MENTION food in Katong, and laksa probably comes to mind.
But the stretch of East Coast Road between Katong Shopping Centre and Joo Chiat Road is no longer just famous for the Katong laksa war waged between rival stalls in the late 1990s.
New eateries have sprouted since late last year, with at least 10 new restaurateurs setting up shop there.
Katong Village, which was the site of the former Joo Chiat Police Station until1987, is now home to Samy's Curry, Samba Brazilian Steakhouse Churrascaria and Hong Kong Tea House.
Across the road, shophouses that once housed massage parlours, grocery stores and food kiosks have slowly been taken over by upmarket cafes, restaurants and bakeries.
More than 25 eateries now beckon to foodies, serving anything from sushi to steaks.
This is a far cry from just three years ago, when the area was promoted as a Peranakan enclave by the Katong Heritage and Business Association, says Mr Desmond Wong, 26, a director at the Nonya dumpling house Kim Choo Kueh Chang.
The family business had joined two other Peranakan businesses - fashion store Rumah Bebe and restaurant True Blue Cuisine - to open in 2003.
Mr Wong recalls: "There was virtually no one walking on the streets during weekdays, save for tourists brought in by tour buses."
But business in his shop has grown by about 40 per cent from last year, mainly due to the new eateries. "They may also be in the food business but they bring synergy to the area. When there is variety, people will come."
Ms Virginia Cheng, 45, owner of confectionery and cafe Baker's Well, agrees.She opened her shop in 2004. Business was bad in the first year.
"It took a lot to persist, especially when you see your neighbours folding every month."
But she stuck it out as she wanted to ride on the popularity of established eateries like the laksa stalls and True Blue Cuisine.
The tide turned after construction started on two condominium developments - The Esta and Amber One - in nearby Mountbatten Road.
Mr Patrick Tan, 39, manager of the food and beverage arm of Katong Village's landlord Crescendas Group, says restaurants are now eyeing the potential population growth in the area.
He has three restaurants waiting to open in Katong Village, but they are holding out for a ground floor space, which is fully occupied now.
The greater demand has pushed up rentals. While it cost about $2 per sq ft two years ago, it is now about $3 per sq ft. That is still a steal compared to rentals in the city area which go for $40 and more per sq ft. Even at HDB town centres like Tampines, the rent is about $20 to $30 per sq ft.
Katong Village itself has seen changing fortunes. In 1999, Crescendas took over the vacant site and turned the conserved building into a food and entertainment hub. But the 20-stall food court, restaurants and pubs with live band music failed to catch on. Mr Tan says substandard food and poor customer traffic were mainly to blame.
After Samy's Curry approached him to lease the place last year, the food court made way for restaurants.
Beautician Sally Yap, 44, who lives in Joo Chiat, loves the variety of food now available.
"When I feel rich, I can indulge in steak or Japanese food. When I don't, I can still go to one of the laksa stalls."
Still, restaurant owners say the area will take at least another year before it can be as buzzing as other yuppie food hubs like Siglap or Holland Village.
They cite the lack of commercial buildings and entertainment facilities such as cinemas as drawbacks.
But Samy's Curry director V. Maheyndran, 50, is hopeful.
"Give this place some time, and it will be as famous as Holland Village and Changi Village," he says.