Located at the heart of Singapore’s biggest shopping district, Food Opera recently re-opened with 15 new tenants in early June 2016 after an extensive two-month renovation. Despite many new additions to their list of stalls, the classics, such as Scotts Hwa Heng Beef Noodles, have remained so you have the option to try the new stalls or re-visit your all-time favourite local street food at Food Opera.
As for the food atrium itself, most of the arrangement has remained the same. Nonetheless, although Food Opera still looks recognizable, you start to notice the subtle changes after a minute or two. The furniture and decor resembles that of the British colonial period, unlike its previous art museum-inspired environment.
This old Singapore twist to Food Opera’s latest opening is bound to make your hawker experience more authentic and perhaps even nostalgic.
The newly renovated Food Opera is now home to 27 (previously 25) hawker talents. As good as our good ol’ beef noodles, nasi padang and fish ball noodles, the 15 newcomers are certainly a bunch to look out for.
Now, did somebody say hawker food? Here are the dining highlights that you have to try at Food Opera:
1. Beef Noodles (Scotts Hwa Heng)
Many customers were indeed worried when Food Opera announced it was going to close temporarily for renovation because what would happen to their favourite beef ball noodles? Despite the introduction of new tenants, Food Opera ensured that their loyal fans are still able to enjoy their all-time favourite local street fares, especially Scotts Hwa Heng Beef Ball Noodles.
Now exclusively only at Food Opera, these bowls of Hainanese style-beef noodles, available in both dry and soup versions, tastes as good as it did in the 1940s. Piping hot, Scotts Hwa Heng Beef Noodles Combo Set ($7.50) takes you down memory lane. Slurp-worthy vermicelli with sliced tender beef in thick gravy is served with to-die for beef balls in soup, what more could you ask for?
You could also try their other specialties such as the Stir-fried Black Pepper Beef with Rice ($9) and Stir-fried Beef Kway Teow ($8).
2. Ikan Assam Pedas (Padang Padang)
Padang Padang is another classic that regulars can re-visit. Good MSG-less Indonesian cuisine isn’t easy to find in Singapore but Food Opera has made the search easier and brought amazing Nasi Padang from Padang city in West Sumatra to Singapore in the comfort of their air-conditioned food atrium.
With a variety of Indonesian dishes to choose from – and all made from natural spices – you’ll be standing in front of the food display for at least a minute or two deciding what you should eat to make the most out of your Padang experience. No worries though, we’re going to make it easier for you.
The Ikan Assam Pedas ($3.50) is a definite stand out. The stingray is soft and melts in your mouth. Doused in assam, you can taste tamarind, lemongrass and laksa leaves that is soaked in the sour and spicy gravy too. This strange combination of flavours just seems to get it right every time.
If the Ikan Assam Pedas is too fishy for you, go for the Ayam (Drumstick for $3.50/ Quarter Chicken for $5.50). Simmered in coconut milk and Indonesian spices, the chicken curry tastes like your grandmother’s cooking. The gravy in particular is rich but balanced in taste, you’ll want to soak all of your rice in it.
3. Fish Ball Noodles (Li Xin Teochew)
If your tastebuds prefer lightly flavoured food, Li Xin Teochew Fishball Noodles is still around to serve them too. Simpler than your usual hawker food, fishball noodles is the ideal comfort everyday food for most Singaporeans. After all, simple doesn’t mean less tasty.
The Fish Ball Noodles ($5.50) consists of delectable Mee Pok/ Mee Kia noodles with signature yellowtail fishballs, a mouthwatering combo of tomato and chilli sauce and crispy lard. The fish balls are still as bouncy and fresh as ever. Made from scratch, the fishballs are kept chilled in cold water without ever freezing them. Second generation owner Mr. Eddie Lim certainly strives to upkeep the standards of his father’s.
The homemade chilli sauce is mouthwatering too. The crispy lard, which follows the original recipe as well, simply topped the dish off with a crunch that contrasts the smoothness of the noodles.
4. Ah Yat Kitchen
The first of the newbies is Ah Yat Kitchen. Ideally located right at the entrance of Food Opera, you can’t miss. Ah Yat Kitchen is famous worldwide for its Abalone Baked Rice ($8.80) and although Ah Yat Kitchen prides itself on staying true to its Cantonese roots, Ah Yat Kitchen also keeps up with modern culinary trends.
The Ah Yat Shredded Roasted Chicken with Rice or Fries ($6.50) is evident of their efforts to stay trendy despite its Cantonese origins. The hand-pulled roasted chicken is succulent and toothsome but what truly surprising was the fries which were crinkle-cut yet crispy.
5. Signature Prime Ribs Soup (Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh)
Founded by Madam Gwee, Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh offers authentic Teochew bak kut teh. In fact, Madam Gwee still pops in weekly for quality control. Known for their perfectly boiled peppery broth, the brand only uses the finest grade of white pepper from Sarawak and air-flown pork from Australia and Indonesia to ensure the quality of the dishes and flavour.
The Signature Prime Ribs ($10.50) is reflective of Madam Gwee’s above-mentioned dedication to her roots and recipe. Smothered in flavoursome broth, the pork ribs are tender and falls off the bone easily. If you’re a fan of these pork ribs, you could also give the Boneless Sliced Pork Soup ($7.50) a try.
Other teochew delights can also be found at Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, including Claypot Tofu ($8.70) and Ya Hua Fish Soup ($8.70). Made using quality snakehead fish, fried garlic and chilli, the fish soup is a delicious option for those who are opting for a healthier meal. Clean and clear, the fish soup doesn’t sacrifice taste for nutrition.
6. Ayam Panggang (Riverside Indonesian BBQ)
Infamous for its snaking queues before and after renovation, Riverside Indonesian BBQ is back at it. Established in 1996, Indonesia BBQ has been around for 20 years now and there’s a reason why it’s still going: the Ayam Panggang Set ($6.50).
Despite the long queues, the Ayam Panggang Set is worth waiting for. The grilled whole chicken thigh is marinated in Indonesian spices beforehand and dipped in a special black sauce to serve, giving off a smoky taste. The homemade sambal chilli perfectly complements the smokiness of the chicken too.
Served with rice, this meal is certainly value for money. If chicken is not your thing, the Ikan and Sotong Panggang ($8.50 each) is also available.
7. Seafood White Bee Hoon (Xing Lou Seafood White Bee Hoon)
Xing Lou is making quite an entrance into Singapore’s F&B scene with its rendition of the local white bee hoon dish. Its show-stopping shellfish gravy is one of a kind. The bee hoon is also fried to wok-hei perfection.
However, what makes Xing Lou’s Seafood White Bee Hoon so unique is the fact that customers can also choose what crustaceans to put into their bee hoon. From crayfish and prawns to flower crabs and scallops, Xing Lou promises nothing but top quality and fresh seafood from Endau, a fishing port from Malaysia, that will satisfy your tastebuds.
Perfect for lunch and dinner, you also have the option to eat it by yourself (Individual, starting from $6.90 depending on the seafood you choose) or share it with your loved ones (Set C, $30).
From Indonesian cuisine to traditional hawker dishes, there’s something for everyone at Food Opera but what’s a meal if you didn’t end it on a sweet note, right? Of course, there’s always space for dessert so to wrap up the list, we have a Food Opera classic: the Ice Shop.
8. Chendol with Jackfruit (Ice Shop)
The Ice Shop offers sweet endings to Food Opera diners. With a selection of over 35 hot and cold traditional desserts, you’ll be stumped on what to have once again. So what should you indulge in?
Well, the Chendol with Jackfruit ($3.50) is one option. This traditional shaved ice dessert with green rice flour jelly, red beans, chewy atap seeds and jackfruit is for the sweet tooth. with the addition of coconut milk and gula melaka – this local sensation will keep you coming back for more.
If you like something more soupy, the Bobo Chacha with Taro Balls ($2.90) is your go to. Nostalgic, the bobo chacha with generous chunks of yam and sweet potato will remind you of those days when street vendors were common. The sweet potato and taro balls are exceptionally soft and breaks altogether with one bite.
So what are you waiting for? The food ain’t going to eat itself so head down to Food Opera today! Although there are many reasons to visit the newly-renovated Food Opera, these 8 reasons will surely push you to get out of the couch and walk on over to Orchard for an authentic hawker experience.
Food Opera: 2 Orchard Turn, #B4-03/04 ION Orchard, Singapore 238801 | Website | Tel: 6509 9198
*This post was brought to you in partnership with Food Opera