Poor Iluma mall. It has some potential, but a combination of factors has led to it being virtually a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon. For one, it opened at quite an unfortunate time, because before the general public (ourselves included) could really decide to check it out, the Orchard mega malls (ION, then Orchard Central and 313 Somerset) soon followed suit. With that kind of competition, a fledgling mall like Iluma without any major anchor tenant simply didn’t stand a chance.
Another, and perhaps more significant, reason is the fact that the link bridge from Bugis Junction to Iluma doesn’t actually connect to the inside of Bugis. It stops just a couple of feet short, and you have to take the escalator down and walk along the perimeter of Bugis Junction till you reach an entrance.
As a result, the shops here are forlorn and deserted, and I’m not sure how long this can last; already there are signs of stores that have closed down. The restaurants don’t fare very much better either, which is a pity because there are some rather interesting joints, like Ebiboshi Shotengai, a Japanese food court on the 4th floor.
This looks like it came right out of a Sapporo department store (it looked rather like Ramen Republic, actually). The food court actually houses 3 independent restaurants – a izakaya/yakitori place, a shabu shabu hotpot, and a generic Japanese sushi/udon/ramen place. We tried the izakaya place – Tsubohachi, which is apparently a chain from Japan. The menu is quite varied, from sashimi to dons and yakitori, and prices are fairly decent (we spent about $20 per person).
We tried a selection of yakitori – rice cake wrapped with bacon, tomato and bacon, chicken wing, grilled pork belly and chicken topped with cheese. The chicken wing was perfectly cooked – crispy yet still juicy and tender. The pork belly was good but I would have preferred an option of having it grilled with salt, rather than teriyaki sauce. The grilled rice cake was a bit of a letdown. I expected more of a crispy char on the rice cake, but it was mostly a heavy, gluey mess. This sank to our stomach really quickly and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.
We also had the deep fried squid legs – perhaps a mistake with the memory of Hokkaido grilled squid still fresh in our memories. Still, despite this being a bit on the oily side, these were actually quite addictive.
The octopus omelette was a pleasant surprise. It was a bit watery, probably from stock in the beaten egg that leached out during cooking, but the flavours were good and they were pretty generous with the octopus.
Service is good but the food is a bit on the slow side. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try the other 2 joints in the food court, but being one of a handful of customers can be quite disconcerting, and I just get depressed when I see shops and restaurants looking empty and forlorn.
The food’s not exactly great, but surprisingly not bad. It just tends to be overly seasoned and on the salty or greasy side.
I’d probably come back here if I ever return to this depressingly empty mall.
201 Victoria Street
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 10.30 pm
Fri to Sun and PH: 11.30 am – 10.30 pm