Why Vivocity is like an American mall

I popped into Vivocity last night for dinner. If not for Little Miss Drinkalot‘s suggestion that we eat there, I would have waited till the opening crowds subsided before I dared to venture in. From what I’d heard, it’s a madhouse.

Maybe because I made a beeline for the second floor where the restaurant was as soon as I arrived, I avoided the worst of the crowds. There certainly was a good amount of milling and thronging (rather than the more purposeful trying and buying that I’m sure the retailers were hoping for), and the lines outside the eating joints were ridiculous: 10 or so people waiting outside Carl’s Jr, easily double that outside Terra, Swensen’s and Shin Kuriya (where we were going to eat, but fortunately we had a reservation). I’m guessing that there aren’t enough F&B outlets open yet to cater to the kinds of crowds the place is attracting.

At any rate, my short speedwalk through one end of Vivocity was enough to make me understand why it’s been described as a very “American” mall (and a more upmarket one at that).

First of all: high ceilings. Makes a world of difference (NTUC supermarkets, take note).

Second of all, the decision to keep the second floor to a perimeter of shops around an airy central atrium. Some call it a waste of potential square footage, but those are probably the same people who enjoy ferreting around in claustrophobic spaces like the Heeren Annex or Far East Plaza’s basement — which are worthy shopping spots in themselves, but hardly what I would call American in sensibility. I think creating a sense of space makes shoppers more inclined to mill around more (and hopefully buy stuff), particularly in a space-starved environment like Singapore.

Third of all, the vast spread of the place. The entire complex is larger than Suntec and my friend joked that it takes three days to walk around the entire place. I didn’t have the energy to go walkabout last night, but the mall does seem to wind off in every direction — forever. Perhaps it’s an effect of the “flowing surface configuration” in the architecture.

Lastly, there was a lot of white around. I’m hazy on the details because I spent most of my evening inside one of the restaurants rather than wandering the mall itself, but I have an impression of lots of white tiles, walls and ceilings. There’s something about that that says “upmarket American mall” to me — maybe because it proves that they can afford to keep the space clean enough?

A little sashimi starter Anyway, American though it may have felt, we ended up with Japanese food for the night. Shin Kuriya (full disclaimer: I know one of the owners) has your usual sushi, sashimi, rice and noodle dishes, and the house specialty is the meats and vegetables grilled over white charcoal. Shitake mushrooms stuffed with minced chicken — yum. Fresh sweet potato — yum. Chicken in plum sauce (I think) — yum. At LMD’s urging, we tried the cold udon with duck broth (instead of the usual soy-based dipping sauce), which was incredible. Not to mention the fact that the chef makes a mean sesame paste for dessert (which they totally need to start selling by the pint for people to take home).

Apparently, Vivocity is still in the soft-launch stage, and the official opening is only in December. I can only imagine how crazy the crowds’ll be there.

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