From hawker to omakase: A look at Beng Who Cooks@39, the new restaurant by the duo behind Beng Who Cooks

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa Teo, Beng Who Cooks

Back during circuit breaker, a young duo made the news by offering free food to "those who were unable to put food on the table", no questions asked.

For Jason Chua, 28, and Hung Zhen Long, 27, who ran Beng Who Cooks at Hong Lim Food Centre, this was their way of supporting those in need.

We say ran, because they have since shuttered their hawker stall and will be opening up a spanking new restaurant at Neil Road, under a similar name, Beng Who Cooks @39, which opens today (Nov 13). 

Hung Zhen Long (left) and Jason Chua (right). PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa 

A move in the making 

The move may seem abrupt, but Chua and Hung had been planning it for a while. They have always dreamt of setting up their own restaurant, and their plans were put on hold only because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

For Chua, this was the most natural next step for Beng Who Cooks, with himself being the 'Beng', which is what his friends call him because of his loud and reckless personality.

He has always wanted to be his own boss and chose the food industry as it was something he was somewhat familiar with as his parents ran a fruit business. To achieve this, he went to work at a few restaurants in Singapore and got an education in culinary arts.

It was only after spending so much time in the kitchen that he found that he does have a passion for food. "Bringing me out to eat now [is] like bringing a [food] critic out", he says, a far cry from what he used to think of food.

PHOTO: Beng Who Cooks 

When he finally started Beng Who Cooks, he realised that being a young hawker wasn't that easy, and it took awhile before business picked up. His customers were mostly friends and family in the first three months.

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Other than people assuming that he was too young to be able to cook anything that tasted good, many remarked that his food was priced too high for a hawker centre.

Thankfully, six months later, things picked up and "[even] those [people] who judged me for surviving started eating [my food]", he shares.

They had initially started with a hawker stall as they had limited budget and manpower, and the duo was advised by Chua's parents to start small in case things didn't work out.

However since things were doing well, the pair wanted to challenge themselves and move on to bigger, better things by stepping out of their comfort zone.

And with things in Singapore resuming some level of normalcy, they have taken action to open something different, though they chose to remain in the Central Business District where most of their customers frequent.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa 
PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa 
The kitchen area. PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa 

Their new home at Neil Road is a sleek new space that is a massive change from their previous hawker centre setting. With concrete walls and floors, minimalistic furnishings and a shiny new kitchen, the restaurant's industrial theme feels both modern and inviting. 

Beng Who Cooks@39: Bistro by day, restaurant by night

With this new place, Chua and Hung wanted to give their menu a facelift and adopt a new concept.

Instead of serving the same few dishes from opening to closing, they will operate as a bistro in the day and morph into a restaurant at night, with two completely different menus.

The lunch period will cater more to the office crowd and gym junkies, while dinner will be done up degustation style, like those you can find in a fine-dining establishment.

Fine dining food may seem like quite a stretch from what the team is used to whipping up, but Chua says that is something that they both need and want to do to challenge themselves.

The degustation menu, which is priced at $60 for six courses, will be done omakase style, and they plan to switch up the menu every once in a while.

Crab's Well. PHOTO: Beng Who Cooks 

Some items you can currently look forward to are Crab's Well, Underlying Balls and Son of a Fruit Seller.

Son of a Fruit Seller. PHOTO: Beng Who Cooks 

They get inspiration for their dishes from everywhere. For instance, Son of a Fruit Seller was inspired by Jason's family situation, where his parents earned a living by selling fruits. One of the desserts, called Siew Ting's Cake, was named after one of the chef's mother.

For lunch, they will be sticking to something more familiar to them - rice and salad bowls that will be priced around $8 to $15, and nope, it won't be a replica of what they used to serve in Hong Lim.

Instead, you can expect to see brand new creations. Do note, however, that the restaurant is not Halal-certified, unlike their Hong Lim location.

Address: 39 Neil Rd, Singapore 088823