Famous nasi padang stall winding up

Famous nasi padang stall winding up

After selling nasi padang since 1957, the famous Nasi Padang River Valley in Zion Road will close its doors on March 28.

Co-owner Hariz Pua, 57, said a lack of manpower, rising rentals and high food costs were the main reasons for the closure.

And while the lease ends at the end of this year, the landlord gave them the option to leave the premises earlier.

Mr Pua, who runs the stall with the second-generation owner of the outlet, Mr Zulfa Hamid, chose to leave this month, since they had already decided on closing the stall. They currently earn enough to "break even".

Last December, they were given a one-year lease and rental had gone up by $1,000 to $11,000. However, Mr Pua added: "The landlord said that he can ask me to leave with just three months' notice. So maybe he has a better deal with other people."

He said that while the shop had a good lunch crowd, it was "quiet" at dinner time. For the past few months, they had closed two hours earlier, at 7pm instead of the usual 9pm.

The original stall at River Valley was started by Mr Zulfa's mother, and the business moved to its current location in Zion Road in 1998. It is popular for its beef rendang, curry chicken and sambal sotong, among many other dishes.

When they found themselves short-handed, Mr Pua said they would have to compromise on quality. In addition to the 10 hired workers at the stall, he also roped in his 82-year-old father and 22-year-old son to help as well.

Mr Pua, who pulls 12-hour shifts at the stall, said: "We left it to our staff to do the cooking before. But it just did not taste the same and customers would ask why the beef was not tender or why the gravy was diluted. So we had to do it ourselves.

"But the truth is, I'm tired. We need to take care of ourselves."

He is thinking of looking for another job, but does not rule out moving to a smaller place with lower rental and has had offers from interested parties to take over the space.

He said: "We have already asked our staff to look for other jobs. If it's God's will, we may reopen somewhere else. But for now, we want to take a break."

Diners who were eating there on Tuesday were surprised at news of the closure.

Sales executive Carmen Kong, 30, who was buying nasi padang to take home, said: "I work in the area so it's convenient for me to drop by for takeaway dinner. I like the chicken and sambal goreng."

Investor Robert Wong, 68, who dines at the outlet at least twice a month, said: "My favourite dishes are the beef rendang, chicken curry and sambal sotong. The beef is tender and tasty; the best rendang in Singapore, in my opinion.

"I'd better come and eat more before they close," he added.

Cookbook author and freelance writer Sylvia Tan, 66, noted that many small well-known food stalls in independent coffee shops have been closing down over the years. They have been "overtaken by big establishments which buy them over and turn them into pizza places and bistros".

"We are losing part of our heritage as a result," she added.

Another casualty of rising rentals and manpower woes is Zhen Zhou Dao at 228 Tanjong Katong Road, which sells porridge and zi char dishes. The restaurant, which opened in November 2012, is fronted by popular TV actor and foodie Moses Lim and run by his daughter Grace Lim, and her husband Sean Goh. Its last day of operations is Sunday.

Mr Lim said: "We're closing because of the rising rental and lack of manpower."


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