A day at the Food Opera


If asked about the single greatest contribution to gastronomy made by Singapore, I would say that it would the Hawker Center or its upscale brother, the Food Court.

That’s because saying it was the systematic Government consolidation and control, via license, of street food vendors – for hygiene purposes – isn’t as exciting or touristy-sounding.

This blog was invited, by Sixth Sense Communications, to lunch at the Food Opera, the latest food court atrium concept by the leading home-grown food atrium operator, Food Republic.

Having just returned from Europe and badly jet-lagged, I was glad to join Weylin and Colin (God’s Gift to all overly-ambitious parents with school children) of Only Slightly Pretentious Food. They are wonderful company.


And speaking of company, you’ll be feeding, in this 700-seater arena, with a menagerie of pigs, a horse and other animals but as they are, unlike this blog, all works of art, you don’t have to worry about stepping on something rural.

Busy Busy Busy

With 22 stalls and 4 mini-restaurants (more on this later), I won’t go into all of them, but I will give you the rundown of what impressed me during the lunch.

Top of my list is Li Xin Chao Zhou Fish Ball Noodles. The fish balls are large and so bouncy that I had trouble picking them up with chopsticks. Hand-shaped from ground Yellow Tail, the taste is clean, sweet and slightly peppery. Definitely one of the best fish balls around.

Li Xin Chao Zhou Fish Ball Noodles

We also had the Mee Tai Mak which I thought was awesome when tossed with their homemade Chili sauce which was numbingly strong but flavorful.

When talking about hawker centers, inevitably the name Tian Tian Chicken Rice will come up. And instead of Hainanese chicken rice, they’ve decided to open a stall serving Hainanese Curry Rice.

Tian Tian Hainanese Curry Rice

The perfection of the pork patty was marred by the somewhat flat meat sauce but deep-friend Hainanese Pork Chop can give the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein (don’t you think that’s such a delightful word? Schwein! Schwein! Schwein!) a run for the money. It was hammered flat but I thought it was still juicy and tender. While it is accompanied by the meat sauce, you should ask to leave it out. If you ask me, a healthy dash of black vinegar or Lea and Perrins will jumpstart the sauce a little.

And while still on the subject of meat, of all of Guan Chee Roasted Meat offerings, I was most impressed with their Smoked Duck.

Guan Chee Roasted Meat

I like my meat with a lot of flavor and just a little bit of fat, which is why I like the sirloin steak; likewise, each slice of the smoked duck was a sweet smoky morsel tender with a nice layer of fat. It’s finger-licking good on its own, but the special sauce (plum and Thai chili sauce, I think) added a nice acid to cut through the richness.

An honorable mention must be made to Fatty Weng’s Fried Oyster Omelette. This is not the Fatty Weng we all know on Guillemard Road.

Fatty Weng Fried Oyster Omelette

I thought the Oyster Omelette was was decently fried and the oysters were bite-sized but it was missing that umami that only pork lard can provide.

Moving along, the Food Opera has introduced an interesting take of the Mini Restaurant. This is where you get restaurant-style service in the food cour atrium and the privilege of private seating. You may bring food from the other stalls in so long as you order from the restaurant. One such mini restaurant is Ah Wok Restaurant, a sea food tze char whose kitchen is equipped with a beautiful wok that I couldn’t take my eyes off.

We were introduced to Ah Wok’s Red Wine Hor Fun. This was a seafood hor fun that’s finished with a generous splash of (very young) red wine. I thought it was interesting but I was vaguely disappointed when the wok hei wasn’t there. It could be we waited too long snapping photos that the heat dissipated.

Ah Wok Mini Restaurant

But what I liked was the Crispy Pepper Duck. It’s tough and chewy but that’s what I like about it. A slow mindful chew to extract all the smoky lemony flavor of the Sichuan pepper with Five-spice. And the roasted peanuts were fun to dip in the tarry black pepper sauce.

Ah Wok Restaurant

Lunch was a pleasant affair especially when you are in a fugue state caused by Lackofsleepitis, like I was, the filters kick in and everything becomes warm and fuzzy. This helps as the Food Opera can be, like an Italian Opera, chaotic, noisy and full of drama. But once you’ve experienced it, you know you want more.

The Food Opera is at 2, Orchard Turn, ION Orchard, Basement 4, Singapore 238801.


Posted on 21st Sep 2009 in Asian, Singapore


There Are 3 Comments


anon commented on September 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

ooohhh, the fried oysters look lovely…


Watombi commented on November 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

deep-friend Hainanese Pork Chop?

Think this tian tian is not related to the tian tian in maxwell road.


ivan commented on November 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I asked; they are.

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