Japan gourmet festival gets S'pore debut at Jurong Point

A popular Japanese food fair will make its debut in Singapore at Jurong Point Shopping Centre tomorrow.

The 10-day Rakuten Japan Gourmet Festival, which runs until next Thursday, will be held at the mall's newly revamped Japanese food street, Shokutsu Ten.

It is organised by Japanese e-commerce platform Rakuten, which launched its Singapore site in January.

The festival - which has been running in various cities in Japan for four years on a much larger scale, with up to 100 merchants each time - will feature 11 top brands from the site in the Singapore edition. It is best known for its wide range of gourmet food items.

The vendors will set up shop at Shokutsu Ten's event space, called WAttention Plaza, which houses more than 10 kiosks selling a range of foods, dried goods and handicrafts.

Foodies can look forward to more than 100 types of speciality food products, including items from Hokkaido and Kyoto. Think premium Hokkaido seafood and a variety of desserts and snacks such as daifuku (mochi) filled with green tea cream.

Okamoto Shingo, general manager of the Singapore e-commerce division of Rakuten, said holding the event in Singapore was a "natural choice".

"Singaporeans have a strong passion for food and love of Japanese cuisine. The setting allows shoppers to sample and purchase products offered by our online merchants in a traditional retail environment," he said.

"We are definitely looking at how we can bring this concept back to Singapore."

WAttention Plaza is part of Shokutsu Ten's $7 million makeover, which was completed last month. The colourful street - run by Japanese food company RE&S Enterprises - has almost doubled in size to 17,000 sq ft. The old Edo-style Tokyo and modern-day Osaka themes remain, but the restaurant spaces have been reconfigured and expanded.

There are nine restaurants, including the popular Japanese buffet restaurant Kuishin Bo, and two new additions - Japanese pasta restaurant Kabe no Ana's cafe concept, with all-day breakfast and speciality coffee, and hotpot restaurant Shabu Tontei. Kabe no Ana is also at Shokutsu Ten at Serangoon's nex shopping mall.

Jurong Point chief executive William Seet, 63, noted that the revamp is its way of keeping up with the competition among the malls in western Singapore. Other malls in the area include JCube, Westgate and Jem.

In July, a Mongkok Street with food and retail options that reflect the vibrant Hong Kong district was launched in Jurong Point.

Since the revamp, hungry and curious diners have flocked to Shokutsu Ten to check out the new offerings.

Public servant Aw Wen Ling, 27, was a little disappointed. "I was expecting more new brands for the food offerings. And even though there's now more space for people to stand around the kiosks and eat, the walkways can still be cramped when it gets crowded."

She was happy, though, to try the karinto manju, a fried Japanese snack with brown sugar, dough and red bean filling, which was new to her. "I will go there more often if they keep introducing new food," she said.

Customer relations manager Tan Xia Yan, 29, was pleased with the revamp.

"I like the vibrant design of the food street. So far, I've tried the bento and chicken karaage (fried chicken) at the food kiosks. I like the new options and I hope they introduce more Japanese dessert items."

Jurong Point is jointly owned by property and engineering group Guthrie GTS, and construction and property company Lee Kim Tah Holdings. Guthrie GTS also manages nex, which is developed by Gold Ridge.

Rakuten Japan Gourmet Festival is held from tomorrow to next Thursday, from 11am to 9.30pm daily at Jurong Point Shopping Centre, 63 Jurong West Central 3, #B1-78A. Visit http://bit.ly/1y1uvWI

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