Dinner at Satay by the Bay

After a disappointed High Tea at Vivocity’s Max Brenner, we decided to have our light dinner elsewhere. Given consideration that one of my friends is from Japan and we should have bring him to a unique place for dinner. Hence, Satay by the Bay. No thoughts of what food to eat, but if we are talking about local delicacies, then it should be Satay and Zi Char. I was starving since this was my first meal of the day.

Otah

For the appetitizers, we ordered the Otah (fish meat cake wrapped inside banana leaves). Normally, it should taste a little spicy and you can smell the aroma of banana leaves. However, the Otah which we ordered missed the mark totally. In fact, it was quite sweet and the texture of the meat wasn’t that firm. Though the banana leaf is barbecue till charred, a small portion of the meat was not cooked fully and tasted a bit weird.

Sri Geylang Stall’s Satay

We ordered the Satay from Sri Geylang Satay Stall and they took a little long before to deliver the satay to us, which I believed that they actually missed our order.

The satay came in hot and looks good.  Each stick has large chuck of meat cubes string onto it and the spicy peanut sauce looks unusually red. The meat is tender and the sauce was indeed much more spicy, but not with less peanut chunks inside the sauce.

Lastly, we ordered some “Zi Char” from Boon Tat BBQ Seafood. Pandan Chicken, Bean Sprouts and Fried Baby Squid. There is only one word I can described after eating these, disappointment. Seriously, we are serving these to the tourists coming all the way from another side of the world just to taste these food ? Ridiculous. Even the rice which they have served was cold and hard. Perhaps they thought that foreigners does not know how to appreciate rice at all.

This is the chicken. Given it appearance, it is not that appealing to the stomach, well indeed it is not. Seriously, this is really hard to describe so I will give it a pass. Try it at your own risk.

I was quite puzzled that I made an order for fried bean sprouts and baby squids, but both turned out to be cold and soggy.

Garlic Friend Bean Sprouts

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar at Vivocity

Before I start writing a blog post regarding Max Brenner at Vivocity, I read many others reviews from many sites and there was many negative reviews on hungrygowhere.com. I thought I was just too sensitive over their service, but I think I was not wrong.

In fact, my first encounter with Max Brenner was during my stay in Melbourne Australia for my sister’s graduation ceremony. They shown a lot of creativity in making of chocolate-based drinks and desserts which was I thought it was quite unique. Of course it is a good thing that we are able to enjoy Max Brenner, but I think they lack of quality customer services which might just ruin their names.

Banana Split

I was suppose to have a lunch appointment with my other three friends that just came back from overseas, but I overslept and missed my appointment. They chosen a Max Brenner for deserts and coffee while waiting for my arrival.

When I reached, just nice that my friend’s waffle banana split arrived. It looks good on the plating, but tasting it proven too much sweetness for me. My girl friend and I decided to have a cup of coffee before leaving for our dinner. However, while we enter the cafe till I sit down and tasted my friend’s banana split, no waiter actually approach us with a menu and until we requested for it. What I can see is a poor management in the cafe where all the staff is running around, unsure of their tasks. Finally, we managed to order our drinks which took more than 15 minutes to deliver to us and that was when one of my friend suddenly asked “Where is my cake ?” She ordered the cake even before our arrival but was not being serve to her yet. Since that we are leaving after my drink, she already thought it cancelling the order.

Table full of cups and cups….

But what really leaves me in disgust is their cleanliness. On the table that is facing right in front of me what the sight which most of the consumers would not like to see. I am not sure of their standards, but I definitely think that they really need to buck up more on their services and cleanliness. Really hope that they will buck up on their services.

By the way, we paid about $50 for 4 beverages and 1 dessert, the waitress remembered my friend’s cake before we are paying and ask for a minute for it to be served. But why should we give her another minute when we have already waited for 45 minutes ?

#01-116 Vivocity, 1 HarbourFront Walk

Tel: + 65 6278 4218
Opening Hours: Sun to Thurs – 10am to 10pm, Fri & Sat – 10am to 11pm

Manpower Crunch Close Down History Long Tong Seng Coffeeshop

It is a saddening news when you heard that a long serving Coffeeshop are closing down due to manpower issue. While the government has been strict particularly on foreign workers working in Singapore, it has been a hard task nowadays to look for locals to really take over traditional cultural food. 

Furthermore, with the spur of restuarants that are coming up in the precinct, people are looking more on the “packaging” of the Coffeeshop rather than the “contents” itself.

It will be sad to see that our future young generations will not be able to enjoy such traditional food anymore. 

Below is the article I saw from AsiaOne News App.

Yesterday, Tong Seng Coffeeshop owner Ong Choon Seng expected the largest turnout at his halal eatery in its 16-year history.

After all, he gave away free meals during lunch and dinner to say thank you to his loyal customers before Tong Seng rolls down its shutters for good – another casualty of the manpower crunch.

“We planned the closing to coincide with Hari Raya Haji, so our customers can have one last meal here before the public holiday,” said the 36-year-old Mr Ong, who has been running the business with his 34-year-old brother Choon Hui under the supervision of their father.

Yesterday, every customer was entitled to one free drink and a choice between chicken rice, laksa, fishball noodles and wanton mee, as promised by Mr Ong.

These dishes have been staples at Tong Seng, which has gained a following for its affordable halal versions of local fare, a rarity in town areas like Bugis. That explains why its patrons come from a broad cross-section of Singaporean society.

It is common to see smartly dressed executives tucking in alongside labourers in paint-flecked trousers along the shop’s narrow five-foot way.

Located along bustling North Bridge Road, the four-level shophouse built in 1927 has served as a budget hotel.

Instead of backpackers, the second storey now sees salesgirls on their lunch breaks jostling for seats with national servicemen who make the trek for Tong Seng’s famous fried dumplings.

Those who will miss the coffee shop most are its regular Muslim customers, who often gather there to break fast during the Ramadan period.

For civil servant Zainal Abideen Abdul Wahid and his wife Jumiliati Chadiri, the coffee shop has served not only as a dating spot for a dozen years, but also as a place to dine with family. “We will really miss this place, especially the chicken rice chilli,” said the 35-year-old.

Technical operations manager Hasbullah Ali, 27, also fondly recalled how he bumped into several long-lost secondary school friends in the 10 years he has frequented Tong Seng.

“Many of them are motorbike riders, so they arrange to meet and grab a bite here because there’s parking,” said Mr Hasbullah, who lives in Woodlands but heads to Bugis every week for his favourite chicken rice.

This “kampung” spirit is strong not only among patrons, it is also what gels its 40 employees together. Half of them are foreign workers who live together in the upper storeys of the shophouse.

The thought of having to leave her workplace of 10 years and return home to Malaysia brought server Zahara Awang to tears.

“Of course I am sad to go. But I will go back to relax for a while,” said the 41-year-old, in between booming out orders in the Hokkien she has picked up from her colleagues.

For 59-year-old Chen Tuck Kwang, it will be hardest to bid farewell to the Ongs, who took him on as an employee although he had diabetes.

“Even after I was hospitalised for a month, they still let me come back. They let me go for my medical appointments, no questions asked,” he said. “My wife and I are very grateful to the boss here.”

Saying goodbye to his staff and customers has not been easy either for Mr Ong, who spent his teenage years helping out at the shop.

But his family, who bought the shophouse a decade ago for under $4 million, has received attractive offers. While he declined to reveal how much, real estate expert Ku Swee Yong estimates that the property could fetch between $15 million and $18 million today.

“Given that it is in a prime district, has great visibility and is located near an MRT station, it would be attractive to tenants and investors,” noted the CEO of real estate company Century21 Singapore.

The decision to shut down was also driven by the rapid change in Bugis and the rest of Singapore.

Mr Ong believes the time for his coffee shop has come and gone – its signs have faded and its walls are well-worn with age. Meanwhile, new eateries have sprouted up all around Tong Seng, further down Liang Seah Street and across the road in Bugis Junction shopping mall.

“To compete, I would have to renovate and turn it into an indoor restaurant, which is not what a coffee shop is about,” he said.

The tightened inflow of foreign workers has also led to manpower woes for Mr Ong, who points out that good help is getting harder to find. The daily grind goes on from 6am to 11pm, with workers getting one rest day every fortnight.

“We have to cut back on foreign workers and hire Singaporeans, but the job is too tiring,” he said.

As news of Tong Seng’s closure spread in the past month, customers have thronged the coffee shop daily, eager for a last taste of its food. Traffic has surged by as much as 80 per cent, said Mr Ong.

The outpouring of support has spurred him to open his doors to them even after the official closing on Sunday – for a final free meal.

“It’s our way of saying thank you for being with us all these years.”

jianxuan@sph.com.sg

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

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