What do places like Peninsula Plaza, Golden Mile Complex and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre have in common? They all have an eclectic mix of businesses that call them home. Whether it’s cosy family-owned restaurants or nail salons buzzing with word-of-mouth recommendations, you won’t find the usual ubiquitous retail chains and franchises – and that’s precisely what makes the malls so irreplaceable.
And if you look a little harder, you will also find interesting eating spots, many of which are reflective of the areas’ diversity – from Lucky Plaza, a popular weekend hangout of the Filipino community, to Golden Mile Complex, well-known for its authentic Thai cuisine and grocery stores. Here are our top picks.
PHOTOGRAPHY Lawrence Teo & Veronica Tay
ART DIRECTION Ray Ticsay
Tucked away in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre is Lomba the Gurkha Bistro. This no-frills eatery serves up authentic Nepalese cuisine, with chef/owner Anushka Rana running the place since its inception in 2020 with her son. Anushka’s approach to her menu is to keep it as healthy as she possibly can, using fresh ingredients that are naturally processed, and taking absolutely no shortcuts when it comes to her cooking – she often prepares her orders from scratch. Menu highlights include Chilli Momo Veg, steamed dumplings stir-fried with capsicum and onions.
One of her most popular creations is Jimbu Butter Chicken. Anushka explains that the dish is usually made using heaps of heavy cream, which isn’t particularly good for one’s cholesterol levels. At Lomba, she uses cashews to recreate similar tastes and textures, all while keeping things lighter and better in terms of nutrition.
“A chef from Raffles Hotel once dropped by just to try this dish, and he said that my butter chicken was better than what he’s had before in fancy places. That was such a huge compliment for a home cook like me who lacks experience as a trained chef,” shares Anushka.
Lomba has very limited seating due to its small space, so be ready to wait anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes for your food – but we reckon that it’s worth it.
#04-12 Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, open daily (except Mon) 12pm-7.30pm, and 12pm-4.30pm on Sun, lomba-the-gurkhabistro. business.site
Eateries that specialise in authentic Filipino food are few and far between in Singapore. Fortunately, places like Kabayan Filipino Restaurant at Lucky Plaza exist.
Resembling a cafeteria more than a restaurant, this wellloved joint offers a wide variety of cooked dishes. You order at the counter – like how you do for economical mixed rice or Nasi Padang (that is how the food is laid out here) – and pay up after, before finding a seat.
The classics are mostly available, from Pork Adobo (a braise comprising vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, garlic and black peppercorns) to Tapsilog (beef jerky served with garlic fried rice and a fried egg).
If you have room for sweets, order the Halo-halo, a shaved ice dessert consisting of various treats like sweetened beans, fruits and jellies, all combined with crushed ice and coconut milk.
Kabayan gets especially busy on Sundays, but the queue moves fast and the seats are freed up relatively quickly.
#03-25 Lucky Plaza, open daily 9am-9pm
For some reason, many Japanese schools are found in the west. So it’s no surprise that we stumbled upon a cosy and authentic Japanese eatery in Newest Mall called Mochi Mochi Cafe Bistro Bar. Helmed by a Singapore-based Japanese couple, Mochi Mochi started as a takeaway outlet, and officially opened for dine-in in November 2021.
According to owners Mochiyama Kunihiko and Mochiyama XiaoJuan, they wanted to set up an eatery that based on the core idea of simplicity, so they’ve kept things simple with comforting options like bento sets and udon dishes. Don’t be fooled: While there is nothing grand about their offerings, top quality ingredients are used, and each dish is prepared with plenty of love and care to really make customers feel like they are enjoying a home-cooked meal.
“We offer healthy Japanese meals that can be enjoyed by anyone, including the elderly and children,” explain the couple, who ultimately want families to feel like they will always find something to eat at their restaurant. Even the ambience feels like a suburban Japanese home, with simple furniture, and plenty of browns and neutral tones everywhere to emulate that look of stained wood and straw matting throughout. Not sure what to get? Try the chicken curry or tori-nanban (crispy fried chicken with tartar sauce) bento set meals.
#01-103 Newest Mall, open daily 11.30am-2.30pm, and 5.30pm-8.30pm, @mochi_mochi_cafe
From mookata to groceries and even discos: For all things Thai, everyone heads to Golden Mile Complex. Thai businesses dominate the scene at this iconic building, which has been around since the 1970s, and a crowd favourite among diners is Diandin Leluk Thai Restaurant, which set up shop in 1985.
Housed in a simple space where plain tables and chairs take up almost every part of the restaurant, Diandin Leluk has a very extensive menu filled with nearly every Thai dish you can think of. On top of the regular offerings, the restaurant does specials such as Lava Fried Rice, which has a large, soft omelette draped across a bed of rice and topped with your choice of seafood, from crab to abalone.
“Even for our desserts, lots of people actually don’t know that if they just ask for the specials, they might actually be treated to something that isn’t on the menu because we hand make all our desserts daily,” explains its enigmatic owner, who wants to only be known as Mrs Lim. She set up Diandin Leluk together with her late husband, Mr Lim, who passed on two years ago.
You might have heard the news that Golden Mile Complex’s tenants have to vacate the premises come May 2023, due to a recent en bloc sale. Fret not, as Diandin Leluk has already found a new home nearby at City Gate along Beach Road.
#01-67/68/69 Golden Mile Complex, open daily 10.30am-10.30pm, diandin.com
Peninsula Plaza is known to many in Singapore as “Little Burma”, thanks to the concentration of Burmese businesses in the building. Naturally, Myanmar locals based in Singapore are drawn here, and if you ask them where they go for a taste of home, a common answer would be Inle Myanmar Restaurant.
Large mirrors, bright lights, and framed works of art line the eatery, which is kept homely and rustic. The restaurant’s owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us her favourite Burmese quote, which roughly translates to “Make merit and fill your stomach at the same time”. She shares that she makes a decent living running the restaurant, all while doing something good – feeding others and making them happy.
Must-try dishes include the pickled tea leaves salad – which boasts an intriguing mix of flavour profiles, from sour and sweet to bitter and spicy – as well as the Shan noodles, a sticky type of rice noodle dish served with chicken, tomato sauce and other delightful additions like garlic, chilli, and pickles.
#B1-07A Peninsula Plaza, open 11am-10pm daily, inlemyanmar.com.sg/ index.html
The Vietnamese community in the Geylang area is strong, which explains why you’ll see a Vietnamese eatery every 500m or so. Over at Grandlink Square, a small cluster of restaurants, bars, and cafes exists, and one highlight is Little Vietnam.
It is a little space that offers both indoor and alfresco seating (pro tip: opt for an outdoor table by the Geylang River), manned by Vietnamese wait staff. Foodwise, the kitchen whips up all the usual favourites, from pho to spring rolls. The food items may seem run-of-themill but rest assured, the flavours are not.
Popular dishes include both the chicken and beef pho, as well as Banh Xeo, a Vietnamese pancake filled with bean sprouts and prawns. Many dishes are priced below $10, so you’ll be getting a meal that is value for money.
#01-26 Grandlink Square, open daily 11.30am-10pm, littlevietnamsg.weebly.com