I12 Katong adds Peranakan flavour to retail therapy

Shoppers in the East can look forward to easier access to downtown luxury right as the Katong area sees a newly refurbished shopping mall - I12 Katong - right smack in their own neighbourhood.

Previously known as Katong Mall, the brand new incarnation courtesy of a $60 million makeover wants its shoppers to know it paid attention to the details to make their visit that little more special. Be welcome by the plush carpeting on the first floor, then take in the scented air (a trend begun by ION Orchard) as it aims to set itself apart from the other major shopping centre in the East, Parkway Parade.

Billed as a lifestyle premier mall with a slant towards all things Peranakan, shopping and dining in the heartlands is now elevated from the typical 'shorts-and-slippers' outing.

Head to upscale diners and cafes such as Da Paolo Gastronomia or Baci Italian Cafe for an Italian experience, or if you prefer to sit and relax, there are coffee joints to sip a good cuppa and chill out. But you will also find familiar names such as BreadTalk which will offer one-of-a-kind Peranakan bites, and eateries such as Little Cravings that offer Peranakan fare. But if Peranakan isn't really your thing, you'd be pleased to know there are other Asian cuisine on offer too.

Above pic: Main atrium

Yomenya Goemon serves up Japanese-interpreted pasta dishes (I recommend the Mediterranean Tomato Cream Soup Spaghetti with Fresh Seafood, a curious but delightful dish of spaghetti served with up in a cream-based tomato soup), all slurped up with chopsticks, and Din Tai Fung will open its first duplex store to serve even more customers who crave for its delicious xiao long bao.

And if desserts are your thing, there's a good mix of East and West too, including gourmet ice-creams and chocolate from Marble Slab Creamery, Max Brenner The Chocolate Bar and traditional Hong Kong sweet soups from Honeymoon Dessert.

But authentic hawker fare is also within walking distance too, and I don't mean the little eateries tucked into shophouses that Katong is so well-known for. Food Republic on the fourth floor makes it easy for you to tuck into tasty hawker fare that's been gathered from around Singapore, such as Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice, and wanton noodles with different flavours and colours from seaweed to soya from Cho Kee Noodle.

I admit the shopping may not be as varied as what you get in Orchard and the Marina Bay precinct to satisfy the true shopaholics, but there are shops there that would tempt me, a Western-sider my entire life, to make a dash for the mall when I need to stock up on one-of-a-kind items.

Such as the toy shop Zero2six, which perked up my retail-therapy antennae to sniff out a good buy for my little one when I first laid eyes on it.

Its flagship store there stocks high-quality children's toys that count hand-made, well-crafted toys that are safe, durable, and even pleasing to the (adult) eye.

Owner Terence Low told me he stocks toys that look good and wear well, so you don't have to be afraid that a toddler's curious little hands will do much serious damage, and they are budget-friendly as well.

Look for a good variety of quality toys from Melissa & Doug, a US-based brand, another US-based toy brand, mic-o-mic, which makes educational designer toys that can be constructed, pulled apart and put back together with little buttons and straps, and Vilac, wooden toys from France that look like they will outlast even your child's growing up years.

And of course, there are the various other little shops that encourage one to look for bargains for clothes, shoes and accessories.

One particular tenant that the mall management is quite proud to have is Cortina Watch, a name that has always been associated with high-luxe watch products and found only in Singapore's main shopping belts. I12 Katong is the retailer's first foray into a heartland mall.

Much has been reported recently of the new GV Katong Gold Class as well, with its Nyonya-themed decor and food offerings. Even if the movie screenings were available everywhere else in Singapore, it's still worth a visit just to soak in the Peranakan atmosphere of days gone by with a trip there. And of course, for movie buffs in the East, nothing beats having a movie theatre to call their very own in their backyard.