It is an understatement to say that old estate Tiong Bahru is facing a culinary explosion over the last two years. How many new cafes and restaurants do we need there? The good is that it drives many foreigners and hippies over to hang out over the weekends, though many old-time residents have more to complain about the loss in culture, congestion and parking woes. (Read: 5 Best Places For Cakes At Tiong Bahru)

Let’s talk about the new cafes and restaurants at Tiong Bahru. I know, I know… you must be thinking Tiong Bahru Bakery, P.S. Café or the strangely named edgy bar Coq and Balls. (Coq and Balls, get it?) So how about those who go under the radar?

Here are 5 new restaurants to try out at Tiong Bahru, all opened within the last year.

Big Mama (Kim Tian Road)
Former tutor and caretaker, Ji-young Nam Gung nick-named as “Big Mama” has set up a homely Korean eatery at Tiong Bahru after cooking for Korean students in Singapore for years. Big Mama or one of her staff would help you prepare the Dakgalbi ($15 per pax, min 2 pax), where marinated chicken chunks, Korean rice cake and vegetables are fried with a special homemade chilli sauce right in front of you on a grill. Surprisingly, this is very delicious with the saucy chicken going extremely well with plain rice. Maybe it is also Big Mama is talking while preparing, which makes us feel right at home.

2 Kim Tian Road, Singapore 169244, Tel: +65 6270 7704, Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 11:0pm (closed on most Mondays)

Abe’s Diner (Eng Hoon Street)
This is one of Tiong Bahru’s best kept secret. Abe’s Diner opposite famous Ting Heng Seafood Restaurant is a newly opened Japanese restaurant with very little publicity. In fact, there is no signage at the storefront that indicates this is the restaurant. Plus it’s only opened evening onwards. The small cosy restaurant is usually occupied by local Japanese, who indulges in some of their Japanese-meets-European cuisines such as Cream Gratin ($13), Carbonara Udon ($14), and Polynesian Roast Spare ($20). Expect to wait for your food.

42 Eng Hoon Street, Singapore 16978, Tel: +65 6222 1719, Opening Hours: 5:00pm – 12:00am (closed Mondays)

PoTeaTo (Yong Siak Street)
“PoTeaTo”, which is a combination of the words ‘potato’ and ‘tea’, sells mainly potato-made dishes and tea. So you can jia kantang and lim teh (eat potatoes and drink tea). For the potato bites, the selection includes PoTeaTo Chips, shoestring fries, sweet potato fries and wedges ($5-$6). No, they don’t sell the usual potato chips from the packet. Instead, their chips are made from US Russet potatoes, hand-sliced and deep-fried fresh right in the kitchen. When you thought you had enough of those salty packet snacks, this is SO GOOD.

78 Yong Siak Street #01-018, Tel: +65 6221 2488 Opening Hours: 11am – 10 pm Tue to Sun (closed Mon)

IKYU (Yong Siak Street)
Ikyu which means “take a break” and with a tagline “is the new sexy”, sells the usual Japanese basics such as sushi and sashimi, but with a contemporary fusion twist. The 54-seater diner seems promising – décor is modern and service friendly, sometimes too friendly as different service staff came over to ask “Is everything okay, do you want to eat more?” Executive Chef Takuma Seki (former chef-de Cuisine of Hide Yamamoto at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands) does not disappoint, from the aesthetically pleasing plating, to the use of fresh ingredients to create Japanese cuisines with French and Western influences. Expect food to be pricey though.

5 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168650 (15 min walk from Tiong Bahru MRT), Tel: +65 6223 9003 Opening Hour: 11:330am – 3pm, 6pm – 10:30pm

Baan Tong Thai (Kim Tian Road)
While slightly unpolished, Baan Tong Thai does have a few dishes that reminds you of the great food memories you have in Thailand. What it needs is a little push. The Green Curry ($8.80) was decently thick and flavoursome though, unless some places where the gravy is really watered down. My favourite dish so far is the Claypot Green Curry Fried Rice ($7.50) which interestingly keeps the green curry taste locked in, with the claypot keeping the dish warm and moist throughout the meal.

16 Kim Tian Road, Tel: +65 6270 1008, Opening hours: 11am – 230pm, 530pm – 1030pm

What’s your take on the explosion of new food places at Tiong Bahru? While we always welcome new places and set-ups, a part of me is feeling the loss of the ‘old’ Tiong Bahru, when there is just a very quiet and peaceful beauty that can never be replaced.

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