Makan Makeover

We all know how much we love hubs, and it seems the latest lifestyle trend is precincts that are basing themselves around food. It’s no longer the case that the only good food in the suburbs comes from Kopitiams. Several neighborhoods have revamped themselves to embrace a more cosmopolitan and vibrant feel—all based around restaurants, cafes and bars. Here are some of the places that have had the makeover and found their groove thang.
Wine and Dine: River Valley
The sheer diversity of cuisines available in River Valley and its proximity to several condominiums mean that the area is a hotspot for expats and yuppies seeking a lively but sophisticated atmosphere. River Valley is definitely more of a hot spot at night than in the day, with the exception of Great World City, which is, of course, packed during the day on weekends. The vibe when the sun goes down is of relaxed but decadent enjoyment of food, booze and good conversation as patrons linger over courses and order rounds of drinks to unwind after a working week. And the caliber of the tenants ensures that this is a mid- to high-end hangout spot that’s a little uppity.
The past 12 months has seen River Valley turn into a veritable hub for fastidious foodies. For a start, Mohamed Sultan Road has transformed from a has-been nightspot to a haven of small but reliable little restaurants including a pizzeria run by the folks of Oso and a Vietnamese restaurant. Down the road at lifestyle precinct The Pier @ Robertson, all the shops are now fully tenanted with the latest additions being (another) Harry’s Bar and Belgian brasserie Brussels Sprouts. This pocket (that also has a Japanese robataya restaurant, a wine bar, a whisky shop, a French brasserie and a chocolatier) has a convival but not rowdy vibe in the evenings as yuppies and corporate types unwind over beer or wine. This is not a spot for a quick drink, rather, a place to take it easy for a few hours, ordering food as you go.
Even Great World City has recently seen a blossoming in their food and beverage tenants. For those who prefer to cook at home, last year saw the inclusion of Archangel upstairs and Espirito Santo in the basement (along with a handful of other tenants including a newly renovated Cold Storage) to their list of shops.
#03-33 Great World City, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, 6836-4424.
For the lazy gourmet: Imagine fine dining meals that you just pick up, reheat and present to impress your guests. Dips, chocolates, desserts and savory items, as well as full meals, are all ready to go.
Brussels Sprouts
#01-02 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6887-4344.
Mussels, beer, good food and good friends at this Belgian brasserie; what more could you ask for?
Le Tonkin
18 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6235-6006.
Finally, interesting and unusual Vietnamese combinations as well as decent pho at this Vietnamese and French restaurant—hallelujah!
The Chocolate Factory
#01-11 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6235-9007.
Heavenly, sweet and decadent, The Chocolate Factory is any chocoholics dream.
Robataya Yoyogi
#01-04 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6733-2711.
Japanese grilled bits served on long paddles make a good accompaniment to a few sakes.
Also check out:
Harry’s @ The Pier Robertson, #01-07/09 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd.
La Maison Du Whisky Singapore, #01-10 #01-07/09 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6733-0059.
Papi, 5 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6732-6269.
Reif + James, #01-03 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6238-8817.
Tasting Notes, #01-05/06 The Pier @ Robertson, 80 Mohamed Sultan Rd., 6238-8840.
Chill Out: Serangoon Gardens
For a vibrant and unpretentious nightspot to eat, drink and make merry with your mates, Serangoon Gardens has gotten it just right. In particular, the little pocket of Serangoon Gardens Village has a charming alfresco dining area with a nice buzz after dark. While many of the individual tenants may not be all that unusual (although there is a good Western restaurant here), their patrons make the Village a surprisingly happening spot.
Young yuppie types from surrounding suburbs like Hougang, Serangoon and Ang Mo Kio head down to Serangoon Gardens to debrief or catch up over a few drinks and some good food. The result is a chill out spot that’s prettily lit with candles and lights at night as old friends dish out the week’s gossip. Even mid-week evenings see the place buzzing (although during the day the area can seem quite dead).
Around the corner at Kensington Park Road, one can also find a few decent eateries to sink your teeth into.
The Cafe Cartel
#01-01B Paramount Building, Serangoon Gardens Village, 1 Maju Ave., 6285-8266.
Their sign says it all. Ribs, pizza, pasta and, of course, caffeine.
11 Kensington Park Rd., 6282-8126.
To chill out over ice cream and all other things sweet, try this little sweetie.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
#01-01/03 Serangoon Gardens Village, 1 Maju Ave., 6487-0040.
Long chats are best held over coffee, whether iced or flavored.
Friends at Chomp Chomp
#01-01A Serangoon Gardens Village, 1 Maju Ave., 6289-2600.
Don’t let its unpretentious aura fool you: Friends serves pretty fine Western food with regular wine tastings to boot.
Also check out:
Happy Daze Sidewalk Deli, 11 Maju Ave., 6285-2885.
Ristorante de Parma, 14-B Kensington Park Rd., 6280-1096.
Sticky Rice, 5 Kensington Park Rd., 6284-6266.
Dinner Party Divas: East Coast
Contrary to the popular opinion of everyone who doesn’t live in the east, East Coast isn’t that far removed from the rest of us. In fact, it’s recently become a drawing card for those looking for some real gourmet shopping.
The combination of middle to upper income wealth types and know-how foodies in this area mean that tenants demand quality products, so that’s what’s here: Parkway Parade now boasts an epicurean section in its basement complete with specialized Japanese grocer, Latin deli and butcher with dine-in menu, and a Cold Storage Gourmet. There’s also a wine shop that encourages its patrons to buy and drink in the store, an Italian gelateria and a Swiss bakery. Parkway Parade has become the perfect one-stop food shopping destination for those on the eastern side of the island.
And around the corner, Katong Village (which used to be home to stale government buildings once upon a time) has attracted a few new restaurants as well as a handful of snooker halls, making it a worthy destination for evenings out.
Espirito Santo
#B1-83B Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Rd., 6440-8867.
For sausages, steaks and all things meaty, this branch of Espirito Santo also has a small café serving up hot dishes for the hungry shopper.
#B1-83D Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Rd., 6345-4714.
There’s nothing fishy about this specialized Japanese grocer that also has a small sushi bar on the premises.
Samba Brazilian Steakhouse
#01-37/39 Katong Village, 86 East Coast Rd., 6348-8406.
Samba delivers Brazilian churrascaria to make your taste buds salsa.
Samy’s Curry Restaurant
Katong Village, 83 East Coast Rd., 6345-1726.
This veritable institution from Dempsey Road has now opened a second branch for you to get your hands dirty.
Also check out:
Bottle & Bottles, #B1-83K/L Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Rd., 6348-2847.
Swiss Bake, #B1-83C Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Rd., 6440-7055.
Venezia Gelato Italiano, #B1-83J Parkway Parade, 80 Marine Parade Rd.
Waraku, #01-11/12/13 Blk. B Katong Village, 86 East Coast Rd., 6344-8280.

List of the best the hot spots in Clarke Quay
Beyond The ‘Burbs