A surge in new openings in the last quarter of the year is bringing much-needed good news for the struggling food and beverage (F&B) scene.
No fewer than 30 eateries have opened since last month, including in the Central Business District (CBD), where businesses have been badly hit after workers moved home to work.
And overseas brands, particularly from foodie destinations Japan and Hong Kong, continue to set up shop here.
The new eateries are a mix of casual dining cafes and restaurants.
New cafes include a three-storey tea house in Keong Saik by Japanese tea cafe Hvala; The Wonderment Collective in Geylang; and September in Beauty World Centre.
Other notable names include Japanese restaurant Ginza Shinto in Robertson Quay, seafood-centric restaurant-bar Catfish in Gemmill Lane and the soon-to-open multiconcept diner 8ASH in Ann Siang Hill by the Ebb & Flow Group.
The 40-seat 8ASH houses Hoshi Hill, which serves Japanese food; American-Japanese burger brand Mirai Burgers; and vegan concept Love Handle Burgers.
Since opening on Oct 1, Catfish, by chef Andrew Walsh of Irish restaurant Cure, has been full for lunch and dinner, and the brisk business has exceeded his expectations.
In these “testing times”, his biggest challenge now is manpower, due to closed borders.
Although customers have requested for delivery to resume, he says he will do so only when he has enough staff.
“We have to pace ourselves, do everything at the right time and keep an eye on the economy.”
His situation is similar to that of many other business owners who secured locations early this year and had to delay openings because of the circuit breaker.
And even though renovations resumed in phase two, the pace of work has been slower than usual, as different groups of workers on site have to follow safe-distancing measures.
Other challenges include the supply of ingredients and managing food delivery.
And amid the openings, closures continue to plague the industry. Today is Picnic Food Park’s last day of operations at Wisma Atria and French-Japanese restaurant Le Binchotan in Amoy Street will shutter on Dec 15.
But restaurateurs to whom The Sunday Times spoke remain cautiously hopeful now that phase three is on the horizon.
Veteran Indian chef Milind Sovani of Masalaa Bar in East Coast Road, which will open next Sunday, says: “There’s always a risk with launching new things, but the good thing is that Singaporeans are coming out to dine and drink. We have a strong food culture and there are always new opportunities.”
The local F&B scene has also received an injection from popular foreign brands who have set up outposts here in recent months, such as Japanese tendon chain Tempura Tendon Tenya and Danish cookie brand Leckerbaer.
Joining them is Hong Kong’s Cupping Room Coffee Roasters, which opened earlier this month at Ngee Ann City, and Japan’s Flipper’s pancakes, which opens next month in the same mall.
Flipper’s soft souffle pancakes are made with Japanese produce including milk, Hinata eggs from the Kanagawa prefecture and “Kitahonami” flour milled from Hokkaido wheat and French butter.
Other Hong Kong brands which have arrived recently include shabu shabu restaurant Wagyu More at Bugis Junction and Syohachi Wagyu Hamburg at One Raffles Place.
Syohachi Wagyu Hamburg, which opened three weeks ago, is a new concept created for Singapore and its sister brand Syohachi Yakiniku opens at Guoco Tower next month.
The brand gets its beef from its exclusive partner farm Hidakami Ranch in Japan’s Miyagi prefecture.
The hamburg concept was meant to offer a free-flow salad buffet with every order of a set meal, but that has been put on hold, says Mr Eddy Lau, founder of the Syohachi Group.
He has big plans for the local market – eight to 10 outlets with the hamburg concept and two more outlets for the yakiniku brand.
But it does not intend to offer delivery.
“Some food items just don’t tar pau (takeaway) well. Our food is made-to-order and best eaten when hot. The quality drops when it is delivered,” Mr Lau says.
Despite the restaurants being located in the CBD, he notes that business is slowly picking up as more workers return to the office.
Syohachi Wagyu Hamburg is also offering an opening promotion – 50 per cent off for selected set meals today.
Other new F&B outlets have also popped up in the CBD.
New-to-market Indonesian coffee brand Tanamera Coffee, which opened two weeks ago, is buzzing at the new Change Alley Mall (formerly known as Chevron House) in Raffles Place.
The mall opened on Oct 1 and while many of the shops there are still undergoing renovations, they will open progressively over the next few weeks, says a spokesman for property developer Oxley Holdings, the mall’s asset manager.
The four-storey mall – which is connected to Raffles Place MRT station – was scheduled to open in the first half of this year, but this was delayed due to the circuit breaker.
Seventy per cent of its tenants are F&B outlets, featuring familiar brands such as Komala’s Restaurant, Mirana Cafe, ramen restaurant Kanada-Ya and Waa Cow!, which specialises in beef bowls.
The spokesman says: “As the Government eases the nation into phase three, we are optimistic the CBD will be back to its glory days in no time.”
Two new restaurants to watch
Modern spin on Israeli food
Where: 01-01, 6 Stanley Street
Miznon from Tel Aviv, Israel, is opening its first Asian outpost here. Known for its modern spin on Israeli street food, the chain specialises in pita stuffed with ingredients such as ratatouille, chicken liver and steak. Dishes are priced between $15 and $25.
Founded in 2010 by Eyal Shani, a prominent Israeli chef-restaurateur and judge for cooking competition MasterChef Israel, – the brand has 10 other outlets in cities such as Vienna, Paris, New York and Melbourne.
The restaurant here is a joint venture with Singapore-based Israeli owners Nadav Cohen and Tal Eisenberg, who are also behind Carrotsticks & Cravings cafe in Robertson Quay and Dempsey. The kitchen is helmed by executive chef Or Hakmimi, 34.
Sourcing for ingredients has been a challenge and the team is working with local suppliers to get the right produce.
Items such as Miznon’s specially made pita bread and tahini are imported from Israel. But Shani’s famous roasted cauliflower dish uses a specific type and size of cauliflower that the owners have been struggling to find. Rest assured, however, that the restaurant will not open without its star dish.
There will also be Singapore-exclusive pita options – the owners are toying with ideas that involve laksa and chilli crab flavours. Miznon in Israel has a new pita stuffed with spaghetti bolognaise that has been very well received, Mr Cohen says.
On launching here, Mr Eisenberg says: “There’s so much variety in Singapore and people are open to trying new things. The food will go well with the local palate. Besides the food, we hope to bring our culture and energy to Singapore.”
Indian-inspired cocktails and contemporary Indian street food
Where: 723 East Coast Road
A familiar name is back in the restaurant scene. Veteran Indian chef Milind Sovani, 57, is set to open his 70-seat casual restaurant Masalaa Bar next Sunday.
The chef used to helm the kitchens at Indian restaurants Rang Mahal and The Song of India.
His menu at Masalaa Bar is a contemporary take on Indian street food and Indian-inspired cocktails.
Highlights include egg kejriwal (sunny-side-up eggs on buns with chilli onion salsa, $8), khau galli kheema pao (minced lamb with buns, $21), pao bhaji (vegetable melt with garlic pao served in a martini glass, $9) and dhaba chicken naanzaa (pizza-style naan, $15).
Chef Milind says the prices are his answer to those who complained about having to fork out more than $100 for his fine-dining cuisine at his old restaurants.
He says he had planned to open a fine-dining concept earlier this year, but put it on hold due to the
With the uncertainty, he decided not to go ahead as Indian fine dining is a “very niche market” here.
With other projects in the pipeline, he believes the future of dining is in cloud kitchens and home deliveries.
“Restaurants will survive, but people want convenience and value-for-money food that can feed a family,” he says.
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