Surrounded by modern high-rise buildings, Singapore’s Katong neighborhood of Joo Chiat was the first designated “Heritage Town,” a designation recognizing the vibrantly colored two-level homes and shops that have lined the streets since the early 1920’s. The area is a food lover’s paradise, boasting all manner of sit-down restaurants, food stalls and street vendors serving everything from local dishes to international cuisine.
Just don’t ask a local where to find the best laksa, a favorite dish of noodles and coconut curry broth, as everyone you meet will try to persuade why their choice sets the standard.
Here are some must-try foodie spots in Katong and East Coast Road:
All-Day Dining at Your Doorstop
You don’t even have to venture outside the Hotel Indigo for traditional Singaporean and Peranakan cuisine — just head downstairs to Baba Chews Bar and Eatery. This all-day restaurant serves a mix of modern and traditional cuisine. Enjoy favorites such as beef Rendang bun, roasted duck spring rolls and Nasi Lemak, a fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk, lemongrass and pandan leaf, served with eggs, cucumber, peanut, anchovies and onion.
Italian Fare Endorsed by Italians
The name of Etna Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria comes from Mount Etna, an active volcano on the coast of Sicily, close to the cities of Messina and Catania, where the land is fertile and offers an abundance of produce like perfectly sweet tomatoes and deep purple colored eggplant, along with fish and seafood. You will find authentic flavors in the pasta, seafood and pizza, as the establishment is one of 20 restaurants in Singapore to receive the Ospitalita Italian Gold Seal Award, a designation given by the Italian government, Italian embassies and Italian Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Cheap, Authentic Eats
For more than 50 years, Glory Catering has been dishing out classic Indonesian food, most notably Nasi Padang, a steamed rice dish served with meat or fish that originated in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. Glory’s best known versions include Assam fish head curry, beef Rendang and grilled fish with sambal chili.
A neighbourhood staple, Ampang Niang Tou Fu is located in an unassuming storefront that’s easy to miss. The restaurant doesn’t even have a website, relying on word of mouth for its menu of tofu, vegetables and mushrooms traditionally stuffed with minced fish and ground meat and then deep fried, served either dry with a sweet sauce or in soup. Make sure to experiment with the variety of spicy sauces and quench your thirst with a glass of refreshing sour plum drink.
Recently opened FireBake, which is both a restaurant and bakery, has been highly praised by local food critics since its opening. This new concept for the neighborhood showcases what they do best with their wood-fired sourdough bread as well as their wholesome cuisine that is incorporated with their fresh breads. FireBake uses historical European wood-fired techniques and blends it perfectly with contemporary flavours and influences.
Having started as a storefront only selling chocolate cake, Ninethirty by Awfully Chocolate has expanded to a collection of shops, cafes and restaurants, all inspired by a love for dark chocolate. This flagship location features a mixed-bag of familiar comfort food like their upscale version of a grilled cheese using honey baked ham, cheese, pickles and mustard on a thick cut piece of brioche, and — you guessed it — all manner of chocolate desserts, including the signature, six-layer, super stacked chocolate cake. For ice cream aficionados, a stop at Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique is a must — the spot is known for its use of locally sourced natural and botanical ingredients, including basil and blue ginger.
For Fans of British Pub Fare
For traditional British and international menu items, Rabbit Carrot Gun provides an informal ambiance, featuring artwork from local artists and modest simplistic furniture, but with upscale taste. Try the beef Wellington or shepherd’s pie. Next door is sibling bar, The Trenchard Arms, serving beers on tap, wines and craft cocktails, such as the mango and pepper gin and tonic using house-infused mango gin, served over ice with cracked black pepper.
When You Just Want a Burger…
Everyone has burger cravings every now and then, and when you do, Fat Boy’s – The Burger Bar is just the place to find one. Launched in Singapore in 2009, the mini-chain has since expanded to China and Malaysia. You can create your own burger here, choosing from a list of patties, buns, toppings and sauces, or opt for a specialty item, like the Elvis, a bacon stuffed pork patty with grilled bananas and peanut butter on a honey oat bun.
Now back to that laksa. For an authentic version, stop by the stall named for its address — 328 Katong Laksa — just a few feet from the hotel. This may not be the original laksa, as claimed by its proprietor, but it’s definitely worth a taste. The only dilemma is whether to order a small — or large — serving.