The restaurant sits in a questionable neighborhood. Decades later, it is just beginning to become gentrified. The layout tells of story of humbling beginnings. Even though it is one of the grandfather establishments of Singapore food, it is likely that a first time visitor miss the clues. Last night I introduced someone to the experience. Some of the things he missed included the following.
The restaurant began as a hawker stand – small, family owned, just a few at the beginning. One of the characteristics of a hawker place is that everything is in the open. Food, supplies, and cooking are on display. Even though the first establishment has grown from its humble beginnings, the elements are the same. Ingredients are out for everyone to see. It is an open kitchen with a buzz of movement and sounds. Everything is open.
Hawker food is about the food, not facilities. Even though it is a now a stand-alone facility, the sitting facilities are rudimentary at best! Round tables that can accept different tops with plastic chairs sit outside under a partial roof and canopy. When it rains, it can leak. When you push your chair back, there is no question that it rests on rough pavement. The lighting is bright. Whatever is going on at one table is shared with everyone around them. Eating here is always a communal experience.
When a course is ready, it is served. Remember, it is about the food. Chaos is expected. Life unfolds as it unfolds. Enjoy what comes, no matter what sequence it is in.
In the early hours of the morning after, I realize that nothing was hidden. Everything about dinner was out in the open. It is a model that works. A historian left us with a note about hidden versus open; “The one who prays using a private “prayer language” certainly gets a lot out of it, but proclaiming God’s truth to the church in its common language brings the whole church into growth and strength.” (1 Corinthians 14.4a) It seems that this restaurant likes the recommended model.