New year, new Freshmen’s Guide – but food will always remain. If you’re new to SMU and looking for places to eat, you may want to hit up last year’s food guide – while some of the recommended places (e.g. Density and Kokomama) are no longer with us, most of them are still old but gold.
If you’re like me, however – adventurous, a little sick of the Food Republic crowd, and always on the hunt for new, good food, then the SMU Food Guide v 2.0 is just the thing for you. The best part? All of these places are within walking distance of the campus. So no matter if you’re at SOE, or isolated from civilisation in the new SOL building, this guide’s got something for you.
Japanese Curry Express (Fortune Centre)
Salmon? Check. Spicy cod roe? Check. Generous use of a blow torch for that wisp of smoky aftertaste? Check. If you love aburi (blowtorched) salmon, then Japanese Curry Express’ Salmon Mentai Don will send you straight to food heaven. Don’t dismiss this eatery’s ulu location – it is one of the best hidden gems around the SMU area. If you’re feeling hungry, you can upsize your salmon bowl for $3 (which we definitely recommend); if you’re not a fan of fish, Japanese Curry Express also serves up good Japanese curry, as per their namesake.
Japanese Curry Express can be a little difficult to locate – walk straight down Waterloo Street, until you hit Fortune Centre, then go up to the third floor. Our advice? Go during off-peak hours – at prime dinner or lunch time, hungry diners may get turned away due to lack of seats. Also, if you’re aiming for the salmon dishes, do note that salmon only reaches the kitchen around noon each day, so there’s no point in going too early.
Expected damage: $7~$15
Food Republic (Capitol Piazza)
Source: Food Republic
Yeah, I know, I know. How can I complain about Food Republic above but still have it on the food guide? Well, as they say, don’t knock it ‘till you try it. The Food Republic at Capitol Piazza has a very different list of tenants as compared to the one at Manulife Centre, which most SMU students would be familiar with. Among their varied offerings are claypot Hokkien Mee, carrot cake, and nasi padang – all delicious, and all under $10. So fear no longer, students studying in SOB, the new SOL, or Labs – instead of the long trek down to Manulife Centre, why not try this Food Republic instead?
Expected damage: $5~$10
Al-Jilani Restaurant (Bencoolen St)
As pretty much the only place around SMU which serves roti prata, and also one of the only places that is open 24/7, Al-Jilani definitely deserves a mention in the food guide. It’s perhaps one of the furthest yet from the SMU campus – about a 10 to 15 minute walk that takes you past Sunshine Plaza – but if you’re craving prata, or are hungry in school past 10pm, this is pretty much the primary option for you. It’s no Casuarina Curry, but it’ll do.
Aside from prata, Al-Jilani also serves up other favourites such as nasi goreng, and murtabak.
Expected damage: $3~$7
Tanuki Raw (National Design Centre)
Tanuki Raw is also quite a walk – about 10 minutes from the campus, straight down Queen Street – but if you’re looking for good food and a place to chillax for a bit, this is the place for you. It’s probably most popular among students for its value-for-money lunch menu, which offers their signature rice bowls for around $12 to $15. This may sound pricey until the bowl is served to you, and you observe the generous helping of meat that’s given to you. Definitely food coma-worthy. Our recommendations include the Truffle Yakiniku beef bowl, the Black Garlic Negitoro (tuna) bowl, and the Spicy Garlic Miso Tofu bowl.
If you’re not in a lunch mood, or aren’t too keen on rice bowls, Tanuki Raw has recently started to serve cold brew coffee and a small selection of cakes. They do offer a cake set (a slice of cake and a coffee or tea drink of your choice) for $15, so if you’re planning to chill and forget your school-related worries for a good couple of hours, take note. Tanuki also serves up $2 oysters in the evening.
Expected damage: ~$15
Matchaya (The Cathay)
You may notice a relative dearth of dessert recommendations on this year’s edition of the food guide. Well, fear not – here is the first of two dessert recommendations. With the demise of Milkcow, Matchaya is presently the closest soft serve ice cream retailer to the SMU campus, and it doesn’t disappoint. It serves (hah, pun) up creamy, thick soft serve in flavours such as matcha, houjicha (roasted green tea) and Hokkaido milk. Though slightly on the pricey side, that cup of creamy indulgence will be well worth it after the conclusion of a harrowing group project, or the submission of a written paper. As the saying goes, treat yo’ self.
Aside from soft serve alone, Matchaya also serves up fancy parfaits, shaved ice, and a variety of tea-based drinks. The main downside is that the seating area’s pretty small – come at a slightly odd hour to guarantee yourself seats, especially if you’re coming in a large group.
Expected damage: ~$10
The Daily Scoop (SOTA)
Source: Daniel Food Diary
It was remiss of us not to include The Daily Scoop in last year’s food guide. But, well, the good stuff is worth waiting for. And The Daily Scoop definitely serves up the good stuff. Familiar, perhaps, to many as a long-standing ice cream chain that originated from Sunset Way, The Daily Scoop serves up an ever-changing roster of ice cream flavours, ranging from the classic to the experimental and exotic. You’ll always be spoilt for choice – my personal favourites include Salted Mr Brown, Strawberry Shortcake, Honey Vanilla… (Stop at one? Impossible.)
Expected damage: $5~$10
BONUS: Bistro 1855 (Suntec City)
Okay, so Bistro 1855 might be a little out of your way. It’s definitely not walking distance (well, unless you don't mind walking for about 20–30 minutes), and is more easily reached by MRT, as it sits right at the Suntec City exit of Promenade MRT. However, its lunchtime grain bowls are incredibly value-for-money. Hungry student living on a limited budget? This may be for you.
Once limited only to female customers, Bistro 1855’s all-you-can-eat grain bowls ($10.90) are now open to all who come during lunchtime. It’s not quite a buffet, but only because you can’t go back for seconds – instead, you get a bowl, and are free to add all the grains, meats, vegetables and sauces you can possibly eat. (Or, that the bowl can possibly hold.) The selection is immensely varied, including options such as soba noodles, couscous, roasted pumpkin, jalapeno peppers, and yakitori chicken skewers – the sky (and your stomach) are the only limit when choosing your dream combination. Come slightly before or slightly after the main lunch rush, as this place is also very popular with the working crowd.