A popular Japanese food fair will make its debut here on Tuesday at Jurong Point Shopping Centre.
The 10-day Rakuten Japan Gourmet Festival, which runs until Dec 4, will be held at the mall's newly revamped Japanese food street Shokutsu Ten. It is organised by Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten, which launched its Singapore site in January this year.
The festival, which has been running in various cities in Japan for four years on a much larger scale with up to 100 merchants each time, will feature 11 top brands from the site in the Singapore edition. It is best known for its wide range of gourmet food items.
The vendors will set up shop at Shokutsu Ten's event space, called WAttention Plaza, which currently houses more than 10 kiosks selling a range of food, dried goods and handicrafts.
Foodies can look forward to more than 100 types of speciality food products, which include items from Hokkaido and Kyoto. Think premium Hokkaido seafood and a variety of desserts and snacks such as daifuku (mochi) filled with a green tea cream.
Mr Okamoto Shingo, general manager of the Singapore e-commerce division of Rakuten, says holding the event in Singapore was a "natural choice".
"Singaporeans have a strong passion for food and love of Japanese cuisine. The setting allows shoppers to sample and purchase products offered by our online merchants in a traditional retail environment," he says.
"We are definitely looking at how we can bring this concept back to Singapore."
WAttention Plaza is part of Shokutsu Ten's $7 million makeover, which was completed last month. The colourful street - run by Japanese food company RE&S Enterprises - has almost doubled in size to 17,000 sq ft. The two themes, old Edo-style Tokyo and modern-day Osaka, remain but the restaurant spaces have been reconfigured and expanded.
There are nine restaurants, including the popular Japanese buffet restaurant Kuishin Bo, and two new additions - Japanese pasta restaurant Kabe no Ana's cafe concept with all-day breakfast and speciality coffee, and hotpot restaurant Shabu Tontei. Kabe no Ana is also at Shokutsu Ten at Nex shopping mall in Serangoon.
Jurong Point is jointly owned by property and engineering group Guthrie GTS and construction and property company Lee Kim Tah Holdings. Guthrie GTS also manages Nex, which is developed by Gold Ridge.
Jurong Point's chief executive William Seet, 63, notes that the revamp is its way of keeping up with the competition among the malls in western Singapore.
In July, a Mongkok Street with food and retail options that reflect the vibrant Hong Kong district was also launched in Jurong Point.
The other malls in the area include JCube, Westgate and Jem.
Since the revamp, hungry and curious diners have flocked to Shokutsu Ten to check out the new offerings. Public servant Aw Wen Ling, 27, who lives in the Lakeside area near Jurong Point, was a little disappointed.
"I was expecting more new brands for the food offerings. And even though there's now more space for people to stand around the kiosks and eat, the walkways can still be cramped when it gets crowded."
She was happy, though, to try the karinto manju, a fried Japanese snack with brown sugar dough and red bean filling, which is new to her. "I will go there more often if they keep introducing new food," she says.
Customer relations manager Tan Xia Yan, 29, however, is pleased with the revamp.
"I like the vibrant design of the food street. So far, I've tried the bento and chicken karaage (fried chicken) at the food kiosks. I like the new options and I hope they introduce more Japanese dessert items."
Rakuten Japan Gourmet Festival is held from Tuesday to Dec 4, 11am to 9.30pm daily at Jurong Point Shopping Centre, 63 Jurong West Central 3, B1-78A. Go to www.rakuten.com.sg/event/japangourmetfestival/
WHAT TO EAT AT RAKUTEN JAPAN GOURMET FESTIVAL
What: A twist on the traditional daifuku (mochi), which is normally filled with red bean paste, the Uji green tea daifuku features a thick green tea cream paste. The paste is made from green tea powder from Uji, a region in Kyoto famous for its green tea, blended with fresh cream and then wrapped in a chewy mochi skin.
Price: $23 for a box of six
What: Premium Japanese rice topped with strips of crab leg meat and ikura (salmon roe) make for a decadent bento meal. The seafood donburi (rice bowl dish) also retails in the famous Nijo market in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
GINZA SEMBIKIYA PATISSERIE
What: The patisserie started out as a fruit speciality store in 1894. To draw customers in the 1960s, it developed artisan fruit-infused confections. The Ginza Apple Kuchen uses Fuji apples flavoured with cinnamon, which are encased in a baumkuchen (German layered cake).
Price: $21 for 400g
TOMITA MELON HOUSE
What: Red-fleshed melons from Hokkaido are used to make melon smoothies topped with soft-serve ice cream. Tomita Melon House is located in Furano, Hokkaido, which is famous for its lush lavender fields.
What: Sasaya Syoen has been specialising in handmade sweets since 1918. The warabi mochi or bracken (a type of fern) starch dumpling is handmade using bracken starch made from bracken powder.
Price: $15 for 85g, $25 for 170g
What: What started out as a small shop in Yokohoma in 2000 has become a popular brand in Japan. Feed your chocolate craving with a chocolate sandwich – double chocolate butter cookie filled with rich chocolate ganache.
Price: $20 for a box of four
SEAFOOD FACTORY FOUR SEASONS OF REBUN ISLAND
What: Forget your typical maki sushi (sushi rice rolls). This Hokkaido company offers premium salmon wrapped in kelp and grilled. Yep, no rice.
Price: $16 to $28
TSUKIJI RYOTEI TAKEWAKA
What: Those who like chirashi (sliced or chopped raw fish on Japanese rice) will love the tuna and seafood chirashi cup with premium Japanese rice topped with ikura (salmon roe), salmon and tuna belly. The seafood is sourced directly from Tokyo’s renowned Tsukiji market.