One of my most frequent hangout places in Tiong Bahru is the stretch of kopitiams from Tiong Poh (Ah Chiang’s) to Yong Siak (Cheng’s at 27) to Seng Poh (Loo’s). Hainanese run Kopitiams, alongside their coffee and cuisine have a strong “foodhold” in one of Singapore’s yummiest neighbourhoods.
Now, imagine if a concept of bringing 5 different genres of Hainanese F&B, giving diners the option to choose & combine in a single space. This has come into fruition in the form of The Hainan Story 海南宝 where dishes representative of the dialect group were specially curated at this multi brand restaurant.
Two of the members, Wee Nam Kee and Ah Chiang’s Porridge need no introduction. The other three are original creations of the R&D concept team. So besides the food, I think anyone could also appreciate the visuals and soak in the Disneyfied Kopitiam atmosphere. We came to The Hainan Story on a friday night after work from the central business district. It was nice to visit a part of Singapore where we are mostly unaware of and surprised to see how busy it was, both inside and outside the restaurant.
Fifteen minutes into the queue we were soon ushered into a bright lit corner of the restaurant. I set my eyes on the Home-Made Gula Melaka Kaya & Cold Butter Toast ($1.80) from the Kopi Tua (also named the Hainan Story), essentially a fluffy brioche toast filled with very delicious Kaya which the restaurant also sells separately.
Upon the recommendations’ of the manager, I placed an order for the Kopi Gu You with Kopi C ($2.00), topped up $0.60 for the butter slice. This style of drinking was concocted some 80 years ago when fresh milk was inaccessible to most. The version was legit though I certainly think the water could afford to be hotter.
The toast and the coffee set was resplendent. The mains range from Uncle Robert Western’s Old English Cocktail Stew ($18.80) to Newspaper Curry Rice’s Mama Wee’s Hainanese Curry Chicken Drumstick Set ($7.80- curry free flow😀) and the two other household names.
Uncle Robert Western’s 1980s Fried Pork Cutlet coated with Potato Chips Crumbs ($14.80) was a crowd favourite. It came with 3 different types of sauce or you can even eat the juicy meat pie on its own. It took slightly longer than 2 TV commercial breaks for all 5 of us to finish this monster. I was more drawn to the offerings from Newspaper Curry Rice though, both by the visual and flavour appeal of the food. Besides the Curry Chicken Drumstick Set, diners would most probably be attracted to Mama Wee’s Hainanese Kou Rou Set ($8.80) with its bones left intact. The Prawn Fritters Set ($8.80) looked promising too. If Bukit Panjang seems to be distant for some, a second outlet is in the works at Boss Hotel in Lavender, not far from Heap Seng Leong and Golden Mile Cafe Port. I am sensing some competition here.
This article is written by RamenKing, a hyperactive geek who lives to eat.