Archive for February, 2008

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Oldies draw in the newbies

February 26, 2008

The Straits Times
Life!
Feb 24, 2008
By Huang Lijie

HISTORIC CHARM: The charismatic architecture and relaxed atmosphere of Keong Saik Road have prompted the opening of sophisticated gourmet food shops like 25 degree Celsius, which is run by partners (from left) Andrea Chen, Sally Tsai and Karin Chan.

— PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Heritage-rich neighbourhoods of Tiong Bahru and Keong Saik Road are attracting hip eateries and gourmet shops

WHEN chef Joseph Yew opened Spanish restaurant Streeters in Keong Saik Road in 1996, his married male customers used to joke that their wives were suspicious of the eatery’s location.

‘The neighbourhood’s reputation as a red-light district was hard to shake off, but I believed the area’s rich heritage would one day see it become an interesting lifestyle-cum-dining enclave,’ says Mr Yew, 43, who was born and raised in Keong Saik Road.

Well, that day seems to have dawned on the vicinity, as well as on another historic neighbourhood, Tiong Bahru, one of the oldest public housing estates here.

Indeed, the charismatic architecture and relaxed atmosphere of both areas have prompted no fewer than seven sophisticated eateries and gourmet food shops to open there in the last year.

These include bookstore-cafe 25 degree Celsius and French restaurant Nicolas, nestled in shophouses along Keong Saik Road as well as snack joint Tiffin Club in nearby Jiak Chuan Road. They join earlier gastronomic hideouts such as modern European restaurant Ember, in Hotel 1929, and Whatever Cafe, which both opened in Keong Saik Road in 2003.

Nicolas’ chef-owner Nicolas Joanny, 33, says: ‘I was looking to open my restaurant in a shophouse because these buildings have strong character and create a lovely dining ambience.’

He eventually decided on Keong Saik Road over shophouses in Purvis Street because the rent was more affordable.

Mr Leonardo Noto, 60, owner of German wine shop and bistro Magma, which opened in Bukit Pasoh Road in 2006, adds: ‘The strains of traditional Chinese music that float down from the Siong Leng Musical Association on the third floor of the shophouse unit make the vibe at my eatery all the more unique.’

Over in Tiong Bahru, the food and beverage (F&B) newcomers are scattered around the Art Deco-inspired Singapore Improvement Trust flats.

Chill-out lounge Wine Wise in Eng Hoon Street was the first to open early last year. It was followed by Caffe Pralet and steakhouse TBone on the same street as well as premium food retailer Le Bon Marche and its neighbour, patisserie Centre Ps in Guan Chuan Street. Euro-Singaporean bistro Persimmon in Link Hotel along Tiong Bahru Road is the latest addition.

Owners of the food outlets say they were unaware of each other’s plans to open in the area. But, instead of seeing it as profit-killing competition, they believe the coincidence is a nod to the potential of the area as an up-and-coming dining and food retail destination.

For Mr Tan Kim Boon, 52, co-owner of Centre Ps, Tiong Bahru’s proximity to town was the draw.

He says: ‘We’re a speciality pastry store, so opening in a shopping mall wouldn’t fit our products’ marketing profile. Tiong Bahru’s unique charm, however, complements our boutique positioning.’

His neighbour Stephane Herve, 38, co-owner of Le Bon Marche, says the area’s reputation as a foodie haunt, which is famous for its zhi char outlets and hawker centre, further persuaded him to open there.

That these neighbourhoods are undergoing a minor revival of sorts has also been a draw for the new F&B operators.

Mr Yew, who closed Streeters last year to open a private dining space, C Joe, above Nicolas, says the number of brothels in Keong Saik has dwindled in the last few years, replaced by firms in the creative industries such as interior design, architecture and music production.

This made it easier for chef Joanny to make up his mind about opening his restaurant there.

Tiong Bahru, on the other hand, is slowly shedding its image as being home to a greying population. More young professionals and expatriates are opting for the area’s eclectic vibe and this was a plus point for Ms Helena Lim, co-owner of Persimmon, who is in her 40s.

On the unplanned F&B developments in both neighbourhoods, URA’s head of heritage studies Kelvin Ang says: ‘URA gazetted Tiong Bahru and Keong Siak as conservation areas in 2003 and 1989 respectively, and is glad that they have evolved organically to meet both the needs of existing and new residents.’

Annex A Architects’ director Mark Wee, 33, is of the same opinion.

‘Because there isn’t a concerted push to develop these areas as eating haunts, unlike Boat Quay or Clarke Quay, the food outlets don’t all appear at once, and this helps preserve the laid-back charm of the area,’ he says.

Long-time eateries in these neighbourhoods, mostly coffee shops and casual restaurants, also welcome the new players.

‘We offer different types of cuisine, so there is no direct competition. Besides, new restaurants in the area means people have more reason to come here and I might even benefit from a spillover of customers,’ says Mr Wong Siew Hoong, 29, manager of Kok Seng Restaurant, which has been selling zhi char in Keong Saik Road for more than 40 years.

Likewise, residents in Tiong Bahru are happy about the new gastronomic buzz.

Banker Tee Boon Peng, 40, enjoys having more dining options in his neighbourhood. His only lament: insufficient parking in the area, which means visiting diners sometimes park illegally along the road, inconveniencing other motorists.

Looking ahead, Ms Lim says she hopes future food outlets opening in the area will ‘continue to blend in with the special character of the neighbourhood by offering unique dining concepts’.

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Where to go

HERE’S a list of new food outlets to eat your way through the neighbourhoods of Keong Saik Road and Tiong Bahru.
Tiong Bahru
Caffe Pralet
17 Eng Hoon Street, 01-04, tel: 6223-5595
Open: 10.30am to 9.30pm daily

The cafe arm of culinary school Creative Culinaire next door, this cosy eatery serves a range of sweet treats such as its signature pralet cake ($4.20 a slice), a dark chocolate and hazelnut crunch cake, as well as hot meals including seafood baked rice ($6.20) and shepherd’s pie ($6.20).

TBone
42 Eng Hoon Street, tel: 6220-2927
Open: 8.30am to 10.30pm daily

Sink your teeth into juicy steaks such as its Black Angus tenderloin ($38). It also serves hearty salads such as Greek salad ($14).

Wine Wise
57 Eng Hoon Street, 01-86, tel: 6227-2118
Open: 11am to 2pm and 6 to 10pm daily

Relax at this wine lounge where wines are poured straight from wooden barrels stacked within the store. Red and white wines start at $8 a glass.

Le Bon Marche
78 Guan Chuan Street, 01-41, tel: 6226-3269
Open: 10am to 7.30pm, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to Saturdays. 1 to 6pm, Sundays, closed on Wednesdays

This gourmet food shop carries mostly exclusive speciality products such as Emmanuelle Baillard’s non-alcoholic Chardonnay grape juice ($6.50 for a 250ml bottle) and Mulot & Petitjean’s gingerbread with apricot ($21 for a 200g box), both from France.
Centre Ps
78 Guan Chuan Street, 01-43, tel: 6220-1285
Open: 10am to 8pm, Mondays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays

This patisserie specialises in macarons ($18 for a box of 18), as well as cakes such as the Grand Cru Royale ($7 a slice), a dark chocolate cake with a crunchy hazelnut base.
Persimmon
50 Tiong Bahru, Link Hotel, tel: 6227-2271
Open: 6am to 11pm daily

Tuck into Singaporean food with a European twist here. Popular items include its laksa fisherman’s pie ($26) and Hainanese chicken salad ($14).

Keong Saik
Magma

2-4 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel: 6221-0634
Open: Noon to 11pm, Mondays to Thursdays, noon to midnight, Fridays, 11am to midnight, Saturdays, 11am to 11pm, Sundays
This German eatery serves traditional items such as pork knuckles ($22) and Bavarian sausages ($10).
Majestic Restaurant
31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel: 6511-4718
Open: 11.45am to 3pm and 6.30 to 11pm daily
Serving modern Cantonese cuisine, this restaurant is known for dishes such as its Peking duck with foie gras ($15 per person).

Tiffin Club
16 Jiak Chuan Road, tel: 6323-3189
Open: 8am to 6pm, Mondays and Tuesdays, 8am to 10pm, Wednesdays to Saturdays, closed on Sundays

This breakfast and snack joint serves items such as oriental chicken salad ($9) and Tiffin Club carrot cake ($4). Wine and drinks are available after sundown.

Ember
50 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6347-1928
Open: 11.30am to 2pm and 6.30 to 10pm, Mondays to Fridays and 6.30 to 10pm, Saturdays, closed on Sundays

This modern European restaurant is known for its Chilean seabass with yuzu butter sauce ($30) and chocolate fondant with homemade vanilla ice cream ($13).

Whatever Cafe
20 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6224-0300
Open: 9am to 10.30pm daily

Indulge in wholesome, healthy eats such as its roasted fruit salad ($11.90) and roasted vegetable and mustard sandwich ($8.90).
25 degree Celsius

25 Keong Saik Road, 01-01, tel: 6327-8389
Open: 11am to 10pm, Mondays to Thursdays, 11am to 11pm, Fridays and Saturdays, closed on Sundays
Try the miso new potato salad ($11.80) and the pan-roasted barramundi fillet ($18.80) at this cosy cafe.

Nicolas
35 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6224-2404
Open: Noon to 2pm, Mondays to Fridays and 6.30 to 10pm, Mondays to Saturdays

This fine-dining French restaurant serves gems such as pan-roasted foie gras ($34) and roasted Tasmanian rack of lamb ($42).
lijie@sph.com.sg
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gem of tiong bahru

February 25, 2008

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270 degrees view

February 25, 2008

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HDB Transacted Prices Mid Feb 2008

February 20, 2008

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TIONG BAHRU WALKING TOUR – SUN 24 FEB 2008

February 19, 2008

Here’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Heritage Guide, Geraldine, will be conducting a tour this weekend (24th Feb 2008) from 9:30am to approximately 12:30pm.

If you are keen, please give Geraldine a call at +(65)6737-5250 or +(65) 8155-1390.

Cost per person is SGD$30/=

The following is what you could be expecting from the tour :

Heritage Guide Geraldine will start the tour with a short talk of the history of the area and Cheong Hong Lim, the donor of the most amazing Geok Hong Tian Temple 1887.

The group would be able to witness devotees celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor & the Monkey God which happens around the ” Chap Go Mei” – first full moon after Chinese New Year.

The walk will bring the group past some interesting trees and also the grave of a well-known philanthropist, Mr Tan Tock Seng, founder of 4 hospitals in Singapore!

The group will stop to have refreshments near the famous Singing Bird corner that was once a Tiong Bahru Landmark. The bird corner is closed temporarily but we all hope it would be back in a jiffy!

Along the way, the group will also check out the best local cake shop and the new Tiong Bahru Market whilst walking through some of the 1930’s Art Deco block of flats.

The tour will end with a visit to Eng Hoon Street to observe the Monkey God’s birthday celebrations and to hear about the rituals & customs that are practiced there.

After which the group can have lunch at the numerous eating places nearby.

If you are interested to join this tour, pick up the phone and call or SMS Geraldine now. Don’t procrastinate.

______________________________________________________

Acknowledgement

Many thanks to Kelvin Ang and Melvyn Wong for forwarding the email for this event to me.

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27" Metal Door Frame

February 19, 2008

If you walk around Tiong Bahru’s Pre-War section and notice a Harvey Norman, Courts, Best Denki or whatever home appliance delivery trucks around. Stay a little longer to watch this scenario being played out. Watch and learn from it.

DO NOT BE the next victim of the 27′ metal door frame!

New Home! New Stuff! New REFRIGERATOR. BUT WAIT!!!! Did this owner remember to measure the width of the metal door frame? Maybe yes, may not. Let’s watch.

Should we go in this way or that way?

I guess sideways could be a possibility! Looks a bit tight but I think it may just squeeze through.
To be safe, better use these cardboards to prevent the sides from being scratched. Otherwise we have to write this one off and bring a new one back. Like this sure kena deduct salary one ah.

Success! We managed to squeeze it through! Phew!

There is definitely a lot more elbow space now.

Job done! Refrigerator delivered and installed!

Every time we deliver a refrigerator to the Tiong Bahru Estate, we just gotta pray real hard that our customers had taken notice of that narrow doorway that has a metal door frame that makes the passage even narrower. Many remembered to measure…..their own door width but they tend to overlook that METAL DOOR FRAME!

Today luckily the owner took the trouble to measure it and we don’t need to use our brains on how we can squeeze the refrigerator through. Please help us, please buy a tall and slim refrigerator if you live in this area. Remember, the width of the metal door fame is only 27 inches! Remember, only 27 inches.

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love IN A TIME OF MATCHMAKERS

February 15, 2008
The Straits Times
Saturday Special Report
Feb 9, 2008
By Ho Ai Li
CUPID STRIKES IN THE MARKET:
Love blossomed for Mr and Mrs Chan at the Tiong Bahru market where they worked. They met 50 years ago.
ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

IN 1958, love matches were not yet in the air. Most couples here were still match-made.



But at the Tiong Bahru market though, two young people found each other amid heaps of kang kong and pork knuckles and fell in love.

Then 23, Mr Chan Lay Boo ran a fresh poultry stall to support his mother and four younger siblings. He became the man of the house at age 13 after his father, distraught over a failed business, left his family in Singapore and returned to Fujian, China.

Then 17, second daughter Chiang Yee Lui helped her mother sell cai xin and watercress from her grandmother’s farm in Potong Pasir. She had lost her father too; he had died from a nasty cold when she was seven.

There was no money for school. Both learnt all they needed to know at the wet market.

For Mr Chan, now 73, it was ‘yi jian zhong qing (love at first sight)’. Mrs Chan, now 67, was an outgoing beauty with a host of suitors, many of them educated young men from well-off families. But she preferred the quiet, steady and stoical Mr Chan.

While they were forward-looking for their time, they were traditional in other ways. He made the first move, by inviting her to a movie. ‘Of course he asked me. How can it be me?’ she asks with a chuckle.

After finishing work, the lovebirds would go to the Majestic cinema in Chinatown in the evenings to watch movies starring actresses like Lin Dai or Ge Lan.

Three years later, they inked a marriage certificate at a mass ceremony with 16 other couples at the Hokkien Huay Kuan in Telok Ayer Street.

Both their mothers approved. ‘He was already very burdened. I was then running my own stall and a little boss myself. I didn’t need anyone to support me. It was free love,’ says Mrs Chan.

She did not mind the hard life at all, or taking care of his siblings. ‘I was used to hardship. It was not like I was a xiao jie (rich man’s daughter).’

After marriage, she gave up her own stall and went from sorting vegetables to slaughtering fowl. The couple would sleep at 11pm and rise by 2am to prepare and open for business.

At noon, they started their second shift and opened their chicken rice stall, Tiong Huat Chicken Rice, at the Margaret Drive hawker centre.

Their work day ended after 9pm. This went on every day, including the eve and first day of Chinese New Year for over 20 years.

‘We had no choice but to work hard. We had a lot of mouths to feed, including his siblings and our children. At that time, I had the strength to kill a few tigers,’ she jokes.

A year after they wed in 1961, Mrs Chan had her first baby. They went on to have nine children in all, seven girls and two boys.

The children work in fields like marketing, travel and graphic design.

All this time, the couple have never exchanged birthday gifts or celebrated wedding anniversaries. Nor do they hold hands, or display affection publicly.

Prompted to put their arms around each other during a photo shoot, Mr Chan mutters with some awkwardness: ‘This is the first time we are doing so in tens of years.’

Their love is forged instead on years of solidarity and sacrifice. For example, to raise capital to expand the stall, Mrs Chan pawned her gold wedding ring – which she redeemed subsequently. She melted it down years later to make nine keys to give to each of her children when they reached 21.

Mr Chan says he admires his wife for how forthright, capable and ‘wan neng’ (which translates to omnipotent) she is. ‘She doesn’t lie to me, I don’t lie to her,’ he says.

She chimes in: ‘Yes, I can do work, can talk and can scold.’ She finds his laid-back nature endearing.

She is proudest of their nine children and 14 grandchildren. On weekends and evenings, their ground-floor flat in Tiong Bahru is abuzz with children zipping in and out, and adults crowding the living room chatting and watching TV.

They do not dish out love advice to their children, seven of whom are married.

‘As long as they can communicate, it doesn’t matter who they marry – whether they are Chinese or not,’ says Mrs Chan. One daughter is married to a Caucasian, another to an African-American.

She sums up: ‘You must show concern, understanding and forgiveness. If you are petty, you won’t have any friends, let alone family.’

hoaili@sph.com.sg