Monday, August 20, 2007

Japan Central

19 Aug 2007, ST

With 14 Japanese food outlets and more coming up, The Central in Eu Tong Sen Street is turning into a Japanese food hub

By Noelle Loh

AFICIONADOS of Japanese cuisine who have been flocking to The Central in Eu Tong Sen Street have good reason to rejoice.

The mall is set to see three additions to its already diverse range of 14 Japanese food outlets.

Teppanyaki restaurant Edogawa and organic, tofu-oriented restaurant Issui will be ready for business by the middle of next month.

A cafe offshoot of the dessert-tea house chain Azabu Sabo will open in October.

There is also talk that a new ramen shop might come up on the second floor soon.

This brings Far East Organization, the mall's developer, one step closer to turning The Central into a Japanese food paradise in the style of Decks Tokyo Beach.

Decks is a popular waterfront shopping-cum-entertainment complex in Tokyo's Odaiba district that offers a string of Hong Kong-themed eateries.

Opened this January, the five-storey Central has close to 200 retail shops and restaurants. Most of its Japanese restaurants are located on the third floor.

Mr Chia Boon Pin, chief operating officer of Far East Organization's retail business group, visited Japan several times to scout for restaurants to bring to The Central.

While not all of the eateries approached took up his offer, the four that did - Nippon-Ya, Kyomomoyama, Wakashachiya and Marutama Ra-men - are finding business at The Central generally good.

Ms Cammie Shu, marketing manager of Kyomomoyama, says the largest number of customers the 98-seat restaurant - which specialises in air-flown Japanese seafood - has seen in one day is over 250.

Meanwhile, Ms Tomoko Takahashi, director of nearby curry udon specialist Wakashachiya, is confident that her two-week-old business will grow.

And, of course, there is the well-known long queue at Marutama Ra-men, whose reputation for springy homemade noodles has spread by word of mouth over the past few months.

But fans like Japanese engineer Satoko Kumaki, 31, do not mind the wait.

'There are always long queues at famous ramen restaurants in Japan,' she explains. 'The ramen here is very authentic, like the ones back home.'

The local-owned Japanese restaurants are coming up with ways to keep up with the competition, they say.

Mr Steve Lim, assistant director of human resources at Waraku, says the menu will be changed annually.

Ms Joyce Lee, marketing and communications manager of the Apex-Pal group, says its Sho-U restaurant's walk-in crowd is 'relatively weak' but the company has found a niche in catering for corporate events.

Plans are afoot for The Central's basement level, too.

Currently, there are four Japanese outlets there: mini doughnut store Marcial Kobe, food gift shop Nippon-Ya, speciality snack store Yamakawa Super and bakery Petit Provence.

Mr Chia says a gourmet market, which includes a fish market set up through a local and Japanese tie-up, is in the works, but declines to reveal when.

Tax consultant Jeremy Nguee, 26, applauds The Central's Japanese theme but has one request: the addition of a Japanese sweet shop.

'Those that sell homemade jellies and snacks and serve tea. In those places, even the rice crackers come out fresh from the oven,' he says.


A yen for things Japanese

Azabu Sabo
01-46, Tel: 6534-7178

Opens: 10am to 10.30pm, Sundays to Thursdays; 10am to 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays

Scoop shop offering soft serves and Hokkaido ice cream in green tea, sesame and other Japanese flavours.

Price: From $3.30 for a vanilla soft serve to $45 for a 12-flavour Hokkaido ice cream takeaway pack

03-87/100/101/110, Tel: 6534-8001

Opens: 11.30am to 11pm daily

Sushi, sashimi and grilled seafood items such as unagi in a modern, casual setting

Price: From $3 for a plain rice ball to $68 for a sashimi platter

Marcial Kobe
B1-40, Tel: 6534-7726

Opens: 11am to 10pm daily

Standalone store selling freshly baked mini doughnuts and mini Japanese pancakes in an assortment of flavours

Price: $4 for 12 mini doughnuts or 10 mini Japanese pancakes

Marutama Ra-men
03-90/91, Tel: 6534-8090

Opens: 11.30am to 9.45pm, Mondays to Fridays; 11.30am to 3pm and 5.30 to 9.45pm, Saturdays and Sundays

Hole-in-a-wall-style restaurant serving Japanese Marutama ramen, or chicken-based stock ramen.

Price: From $12 to $15 for main ramen items

Ma Maison Restaurant
03-96, Tel: 6327-8122

Opens: 11.30am to 3pm and 6 to 10pm daily

Different types of hamburger steak and pasta in an English cottage-style setting

Price: From $14 to $20 for main dishes

B1-39, Tel: 6534-9020

Opens: 11am to 10pm daily

Boutique selling gift-packed Japanese food items and sake

Price: From $5.75 to $29.90 for food items and $13.70 to $86.70 for sake

Pasta de Waraku
02-82/83, Tel: 6534-8085

Opens: 11.30am to 11pm daily

Casual diner with kitsch food displays serving pasta cooked in Japanese-style sauces

Price: From $10.80 to $18.80 for pasta dishes

Petit Provence
B1-29, Tel: 6534-9029

Opens: 11am to 10pm daily

Counter-service branch of the Holland Village bakery selling wassant, or Japanese soft bread, and croissants in assorted flavours.

Price: From 50 cents for one wassant to 80 cents for a chocolate croissant with a chocolate bar in the middle

03-85/102/108/109, Tel: 6534-8066

Opens: 11am to 10.30pm daily

Sophisticated, contemporary eatery offering Western-influenced Japanese food

Price: From $30 to $50 per person

Sun with Moon Japanese Dining and Cafe
01-70/71/72, Tel: 6534-7784

Opens: Noon to midnight daily

Riverside restaurant bar-cum-tea house with a menu that features kamameshi, or Japanese claypot rice

Price: From $3.80 for an edamame (green soybean) appetiser to $80 for a luxury sashimi set

Tom Ton
03-88/99, Tel: 6327-7887

Opens: 11.30am to 11pm daily

Black pig dishes served in a posh yet cosy setting

Price: From $4 for a stick of chicken and leek yakitori to $66 for a black pig yaki shabu set for two

03-92/93/94/95, Tel: 6534-9984

Opens: 11.30am to 3pm and 5 to 10.30pm daily

First international branch of the 63-outlet curry udon restaurant chain from Japan

Price: From $4.20 for edamame appetiser to $18 for a hitsu-mabushi, or unagi-topped rice and dashi soup set meal

03-89/97/98, Tel: 6327-8860

Opens: 11.30am to 11pm daily

Well-loved casual dining restaurant specialising in kaminabe, or paper pot soup, and houba dishes - food served on a heated houba leaf coated with miso paste

Price: From $8 to $16 for main items

Yamakawa Super
B1-28b, Tel: 6534-9518

Opens: 11am to 10pm daily

Speciality convenience-style shop retailing seasonal Japanese confectionaries, snacks and drinks

Price: From 80 cents for Furuta Sequoia, a type of wafer chocolate to $100 for a coffee gift set

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