In terms of setting the culinary world ablaze, shopping centre food courts usually don't have much to offer. But stumble down to 8 Street on the lower level of Westfield Garden City and you'll soon discover that something is a-sizzling here.
In these subterranean depths, stone dragons guard the entrance to a winding cobblestone laneway dotted with hawker style stalls bearing names like Crazy Wings, Madtongsan and Congee Master. The dim light is punctuated only by bursts of smoke and flames; the air is laced with spice and garlic. Low-slung stools and tables are thick with diners devouring everything from Shanghai dumplings to Singapore noodles. Lanterns, birdcages and signs rendered in Chinese calligraphy float merrily overhead,
I'll be honest. When I first heard about plans to corral a collection of Asian street food stalls under a single banner within a shopping centre, I thought it was a ghastly idea. How could any commercial enterprise faithfully replicate the colour and chaos and cacophony of an Asian marketplace?
I couldn't have been more wrong. Stepping into 8 Street is like being instantly transported to a night market in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or any number of other Asian capitals. Many of the individual shopfronts are designed so diners can watch their food being prepared - smoke, flames and all. And there's no pandering to delicate Western palates either - my Singapore-style noodles from Noodle 8 bore the appropriate dash of heat.
Fresh, fast and fabulous. Image courtesy 8 Street.
You can choose between takeaway or dine-in food at 8 Street. If you're a drinker, there are two beer gardens offering a selection of Asian beers with your meal. Other outlets within 8 Street include Teppanyaki Lovers, Gong Cha, BUN, Taste Gallery, Rice Town, Okonomi House and Burlington BBQ. For the sweet tooths among us, newer additions include Takoyummy & Sweet 8 Asian Dessert Bar.
Meal prices hover around the $10 mark, give or take a couple of bucks. That makes it a whole lot quicker and cheaper to visit 8 Street than wait six weeks for a new passport.