Famous Teochew restaurant Cheng Hoo Tian relocates

Famous Teochew restaurant Cheng Hoo Tian relocates

SINGAPORE - Teochew restaurant Cheng Hoo Tian is moving out of its four-storey shophouse location at Keong Saik Road after 18 months and relocating to 50 Bishan Lane.

The restaurant, which opened in January last year, closed its doors last week and will reopen on July 6, owner Alwyn Tan, 54, says.

He says a rent hike and lack of parking space at Keong Saik Road were the main reasons for the move. At Keong Saik, he says he needed to make at least $90,000 every month to break even, but he will be able to get by on $50,000 at the new place.

Another factor is his health, he adds. He suffers from gout, a painful inflammation of the joints which makes it difficult for him to climb up and down the four storeys of the Chinatown shophouse.

He says: "All these reasons made operations at Keong Saik Road no longer sustainable. We want to make good food affordable and we can do so better at our new location."

The restaurant will be set amid the tranquil and large compound of Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng, which houses two temples, an administration building, a memorial park and a columbarium.

It belongs to a group of 16 Cantonese and Hakka clan associations. The restaurant has been given a single-storey sheltered space with a small courtyard deep within the compound. It will have nine tables like in Keong Saik and parking is free.

As the tables are on only one floor at Bishan, Mr Tan says he needs fewer staff. With lower operational costs and rent, he says the food will be about 30 per cent cheaper.

Since it opened last year, Cheng Hoo Tian has built a reputation for serving classic Teochew dishes such as braised duck, oyster omelette, chilled pork jelly and barbecued goose.

Its decor at Keong Saik Road had also been a talking point. All four floors were filled with antiques from Mr Tan's collection.

Save for the rosewood dining furniture, the new restaurant is not likely to be decorated with antiques. It is not air-conditioned and Mr Tan says he wants it to be a "no-frills kind of restaurant with just good food".

"The decor and the antiques were merely a value-add to the whole dining experience, but the main draw will always be the food," he says, adding that most of the antiques will be returned to his collection and some will be donated.

While the new premises may seem more humble, Mr Tan is making the most of it. He plans to transform the small courtyard outside the restaurant into a garden bistro, where diners can eat al fresco.

The restaurant will also offer Cantonese and local dishes, in addition to the original signature Teochew dishes, which will remain on the menu.

Some new offerings include Cantonese-style fried noodles and steamed chicken with salted fish, as well as local favourites such as black pepper crab and pomegranate chicken, a dish from the 1950s.

Mr Tan is confident that the move will not affect his business.

"Many of my regular customers are die-hard foodies who have always patronised Cheng Hoo Tian for our food. That is what they will continue to come back for, no matter where we are located," he says.

Bank officer Winnie Chua, 49, who dined at Cheng Hoo Tian last year, says: "It is not easy to find places that serve good traditional Teochew fare. It was the food, rather than the antiques, that impressed me when I was there and I'd go back."

paigelim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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