Call it a social enterprise, a piece of art, or even a stroke of genius; Food #03 can be whatever you like. Chee Hui Ming shares this hidden gem.
|Entering the inconspicuous café that is tucked away in a corner of Little India on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, I was greeted by the non-air-conditioned, yet strangely breezy interior of Food #03. |
Complimenting the atmosphere is the café’s deconstructed look of exposed red bricks, bare walls, minimal lighting and the décor, paired with chill-out music, creates an unpretentious ambience. Think Dempsey Hill without the high prices and upper-class swagger.
The quaint furnishing somewhat creates itself when the most colourful of people filter in through the steel doors. Regulars range from artists to social activists and like-minded people from all walks of life. Artist Mark Thia, 27, is appreciative of Food #03 for “engaging and bringing the community together”, and providing a unique open space for the ultimate bonding activity in Singapore – eating.
Their simple menu printed with their mantra on top: “No GST, No Service Charge, and No Microwave Oven” brings cheer, considering the exorbitant prices some places are charging.
Resident chef Woo Tien Wei would usually recommend their signature Tempeh Burger (which even has its own Facebook group), but the burgers were out when I was there. Still, the following are just as good, if not better:
Order a “Chin-Chai” with Linguine (S$8.50), which is served with the freshest mix of vegetables, tossed with a light tomato sauce and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Expect a side of crisp lettuce dressed with vinaigrette and plum sauce. You’d presume pasta to be carbohydrate-heavy, but this is proportioned to near perfection, both size and taste-wise.
If that’s not for you, try the thin crust Pizza with Oyster Mushrooms and Asparagus with mozzarella cheese or vegan tofu (S$12.50). Tien makes them from scratch and serves them fresh. He’s even considering letting patrons make their own pizza upon request.
If you’re feeling a tad more adventurous quenching your thirst, go for the Post-Museum Pour with Rum (spiced tea, apple juice, mint, lychee) or Vitagen Vodka (both S$7.50). If not, get the safer, refreshing Post-Museum Pour (S$2.00) or Raw Vegan Nut “Milk” (S$4.00), which is a delicious blend of almonds and dates served over ice (no dairy). Both are perfect for a scorching afternoon.
The only downside? It took 30 minutes for the first dish to arrive and one and a half hours for the entire meal although the place was visibly vacant. But that’s where the rest of Post-Museum comes in.
Try not to visit Food #03 starving as you’ve got to leave some energy for exploring Post-Museum’s 2 floors of exhibition space, especially during events (check their website for listings). Be sure to at least attend the Really Really Free Market, held once every 2 months.
A third of the profits from Food #03 actually fund Post-Museum, according to sole proprietor Jennifer Teo, who sees hope for the future of this “independent arts and cultural space” despite recurring financial difficulties.
To her, Food #03 is “a piece of art that’s literally living and breathing”, and she hopes it won’t die if she and Tien (they’re married) ever decide to hand it down.
That aside, she feels that the place is truly owned by the community. She even turned down a photo, asking for patrons and volunteers to be featured instead.
If that doesn’t make you go ‘awww’, a stranger, who was also a diner there, came up to my table halfway through the meal with a chilled jug of water and offered to fill my glass. Now that’s what I call community spirit.
So you know what? Forget rating Food #03 as just another tucked-away café, because it definitely deserves way more credit than a couple of shaded stars.
For Standard Chartered cardholders, you can receive a 10% off your bill with a minimum spending of $30. Offer valid till Feb 28, 2010. Terms and conditions apply.
Cost of a meal for two:
Raw Vegan Nut “Milk”: S$4.00
Post-Museum Pour: S$2.00
Pizza with Oyster Mushrooms and Asparagus: S$12.50
“Chin-Chai” with Linguine (or brown organic rice, if you prefer): S$8.50
Vegan Brownie: SS$5.00
(Drinks, main course, dessert for two with a complimentary side of community spirit)
Food #03, Post-Museum