SINGAPORE: Lovers of all things Japan will be glad to know that SORA, the new Japanese food hall at Changi Airport's Terminal 2, officially opens its doors on Tuesday (Nov 14).
The space houses six brands, two of which are making its debut in Singapore. Tsuruhashi Fugetsu, a renowned okonomiyaki chain from Osaka, will serve up savoury Japanese pancakes, while Japoli Kitchen will offer Japanese-Italian fusion dishes.
This also marks the first time ANA Trading - the trading arm of Japanese airline All Nippon Airways - is operating a food hall outside Japan.
Here are 11 things you should know about SORA, which means sky in Japanese, before heading down to Changi Airport for a taste of Japan:
1. All dishes from this ramen eatery contain no pork or lard
One of Tokyo's top chicken ramen chains, Menya Takeichi, is among SORA's offerings. We tried its Special Rich Shoyu Ramen, which boasts a robust chicken broth, al dente noodles and a marinated egg. Besides ramen, it also serves up rice bowls - all with no pork or lard. The eatery at SORA is the brand's 100th outlet worldwide.
2. See okonomiyaki made fresh
If you've always wanted to try authentic okonomiyaki, Tsuruhashi Fugetsu's version comes pretty close, short of flying to Japan. Each pancake is made to order and diners can watch while its cooks add each ingredient - the cabbage, batter, meat or seafood as well as bonito flakes - before flipping it on the grill. The okonomiyaki comes on a hotplate, accompanied by a little spatula to help cut the pancake into bite-sized pieces.
3. You'll find Otoro sashimi at Kuro Maguro for under S$30
If a sashimi craving hits before boarding a flight, you'll be able to satiate it at SORA. Kuro Maguro, which opened to much fanfare at Tanjong Pagar Centre earlier this year, has set up shop at Changi Airport. For S$29.80, diners can get a bowl of otoro - the most indulgent part of the tuna - atop a bed of fluffy Japanese rice.
If you prefer a variety of sashimi, its kaisen meshi - assorted sashimi served with Japanese rice - could hit the spot.
4. Need comfort food? Try handmade tofu in a spicy stew
Sundubu is better-known as a spicy Korean stew, but the folks at Tokyo Sundubu have given it a twist by using a Japanese stock as its base. The highlight of the dish is handmade tofu, made fresh every day. The tofu does taste different to the supermarket variety. While soft, it retains its shape and has a distinct soybean taste.
5. Try Tendon Kohaku's Kohaku Tendon - especially the chicken breast
Chicken breasts have gained a reputation for being dry and stringy, especially when cooked poorly. However you may change your mind about the oft-misunderstood part of the fowl when you try Tendon Kohaku's chicken breast tempura. Its thin batter gives way to a juicy, flavourful piece of chicken - so good.
6. Find pizza with a Japanese twist at Japoli Kitchen
Mozzarella, Japanese mayonnaise plus a hint of mentaiko atop a thin, chewy pizza base? Try it at Japoli Kitchen, where Italian dishes are given a Japanese touch. Its pizza dough is made with flour imported from Japan, making it slightly lighter than the Italian equivalent.
7. End your meal with a treat from SORA Bar
It's not just about the sake and cocktails at SORA Bar - you can also order ice-cream made with Hokkaido milk and other desserts before going on your way.
8. Stretch your legs at the tatami seating area
The 300-seater food hall features various seating options - booths, table seating, as well as a tatami seating area, useful for stretching out after a long flight. Diners have to remove their footwear before entering the area though, so be mindful and remember your shoes after!
9. Kids have their own space
Young ones have an area for them as well. Located next to Tsuruhashi Fugetsu (the okonomiyaki eatery), the kids' corner features interactive screens and a couch for them to lounge in comfort.
10. Ran out of juice? Recharge (your gadgets) at the bar
SORA aims to give travellers the convenience of an airline lounge - which explains the row of charging stations just behind the bar. The charging points however do not have USB ports, so do bring a converter if you're thinking of using one.
11. Use these tags to chalk up your purchases
Diners will be handed one of these plastic tags when they enter the food hall. Order from as many eateries as you like, and head to the cashier right before heading off, to settle the bill.