Bugis. The new town outside of town, it is home to the thriving outdoor shopping market Bugis Village where the young trawl for affordable fashion, as well as the yuppie cafes, Middle-Eastern eateries and quirky fashion shops in the Haji Lane/Arab Street area – and not forgetting the malls – Bugis Junction, and the recently launched Bugis +.
As a person who goes there approximately 5 times a week (I dance and assist in teaching salsa at Mosaic Dance) and who used to work fairly near there, I would say that I’ve tried quite a number of food places in the area. And hence, I have decided to do a nice long post on some of the food options available at Bugis – from cheap to slightly more expensive, and from healthy to sinful.
Each place is linked to each place’s website or HGW page, and mostly with just a short description, except for those that I think have more to be said. Hope you like it!
Liang Seah / Tan Quee Lan Street Area
1. Bugis Street Chuen Chuen, 21 Tan Quee Lan Street
This chicken rice place is my FAVOURITE in Singapore. Like seriously, I think the quality of chicken can totally compare to the likes of Boon Tong Kee and Five Star – its plump, succulent and tasty (refer to collage above for a picture). The rice might be a bit on the oily side, but still, very delicious.
Their other chicken variations are pretty good too – I like the curry chicken thick beehoon with its rich, spicy coconut milky goodness, but the usual steamed chicken kway teow or noodles are alright too, quite light – find the noodle version slightly bland though, but this might be a bit biased because I usually like rich and flavourful food.
And strangely enough, this place also does pretty good zi char dishes! They offer awesome dishes like fish head curry, imperial honey chicken, prawn paste chicken, sambal sweet potato leaf, crabmeat beancurd and more – all of these I tried and found to be very good, and in fairly generous portions too.
The Portugese style chicken rice (in the main collage at the top) is also amazing – tender fried chicken cutlets smothered in a rich yellow sauce. And for the health conscious, they also have the usual range of porridges as well as fish soup with rice or beehoon.
And one of the highlights of this place is the mango smoothie with milk, that’s thick, creamy and full of mango flavour.
Good stuff! Total ought to be about $5 to $20 per pax, depending on what you order.
2. Xin Yuan Ji, 31 Tan Quee Lan Street
Decent fish soup but I don’t feel that it’s worth the time and effort required to tackle the ridiculous queues around dinner time on weekends – but am happy to go there later in the night when it is less crowded. The soup was quite tasty and the fish nice and tender, but it’s usually packed and also priced a bit higher than the norm so it’s probably better to only go there if you happen to be in the area for supper and craving for fish soup.
3. Yu Kee, 516 North Bridge Road/the start of Liang Seah Street
Lovely juicy duck rice, noodles and porridge, complete with sambal chilli that packs a good, spicy and slightly salty (from the prawn paste) kick and soup which tastes sufficiently herbal. There’s also another more watery light red sort of chilli if sambal is not your thing.
One of the better duck rice and noodles that I’ve had in Singapore. And there is yam rice… love it! About $4 to $6, depending on what you order – they have herbal duck soup and kway chap-type sets as well.
4. Seng Huat Bak Chor Mee, 424/429 North Bridge Road
The bak chor mee here is pretty good (refer to first collage for picture)! Noodles (the mee pok or mee kia for the dry version) are cooked just right and are not too dry and chewy like some places, and the sauce packs a good punch. I particularly like the mee sua soup version, with two slices of ‘abalone’ added ($5).
Service on the other hand is quite terrible, they will just kind of carelessly slam down your bowl and walk off sometimes (there are some nice aunties there too).
5. Lai Lai Casual Dining, 20A/B Liang Seah Street [*Update: Branch CLOSED]
It really depends on whether you’re a fan of Taiwanese beef noodles, because that’s what this place is known for. The beef is the stewed variety, in chunks instead of slices. You can opt for all tendon too or have the beef mixed with tendon – which I absolutely love. The tendons used here are big, smooth and tender gelatine chunks (unlike the horrible chewy sort or the sliced flat sort). My favourite version of this (you can choose your own noodle and whether you want it wet or dry) is vermicelli with soup – much lighter than the thick Taiwan noodle.
The sides I’ve tried are good too – the salt and pepper chicken, eaten with the AWESOME chilli sauce that they have (which has fried shallots or something that’s really crunchy with it as well), is simply amazing; and the century egg tofu is a delicious, light dish that’s great for people who enjoy a generous serving of century eggs.
6. Madam Saigon, 30 Liang Seah Street
The pho is pretty decent, but not really anything to shout about – but seeing how there’s really limited places to have pho in Singapore, this is definitely one of the better ones. They’ve also got a stewed beef pho version, which is quite nice as it’s got thick sauce that’s slightly spicy in the soup, and chunks of fairly tender beef and some carrots and potatoes in it. The goi cuon (rice paper rolls) and cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls) were quite good as well.
What’s really good here though I find, is the dry chicken rice noodle dish (as shown in the main collage picture) – grilled thigh meat with sweet and sour clear Vietnamese sauce and loaded with vegetables – super delicious!
7. Porn’s Sexy Thai Food, 28 Liang Seah Street
Well the name and the dishes sound sexy, that’s for sure. As for the food, well, it was tasty – but a big minus point was that they appeared to have been microwaved (the horror), as they arrived really quickly and were not fresh and piping hot, how I typically like cooked food to be. The minced pork with basil was a bit dry and underwhelming, but the Thai mango salad was well flavoured – sufficiently sour and a tad bit sweet, with slightly salty, crunchy peanuts.
Found it a tad bit expensive for what appeared to be microwaved food– more than $40 for 3 dishes and 2 drinks – but this is quite usual for Thai food I suppose. The service staff were rather enthusiastic and ready to help though – so much so that they tried to clear a drink I was not done with yet.
8. Beaver’s, 33 Liang Seah Street
A bit of a gaudy looking casual bar-restaurant with rather loud music, that serves up fairly decent pub grub and beers at reasonable prices (about $10 to $20, except certain ‘premium’ items).
9. Swirl Art, 1 Liang Seah Street
What’s there not to like about frozen yoghurt? Swirl Art has a good selection of flavours and toppings and will do when you have a craving for this particular treat – but I find that some of the fruit flavours (eg. green apple, peach, mango) have a bit of a strange fizziness to them – like having a soft drink infused into the yoghurt. If you don’t mind that, then do try it!
The DIY system where you can pump your preferred amount and flavours of yoghurt into your cup, and add your own toppings, add a great level of customisation and fun into the process. Though I find that for this format, the first few times always result in over-enthusiasm and a cup of way-too-much yoghurt and a rather steep price (they go by weight).
10. Maggie’s Thai and Chinese Restaurant, 1 Liang Seah Street
More Chinese than Thai zi char food – dishes like black pepper beef, sambal kang kong, sweet and sour pork and the like. The hotplate tofu and black pepper beef were not bad, but the sambal sweet potato leaf dish that we had was kind of soggy and extremely small for the medium/large size.
Honestly think that for the price and the quantity, it’s not really worth the time unless there are queues everywhere. Many more places to explore in the area.
Bugis Junction / Village Area
11. Everything with Fries (Bugis Junction, Level 3)
I really got a surprise with this place. I had been to Everything with Fries before, but to the Katong branch. Thought it was pretty normal, okay food, ambience, prices etc.
But I went to the Bugis branch, and ordered the seasonal special, the Steak Tulang (about $26++ I think; refer to the main collage for the full image) and oh my. My impression of this place really changed – it was a REALLY delicious steak, covered with a generous thick tasty mushroom sauce with chunks of mushroom in it. And it was super juicy and rich in flavour! Yum. And I’m actually quite picky about steak, so it probably would satisfy those who aren’t really. The truffle fries that came with it weren’t half bad too.
Though, compared to this magnificent dish, the starters (caesar salad and wings) and desserts seriously paled in comparison. The barramundi (also a seasonal special and priced similarly to the steak) was not bad though, quite tender and with fairly crispy skin, though the fish itself was slightly lacking in flavour, which had to come instead from the orange sauce. I’d say swing by and give this place a try if you’re looking for a simple and cosy dinner place for a small group.
12. Bugis Junction Food Court (Level 3)
Seriously, it’s so damn hard to find brown rice in Singapore. Soup Master at the Bugis Junction Food Court not only has healthy, tasty Chinese boiled soups, but it also has brown (hallelujah) and also pumpkin and other interesting sort of rice to go with these yummilicious soups. I usually have the ten tonic chicken soup (picture of this in the collage at the top) and oh, it is rich and so chock full of taste that you wouldn’t believe that it’s a healthy dish.
Some of the other good stuff at this food court:
*Update: The Western stall appears to have closed down / moved somewhere else, so do take note!
13. Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Bugis Junction, Level 2)
I’m not a xiao long bao connoisseur so I won’t claim that this is better than the rest or not, but I do think that the ones here are comparable if not better than its counterparts at the other chain Chinese restaurants like Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung. Plus they have crab xiao long baos! With just the right amount of juicy meat and soup.
But what I really like at Nan Xiang is the crab roe green bean noodle. Soft and chewy flat noodles drenched in super rich and thick crabmeat roe sauce in bright orange hues, this dish is really tasty and worth trying, especially if you like crab. I also found that the alcohol was boiled off quite well for the Drunken Chicken, and was not cloyingly overpowering like how it can be at some other places.
Overall quite a nice place to have a meal and the queues are not as bad as most of the other restaurants in the building.
14. Itacho Sushi (Bugis Junction, Basement 1)
Itacho, unlike the other casual Japanese sushi and more chain restaurants, have a rather fusion approach to the sushi, with items such as Soy Sauce Salmon Sushi and Foie Gras Temaki on their menu.
Pricing is moderate but the special items of the day are sold at discounted prices – or example the soy sauce salmon sushi (in the picture at the top) was only 99cents each piece. And it was so delicious that the last time I went, I had at least 3 or 4 of these. These and the other special items do sell out pretty fast though, so you might want to ask before joining the long queues that are usually found outside this place.
15. Kazokutei (Bugis Junction, Level 2)
A chain Japanese food place mainly featuring udon, ramen, hot pots and rice dishes, Kazokutei has a delicious variety of these at fairly reasonable prices.
I like to go there to enjoy some sukiyaki, kimchi hotpot or udon along with the (rather unhealthy but quite delicious) fried chicken pieces that usually accompanies the set meals. The udon is quite nice – firm and chewy without being too powdery, and the soups are hot and delicious, albeit a bit spicy. However, the service is so-so and they can be really slow with the food sometimes.
16. Ministry of Food (MOF) (Bugis Junction, Level 2)
Only been here twice but gosh there’s a ridiculous variety! And the prices actually seem quite okay (around or under $20) – had thought that it would cost more. Tried some hot pot dish once and a hot plate eel rice dish which was supposed to be one of the specialities. It was quite tasty, but I felt that the portion of unagi given was a bit lacking, and also, that the inherent flavour of the rice was a bit too salty and overpowering, such that the pot of sauce given was rendered totally unnecessary.
The macha drink (they have a good selection of these here, with ice cream, latte version etc) we had was pretty good though, with a strong, powdery real green tea taste.
17. NYDC (Bugis Junction, Level 2)
I’ve been eating at NYDC since I was like, 12, so this place does bring back a bit of nostalgia for my teenage days. But that aside, I’ve always found it to be a reliable place for dessert, or even for times when I just have a craving for a good cheesy baked rice.
Recently went there for my favourite Gold Mine cheesecake with a big scoop of Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and was pretty satisfied. The Ugly Cake is actually quite yummy too! But I guess the prices have gone up, understandably, since 10 years ago. Still happy to go there once in a while though, for a hearty baked rice/pasta or some rich, heavy dessert.
18. Shokudo Japanese Coffee House (Bugis Junction, Level 1)
Branding itself as more than just a coffee place, Shokudo offers a wide range of Japanese-style pasta, pizza, rice, udon, grilled food and even burgers. It supposedly uses fresh ingredients to provide the subtle tastes and flavours of Japanese cuisine. I can’t really tell exactly how fresh the ingredients are really, but I do agree on the subtle taste part – the food seems to be more on the light side, but still with enough flavour to be enjoyable.
Recently, they also have a seasonal range of Japanese hot stone sets, which come with Goma Horenso (Spinach with Goma Sauce) and Pan-seared Japanese Scallop with Butter sauce. I had the Seafood Curry Udon Hot Stone Set (about $15.80++ I think), which was quite enjoyable – okay an entire pot of curry can get quite ‘jelat’ (too heavy), but this was tasty and slightly sweet, the way Japanese curry usually is, with a fairly generous amount of seafood, so I didn’t get sick of it too quickly.
19. V8 Cafe (Bugis Junction, Level 3)
Pretty bad service, so-so food. The waiters got our requests wrong / forgot our requests quite a few times and one of them actually got his hand into the fries and sauce when putting the dish down on the table – so we had to ask for a replacement, which was not even automatically provided. Don’t have much to say about this place actually, but I guess if you want fairly cheap/reasonable Western sets (grills, baked rice, pastas), it would suffice.
20. QQ Noodle House (Bugis Village, 231 Victoria Street)
A simple and affordable eatery with pretty good food. I especially like the Martell Chicken Broth Vermicelli with its light but flavourful soup and juicy chicken thigh meat matched with the soft and delicate thin white noodles (not really vermicelli but more like mee sua).
They also have ‘QQ Noodles’ Wanton Mee style or with curry or other variations, and a wide range of other local rice or noodle dishes. There’s also a hot-plate otah dish which is quite nice, though it sounded/looked better than it tasted.
A nice, fairly cheap place to grab a quick meal before hitting the shops.
21. R&B by MOF (Bugis Village, 160 Rochor Road)
A simple and small Japanese eatery with a menu that has quite terribly taken pictures (making the food look less appetizing than it actually is) but quite tasty rice bowls – I had the fried prawn curry rice (refer to main collage for a picture) and it was quite good – crispy and firm prawns and sweet Japanese curry. And the beef bowl my friends had was pretty delicious too! Around $10 if I remember correctly.
Haji Lane / Arab Street Area
22. Blu Jaz Cafe, 11 Bali Lane
I like the food here – a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Western and even local, there’s a whole host of choices for everyone. And the prices are quite reasonable too. The eggplant and hummus dips were yummy, and the Grilled Creole Chicken ($11.90) I had was really marvellous – spicy, juicy and covered with lots of tangy, chunky sauce, on a bed of grilled vegetables and fried wedges. Yum.
There’s even live music or a DJ spinning at night, usually during the weekends – a great place to hang out and chill with friends.
23. Pluck, 31/33 Haji Lane
This is actually a shop that features knick knacks and quaint, handmade accessories for you and your home – but with an ice cream parlour and cafe within it. With delightful flavours such as Sea Salt Caramel, Earl Grey & Fig and more from the Ice Cream Gallery (this is what I’ve inferred from the ice cream flavours offered and from asking the staff once, but it’s not officially stated on their website) that will pleasure your tastebuds, and decent coffee, it’s a good place to stop by for a relaxing break from shopping.
24. Ala Turka, 16 Bussorah Street
Mainly Turkish and also Mediterranean food – kebabs, grilled meats, pitas, hummus and more – and also the classic apple tea and Turkish coffee, this place is a hidden find somewhere along Bussorah Street. The interior is decorated with very authentic looking touches, and the food is meaty and satisfying.
The grilled meat platter for two, had a good variety of beef/lamb sausage, chicken skewers, grilled lamb chops and tasty sauce and rice, kept hot on a silver plate over a candle flame. It was delicious and very filling.
And I just love Mediterranean dips – tried the babakanoosh dip (eggplant with roasted garlic) here and it was full of great eggplant-y, creamy flavour and texture. The drinks we had, Turkish coffee (crazily strong and quite bitter) and the classic apple tea (sweet and homely), were good but the former might be a bit too much for local taste buds. Quite an interesting experience though!
Phew, that took a while but I’m finally (sort of) done. And this doesn’t even cover Bugis+ (because actually, I hadn’t been there until last week – I did try two places that I would like to write about, but perhaps next time), or the steamboat places present at every corner (too many to try them all, and we usually can’t have too heavy a meal before dancing).
But hope this little list can will help you to find food to suit your fancy, should you ever decide to visit the Bugis area!