… for choice when it comes to places to have meals outside the home.
So declared PY, sister of SE, who hosted us to lunch at a Japanese eatery at Liang Court last week.
SE said the place was called Osaka Udon which was what was on one of the signboards but the proper name should be Botejyu. It was large and almost empty, which ain’t a good sign.
Actually, SE had initially proposed to meet at Itacho at Ion Orchard but somehow got persuaded to host the meal at Botejyu by PY whose husband had highly recommended it.
As a guest I didn’t want to impose my preference but if given a choice, I would have stuck with Itacho because Liang Court is one place that I don’t find particularly conducive, even in the days when Daimaru reigned supreme in the Japanese food field with Yaohan and Isetan. And even when Liang Court was just a hop, skip and jump from where we used to live in River Valley Close.
Hence despite the decent and enthusiastic service rendered by the waiter, I wasn’t expecting much from our meal at Botejyu. I wasn’t wrong.
Three of us opted for the set for the day which was udon with pork of the black pig (could have fooled me: the slices were thin, stuck together, tasted porky and ex-forzen) + green tea. SE went for curry udon, a mistake she realised as soon as the food came, because curry ain’t a Japanese specialty for sure! Her kid had some teppanyaki seafood which looked decent enough but nothing to rave about.
We had two side dishes to share followed by dessert of one stick each of moochi smoothered in rich red bean sauce.
The meal set SE back by almost $90 which would be all right by Aussie standards but by Singapore standards it didn’t seem to be worth it. Especially when better quality food could be had at Itacho for the same amount.
Which brings me to PY’s remark that started this post: all of us tut-tutted about the lack of customers at Botejyu; besides us there was another table with four people and two other lone diners. Even if each of us occupied a table all to ourselves, the place wouldn’t be full.
And it’s not only Botejyu that’s suffering this fate.
The rate at which restaurants are opening makes them seem like stalls in food courts. Dozens of new ones have been added to the Orchard Road stretch from Ion to Orchard Central; dozens more are promised in the new IRs and dozens are already opening in Genting Sentosa; yet dozens more are springing up in the suburban malls.
I go to City Square regularly for my Fairprice fix and am always struck by how easy it is to find seats for three at the Banquet and Kopitiam Food Courts there, even at peak lunch time and even on a Saturday.
Worse is the fate of a stack of eateries at the Best Denki corner of the Square: Manhattan Fish Market, Breeks Cafe, BBQ Chicken, Seoul Garden, Pizza Hut, Soup Restaurant etc At best, they are half empty, but more often than not, only a table a two have been taken up — at least on the several occasions when I passed them.
Yes, Singaporeans are spoilt for choice but if the food bill is double at the multiple outlet restaurants compared to what the food courts charge and the quality hardly distinguishable, I know what most of us will choose in the end.
And in the end, we may be left with only food courts and the very high end restaurants with quality and prices to match. And perhaps a savvy operator offering accessible food and drinks like Itacho at value-for-$ prices!