A few weeks ago I was checking around the new mall in Tampines (Tampines 1) and I saw the entrance to a restaurant called Manpuku. The entrance area was jam packed with people in line to get in and people ogling the items on display in the window:
I met up with my wife there during her lunch break and while we were walking around together we even got to see the mascot. At the time we didn’t know what restaurant or store the mascot represented but it was fun anyways.
We both love to go out and eat, and we particularly love Japanese food, so we were excited about going to check this place out. We finally made a visit to Manpuku today and it was great!
It wasn’t quite what I expected, in a good and interesting way. As you get to the head of the line a greeter will ask you how many people are in your party and will then pass you a corresponding number of cards that look and act like credit cards. The waiter will explain that as you walk around inside the restaurant, you pick different foods from the various stalls and the price of the item is charged to your assigned card. At the end of your meal, you bring the card to the cashier by the exit and settle your bill.
That’s when I realized that Manpuku isn’t simply one restaurant. It’s a collection of restaurants acting under one name, serving Japanese style food. In fact, the place reminded me of a big, themed food court, though a very well appointed one.
Here are some photos we took inside Manpuku:
As you can see from the pictures, the interior of Manpuku is pretty big. It sits at one end of the mall on the 3rd floor and stretches from front to back. There are at least half a dozen different mini-restaurants inside, offering everything from skillet plates to sushi.
The prices have a wide range from a bit on the high side (a four piece sushi plate at 38 bucks) to the affordable (my pork okas was 9.90). I saw quite a few dishes I want to try, and I’m looking forward to going back again. For this trip, we wound up having a sushi set, a dish called pork okas, and a soup that my wife devoured and said was delicious. I forgot to ask her what it was and she’s asleep now! Just thinking about it is making me hungry again!
The above picture is the pork okas. It has strips of pork along with cabbage, onions, and maybe a few other things cooked into an egg omelette. It’s topped with four different sauces while it’s still on the grill, giving it a nice design that adds a visually pleasing aspect to the tasty dish.
Like I said, the place is great! We’re looking forward to our next trip.
One special consideration for anyone planning to go there is that the place is busy. Expect to wait for up to 15 to 20 minutes for your dish to be prepared, and, unless you’re lucky, another 5 to 10 minutes to get a drink. A good workaround for this is having one person hold the table for you and designating someone else to order and pick-up their food for them. That way you can leave your food at the table while making trips to get drinks, or other goodies, without having to worry about someone else helping themselves to what you’re going to pay for.
Looking for something sweet to nibble on while you’re walking around Vivocity mall? Want a snack to enjoy while you’re sitting outside, enjoying the breeze and the wading pools? I really have to recommend that anyone who visits Vivocity stops by this stand and picks up some of these coconut cakes. They’re about the size of your palm and about half an inch thick. They’re made fresh as you wait, and they’re best when eaten warm. The outside is some sort of chewy dough and the inside is sweetened coconut shavings. It looks like it’s mixed with brown sugar, but it still maintains a mellow, even taste. I know, I know, I should’ve taken a photo of them, but we gobbled them down too fast!
If my recommendation isn’t enough, you can see in the picture above that her stall was featured in The Straits Times, which is the major newspaper for Singapore.
The last time we were at Vivocity, which I think was in September, we tried these coconut cakes on a whim. I mean, why not? You get four for only 2 SGD. They were incredible, and since then I’ve talked about them frequently, reminding my wife that the next time we’re there we should get more. Sure enough, almost right after arriving at the mall we made our way to this cart and snagged a little bag of four of them. We then found a cozy spot outside with a view of the water, got comfortable and enjoyed them.
The shop lady making our coconut cakes.
A cruise ship docked in front of the mall, and you can also see the Sentosa cable cars that go between Sentosa and the main island of Singapore.
Last night my wife and I were at Vivocity mall at Harbourfront and we noticed that there was a new store, a National Geographic Store. In Singapore, there seems to be a specialty store for everything. I guess National Geographic is no exception.
We went ahead and went inside to check it out and we wound up having a lot of fun! Looking through the store was like looking through a museum where everything is for sale. I took photos of a few of the more interesting attractions/products:
This thing greets you as you first come into the store. It’s pretty visible and is actually what caught our eye in the first place. When I saw it, the first thing that went through my head is stuff about pale horses and death. It’s a horse made of pieces of some type of old wood. I didn’t check the details on it but my wife said it’s selling for the low low price of only 9k SGD. I think I could build one myself for cheaper than that, but maybe it has some historical value?
Next up was this bookcase that was apparently made in Sweden in the 1880s. I thought it was particularly interesting because one of the blogs I follow is written by a Swedish girl in China, Jonna Wibelius. Besides, I love books, and it would be nice to have a fancy bookcase to put them on. I don’t think I’d go this far though. The bookcase is selling for about 25k SGD.
Next I saw this really neat jewelry case. It’s 7k SGD. How’s that for a high end Valentine’s gift?
Though not the most expensive, this one was probably the oldest. It was the oldest one I saw anyways. The tag says it was made in the 900s in England, and it was selling for 21k SGD.
What I want to know is how anyone can afford to buy any of these things, especially with the current financial troubles. Maybe these items are just there for show, and are meant to amuse and attract customers more than anything. The store also carried framed prints and a large selection of wearable clothing (as opposed to costume type clothing as pictured below) and bags as well. Plus, there were some interesting notepads. I should’ve checked the price tags on the clothes and bags, but I’m sure it was all very expensive. I did look at the price of a little 3×5 inch “Expedition Notebook” and was disappointed to see it was 17.50 SGD. I would’ve bought it if it had been 6 to 7 dollars, but I can’t see paying more for an empty notepad than I would pay for an actual novel.
Also, the store of course had issues of National Geographic set up on displays everywhere. I used to have a huge collection of those magazines. They were old ones that my dad had in storage. I don’t even remember what happened to them now. I should’ve kept a closer eye on them. They might have been worth money some day.
Besides old furniture and clothes the store also featured two other unusual and interesting attractions. One was so interesting that I don’t even remember what was on the stands around it. An area of the floor was lit up by a projected image of sand. It had some sort of motion sensing technology built in that would display footprints when you walked across it. Also, seeminly at random, scorpions would pop up out of the sand, or out of your footprints, and skitter around. My wife and I weren’t the only ones that found it incredibly amusing. There was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7, that was going nuts trying to squash the scorpions. I recorded some of it. Sadly, I turned off the camera just before the little girl screamed, “Nasty! Nasty! These things are so nasty! GRRRRR!” It was hilarious!
The other attraction is a “cold chamber.” It wasn’t open when we went into the store, but for 1 SGD you can stand inside the chamber and experience -25 C (about -13 F) temperatures. The chamber has glass windows so everyone can watch, and, if you want to pay 5 SGD and submit a valid e-mail address, you can have your picture taken and sent to you as well. For some people in Singapore this might be a thrill because they’ve never experienced temperatures anywhere near that cold before. This is a tropical climate after all. For me, it would be a welcome relief to finally feel some real cold air. Even in the malls here the temperature is average, rather than the cool I’m used to. -13 F is a little extreme, but it would still be great!
So, even though we didn’t buy anything, we still got to have a lot of fun just browsing the store. Even if you don’t have 25k extra to spend on old furniture, I still recommend you at least poke your head in to look around.
Yesterday, the new mall, Tampines 1, was packed with these flower arrangements to the point that they had to be shifted around constantly to make room for customers.
In fact, the store that seemed to be drawing the largest crowd, UNI QLO, actually moved their arrangements to a column in the center of the walkway in front of their store to make way for a line of people waiting to get in. I’m not too sure what the deal is with UNI QLO, except that it’s supposed to be a premier fashion line in Japan and people seemed particularly excited to get in. I’ll have to take a look around there soon, but I’ll wait until it’s not so crowded.
Apparently these flower arrangements are significant enough to keep on display even though it impedes customer traffic. Most are marked with cards from other business, or perhaps financial backers, offering “best wishes” and “luck.” Maybe that’s all it really boils down to? The concept that having these arrangements in front of your business on opening day is good luck? Sort of like how most Singaporeans and Filipinos I’ve met have a fear of black cats?
The last US business I went to on opening day was quite a few years ago. It was a Johnny Carrino’s in Columbus, Georgia. I don’t recall seeing anything like this there, so I’m wondering if it’s particular to Singapore, to Chinese culture, to Asia, or if I’ve been living under a rock and just never noticed them in the US before.