My first full-time job, back in the proverbial good old days of analogue clocks and calendars, was being an errand girl for my mom.
“Girl ah, go downstairs to buy food!” she would holler, summoning me like I was her personal magic genie.
No complaints though, because I was remunerated quite handsomely: one ice cream.
Almost two decades later, when my boss told me, “you can go Downstairs to eat some food”, you can pretty much imagine my confusion.
As it turns out, Downstairs 楼下 is an eatery newly-launched by Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, located at Suntec City’s downstairs. (That’s basement one in case you're confused — sorry, couldn’t resist.)
The entire eatery is designed to look like a void deck of yesteryear.
At first glance, you would definitely notice a familiar sight.
That’s right, Downstairs 楼下’s all-day menu is inspired by the traditional car park signboards found outside HDB car parks.
Even Downstairs 楼下’s self-ordering kiosk is fashioned to resemble the old orange telephone booths, a commonplace of HDB estates in the 90s.
My brain switched to autopilot and I subconsciously searched my wallet for a phone card.
Alas, I lost my vintage collection when I moved house. That, and Downstairs 楼下’s payment booths only accept debit or credit cards.
After ordering my food, I settled into Downstairs 楼下’s statement piece, a stone roundtable that resembled communal chess tables usually found at void decks.
Next to me was a feature wall lined with rows of letterboxes — a sight Singaporeans are definitely familiar with.
If you look closely, you can spot a hopscotch mosaic on the floor, a tribute to a popular playground game that has probably seen its years, with kids these days being more interested in electronic gadgets.
Ask any Singaporean on the streets, and they probably have fond memories of playing hopscotch with their childhood friends.
Another easter egg you can look out for when you visit Downstairs 楼下 are the round signages displaying the common warning signs found at void decks.
Interior design aside, Downstairs 楼下’s service was quick and straightforward. You get a queue number once you make your payment at the self-ordering kiosk, and your number will flash when your order is ready.
Lu Rou Fan (braised pork belly rice) with lava egg — S$6
Personally, the star of the show was Downstairs 楼下’s Lu Rou Fan (braised pork belly rice) — also one of the eatery’s most popular dishes.
As a self-declared lu rou fan connoisseur, I’ve travelled all around Singapore to try Lu Rou Fan from different places and Downstairs 楼下’s Lu Rou Fan was love at first bite.
The diced pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender, achieved via hours of slow-braising in Downstairs 楼下’s kitchen. Its gravy was just as flavourful too.
The Lu Rou Fan comes with a serving of lava egg and salted vegetables. The crunchy greens were sweet and sharp, providing a fresh flavour profile to prevent the lu rou fan from being too jelak.
This dish also comes in a noodle form, if you’re in the mood for noodles instead.
Salted Egg Chicken Nasi Lemak — S$8.90
Just when I thought I’d seen all forms of nasi lemak, Downstairs 楼下 presented me with Salted Egg Chicken Nasi Lemak.
As with most nasi lemak, the rice is key — I’m glad to announce that the rice here was fragrant, with a hint of coconut. Exactly how nasi lemak rice should be.
The chilli accompanying Downstairs 楼下’s nasi lemak dish was different from its bee hoon chilli. The nasi lemak chilli had a bolder flavour profile, and a smoky aftertaste.
I later learnt that this was created by frying ikan bilis (dried anchovies) into the chilli. Wowza.
The salted egg chicken was definitely my favourite part of this dish — the meat remained crispy even though it was drenched in the salted egg sauce.
Paired with curry leaves, the salted egg sauce was smooth and buttery, with a strong salted egg flavour.
I can see why this is one of Downstairs 楼下’s most popular dishes.
Chicken Chop Hor Fun — S$6.80
This Chicken Chop Hor Fun introduces an interesting combination of texture — soft hor fun and crunchy chicken. The flavours of this dish are also out of this world.
I don’t know how Downstairs 楼下 did it, but the chicken chop remained extremely crispy even after being soaked in the generous serving of gravy for some time.
Having mushrooms and vegetables also helped to ease the greasiness in the dish.
Altogether, I would say there's nothing to not like about this.
Curry Pork Cutlet Rice — S$7
If you’re looking for a filling dish, try Downstairs’ Curry Pork Cutlet Rice.
The thick curry sauce, along with strips of pork cutlet served with a side of vegetables, egg and rice, are sure to satisfy your cravings.
Hearty and comforting, it’s the kind of dish (there’s also the chicken cutlet variant) I’ll look forward to chowing down at the end of a tiring day.
Downstairs Bee Hoon — S$4
Downstairs Bee Hoon had a springy texture, and was delicious even on its own.
Their bee hoon, I was told, is best paired with their special chilli sauce, which is sweet and not too spicy. Perfect for breakfast.
It came with a slice of luncheon meat, a slice of omelette, and a piece of fishcake.
Overall, this dish was reminiscent of the tasty breakfast bee hoon sold below my house when I was a kid and the good memories (not forgetting all the ice cream).
Downstairs Wanton Mee — S$6.50
My colleague couldn’t stop feasting on the indulgent slabs of char siew (barbequed pork) in the Downstairs Wanton Mee dish, which were perfectly charred and dipped in some secret sweet sauce.
“This is the yummiest char siew I’ve had in a while,” she exclaimed while making me promise that I’d give a special shoutout to the char siew in Downstairs 楼下’s wanton mee.
Thumbs up man.
Luncheon Meat & Egg Bun set — S$3.90
Made of ingredients familiar to Singaporeans — luncheon meat and an egg sandwiched between two fluffy toast buns — the Luncheon Meat & Egg Bun set will worm its way into your heart if you love comfort food.
For this toast set, you can choose any hot drinks from Downstairs 楼下’s menu.
I ordered Kopi O, which is also available on their ala carte menu for S$1. Nothing screams a Singaporean meal like a piping hot cup of Kopi O.
Address: 3 Temasek Boulevard #B1-132 Singapore, Singapore 038983
Opening hours: Monday to Friday – 8.30am to 9.00pm; Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 9.00am to 9.00pm
*Due to the current Covid-19 situation, operating hours may vary. Please check Downstairs 楼下’s social media page for its latest operating hours.
Nearest MRT: Esplanade or Promenade
Top image via Downstairs 楼下.
This article sponsored by Downstairs 楼下 makes this writer miss playing catching downstairs as a kid.