of Orchard Road.

The restaurant also boasts a larger range of items than its two other outlets in the Orchard Road belt, including an expanded sushi and sashimi selection as well as tasty grilled morsels such as fugu mirin boshi ($8, above), strips of sun-dried fugu (Japanese for puffer fish) with a honeyed mirin glaze, which is served warm and tender to the bite. Great as an appetiser or as a side dish.

To sweeten the deal, there is an opening discount of 10 per cent on the bill until the end of the month.

Heaven's Loft

Where: 08-01, open: 11am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11am to 1am, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6884-9505

What: Opened by the franchisee for Ben & Jerry's here, this three-in-one restaurant, dessert and bar concept boasts an 80-seat outdoor bar balcony with a stunning view of Orchard Road.

The gem here is the sweet pumpkin ice cream from the restaurant's dessert sampler menu (from $7 for one item to $20 for four items).

Besides a lush, velvety mouth-feel and a naturally sweet flavour, the lingering aroma of roasted pumpkin makes it unforgettable.


Where: 6 Handy Road

This chic-looking condominium located between Plaza Singapura and The Cathay is home to an art gallery and a three-week-old dessert shop, 1 Caramel, by the food and beverage group, One Rochester.

1 Caramel

Where: 01-01A, open: 11am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11 to 1am, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6338-3282

What: This eye-candy of a patisserie is, thankfully, more than just a good-looker. Its Mango Mascarpone ($8.90) is a winsome combination of tangy mango compote with an airy mascarpone cream cheese body and an addictive coconut crumble base. For chocolate lovers, its Chocolate Berry Lust ($8.90), a chocolate ganache tart topped with a medley of berries, will satisfy cocoa cravings.


Where: 201 Victoria Street

This recently opened mall, a magnet for the young and trendy, has no fewer than eight new food and beverage brands that are open.

Ebisboshi Shotengai

Where: 04-08, open: 11am to 10.30pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11am to 11.30pm, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6238-1011

What: This Japanese restaurant boasts seven different brands under its roof, including Teppan No Hoshi, which specialises in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake), where the ingredients are layered instead of being mixed together like in the more common Osaka-style version.

Its rice cake and cheese okonomiyaki ($12.80) is packed with soft, chewy rice cake slices with a slight char, gooey cheese and layers of yakisoba (fried noodles) and cabbage.

Another must-try is its salmon yukke gunkan ($4), seaweed wrapped sushi topped with marinated salmon and a raw quail's egg. The oozy yolk and chunks of fat-marbled salmon belly are a perfect combination.

Empire State

Where: 04-03, open: 11am to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6238-7076

What: This American-style diner with its pop-coloured decor is good for its generous portions. Its spaghetti Bolognese with giant meatball ($13.90) is not for the faint-hearted, but the juicy, well-seasoned meatball should hit the spot for those who like their meatballs with a fine mince.

Hua Li Xuan Fusion

Where: 04-12, open: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6884-7727

What: Fusion is not a dirty word at this eatery. Its mantou burgers are rather tasty. Get the mini mantou set ($4.80 for three burgers), which offers flavours such as black pepper beef, teriyaki chicken and sweet sour pork, and steamed, fried or garlic buns.

Stick with the baked garlic buns, which are crusty and carry a rounded garlic flavour.


Where: 01-23, open: 10.30am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 10.30am to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays

What: This is somewhat like a Starbucks for tea and offers Lavender Wilderness (from $6.15), a romantically scented ice frappe brewed from lavender blooms and black tea leaves. If you prefer your tea without milk, opt for its refreshing Arctic Dragon's Brew (from $5.85, left) of oolong tea with yuzu, a tart citrus fruit.


Where: 2 Marina Boulevard

This exclusive condominium shot up in the middle of the CBD half a year ago. Now it has new eateries from Health Fuel Station to more familiar ones like Harry's Bar.

Hokkaido Sandwich and Sashimi

Where: 01-33, open: 9.30am to 11pm daily, tel: 6509-0685

What: The signature bite is the Tarabagani or King Crab Sandwich ($10). Fresh crab meat is mixed with mayonnaise and a special sauce, then made into a sandwich with Japanese white bread. Another must-try is the Ebi Katsu sandwich ($8), with breaded and deep-fried prawns.

Health Fuel Station

Where: 01-31A, open: 8am to 9pm, Mondays to Fridays, 11am to 9pm, weekends, tel: 6509-4955

What: This colourful health food shop offers an array of tasty salads, wraps, juices and smoothies.

The salads (from $7.50) are fresh and are made on the spot. Add another 50 cents to design your own if you know what you want with your greens.

Da Paolo Gastronomia

Where: 01-15, open: 9.30am to 9.30pm daily, tel: 6224-4148

What: The new outlet of the Italian deli chain just opened on Tuesday and offers sandwiches that are not available in the other branches.

The generously portioned roast beef sandwich with mozzarella ($13) on ciabatta bread is tasty and packed with the meat. As the sandwiches are made to order, be prepared to wait a bit during peak hours.


Where: 53 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3

What: This heartland mall opened in 2007 but six food tenants are setting up shop there this month.

My Dessert House

Where: B1-51B, open: 10am to 10pm daily, tel: 9180-9959

What: The ice-cream chendol ($4.50) here is an interesting twist on a favourite dessert, with plump azuki red beans taking the place of the usual smaller ones. The white fungus longan ($3.50) is refreshing for the current hot weather.

Coffee Kaki

Where: B1-51C, open: 7.30am to 10pm daily, tel: 6752-4569

What: With faux-antique chairs and tables with marble tops, this cafe might look like the usual kaya toast joint. But it also offers gourmet sandwiches.

The roasted chicken mayonnaise filling goes nicely with ciabatta or focaccia bread and the set ($4) comes with a cup of local coffee.

Otaru Hokkaido Street Food

Where: B2-32, open: 10am to 10pm daily, tel: 6853-6085

What: The omelette beef rice ($4.60) is delicious. Japanese rice with beef is wrapped in egg and the combination of intriguing spices with a special sauce will leave you wanting more.

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