Foodies on the prowl for new haunts should go underground.
A new basement food hall in shopping centre Square 2 at Novena opened recently and two other halls in Bugis Junction and Raffles City have been revamped, making basements the top spot for gourmands.
Of these 40 new food and beverage (F&B) outlets, several are first-time eateries or takeaway stalls offering unique nibbles such as otah taquitoes, a localised version of the Mexican tortilla roll, and you tiao, or Chinese dough fritters, dressed with sweet and savoury toppings.
The underground food hall in Bugis Junction opened in December last year with 14 food kiosks and 11 restaurants after its basement food court was relocated to level three.
Its newcomers include Hong Guo, a restaurant serving Yunnan and Sichuan cuisine, as well as Yella Fellas, a French fry stall offering some 20 different dips and speciality sauces to go with its fresh-fried chips.
Mr Ong Hong Kiat, 31, a partner of Yella Fellas, says: 'We chose to open at Bugis Junction's basement because of its high traffic volume, which is made up of both professionals and youths.'
On why more F&B outlets were introduced, Mr Pua Seck Guan, chief executive officer of CapitaMall Trust Management, which runs the shopping mall, says: 'Food is a major draw for many Singaporeans.'
Likewise, Raffles Marketplace, the basement food hall in Raffles City, was expanded by 30 per cent late last year and seven eateries debuted there in January.
They include restaurant LuLu, which specialises in Shanghai and Sichuan food, Indonesian doughnut chain J.Co's first local store, Japanese food bazaar Shokudo and green tea cafe OChaCha.
At the basement food hall in Square 2, which started in December last year, six F&B outlets have opened since last month.
These new tenants, such as Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak, Oliv Sausage House (right), which sells sausage buns, and Cooking Papa, which offers Asian stir-fry as well as fish and chips, mostly cater to the grab-and-go crowd.
Ms Sandie How, 50, owner of Cooking Papa, says the lure of opening in Square 2's basement is that it is next to the Novena MRT station concourse, which brings in a steady stream of diners.
To complement her customers' demands for a quick bite, Cooking Papa serves its Asian stir-fries in American-Chinese-style takeaway paper containers and its fish and chips in cone-shaped grease paper packages.
Paragon's basement Food Cellar also boasts two new additions. Duchy Originals, a premium organic and natural food store opened in November last year. It was followed in January by gourmet deli Da Paolo Gastronomia with its first Orchard Road outlet.
Existing F&B operators in these basement food halls such as R E & S, which owns Japanese restaurants Kuriya in Raffles City and Shimbashi Soba in Paragon, welcome the newcomers who diversify dining options for shoppers.
Mr Mervyn Goh, 36, chef of Japanese restaurant Akashi in Paragon, adds: 'The new F&B outlets lend a buzz to the food basement, which can only spell greater consumer awareness for existing shops.'
Accountant Lily Cheung, 50, who frequents the food hall in Bugis Junction, says its slew of new food kiosks and eateries means being caught in a 'happy dilemma during meal times'.
The good news for diners, however, does not end here.
The food hall in Square 2 is expecting a few more F&B outlets, such as Japanese snack store Mr Corokke, to open in the middle of this year.
Another 18 food stores are slated to open in June at Bugis Junction's basement, including first timers Serebel, a takeaway kiosk selling Korean food, and Q Wonton, which will offer an array of Chinese dumplings.
So if you ever find yourself hard-pressed for something new to tantalise your tastebuds, dig deep and go underground.
Check them out
Here are some of the new food outlets in the basement of shopping malls:
B1-K11, Open: 8am to 10pm, weekdays, 9.30am to 10pm, weekends
Fusion fare at its yummy best defines Otah Inc, the first standalone store of Molly's, an otah and nasi lemak wholesaler, which has been around since 1971. Highlights include its Cheesy Thin Crust ($2.50, right), a grilled spring onion flour wrap slathered with a layer of otah and mozzarella cheese and its Otah Taquitoes ($2), a local twist to the Mexican tortilla roll, which comes stuffed with items such as crab and chicken in an otah-flavoured marinade.
B1-K7, Open: 11am to 10pm daily
Its dough fritters are surprisingly non-oily and stay crispy even when cold. Its Tuna Turner ($1.30, right, first), you tiao topped with tuna mayonnaise, is delightfully savoury. It also sells soft buns stuffed with custard cream. The Oreo ($1.30) flavoured one comes dressed with a white chocolate glaze and Oreo cookie crumbs.
B1-44B, Open: 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm daily
Specialising in Shanghai and Sichuan cuisine, the Golden Mushroom And Sliced Beef In Hot Pot ($14, right) is worth a try. Also yummy is its Prawn In Salad Sauce ($16).
B1-44F, Open: 10.30am to 10pm, Sundays to Thursdays, and 10.30am to 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays
This breezy cafe serves an array of Japanese green tea, both hot and cold, as well as small nibbles. Their OChaCha Rocks ($4.95), chilled matcha latte, is a refreshing thirst quencher. Top the drink off with Matcha Cotton ($2.90), a spongy green tea cupcake with a creamy centre.
B1-121/123, Open: 10am to 8.30pm daily
Its adorable paper food pail evokes memories of tucking into Chinese food in a foreign land to cure a bout of homesickness. Try its Oriental Fried Rice ($3.80, right), which comes with generous amounts of egg, chicken, ham and Chinese sausage. If you're looking for Western food, opt for its battered fish and chips ($5.50).
Oliv Sausage House
B1-124, Open: 8am to 9pm daily
Sausage lovers should try the sausage with bun. Its Chicken Cheese Sausage With Bun ($4.50, left) is a best seller. For those looking for something more, try its Salty Egg Soft Shell Crab ($4.90).
B1-20A, Open: 10am to 9.30pm daily
This organic and natural food gourmet store (right) is the perfect place to pick up sweet treats such as its rich buttery Highland Shortbread ($10.95) and handmade chunky Seville orange marmalade ($16.55).
Da Paolo Gastronomia
B1-20, Open: 9am to 10pm daily
The fourth outlet of this deli boasts the same great ready-to-eat appetisers, mains and sides that made its other stores a hit. Highlights include its cottage pie ($7) and salmon and pesto pizza ($7).