Friday, April 06, 2007

Old Space, New Place

Katong used to be the civic hub of the East Coast. In a way it still is - the churches, the temples, the mosque are still around in this Katong/Joo Chiat area. We also used to have our own Joo Chiat Police Station, near the junction of East Coast and Joo Chiat Roads (opposite the TBG shophouse featured in an earlier post). But the police station moved away long ago, and subsequently the Immigration Department moved in and set up its Field Office (and, I think, a temporary lock-up) there. I visited it once and recall the thick walls of the cells, the large iron-grilled doors, the rather sterile atmosphere of this government office.

Immigration department has long moved out also. The fences and gates surrounding the complex have come down and it has become Katong Village, home of many little restaurants and shophouses. There was an attempt at putting a food centre here - somehow, it did not have staying power although I recall it being fairly popular at one point. Other restaurants came and went. But today, there seems to be a certain new life emerging. Waraku Japanese Restaurant, Samba Brazil Steakhouse Churrascaria, Samy's Curry (of Dempsey Road fame), have all set up shop in this area, together with the pool hall and the one or two pubs which have somehow hung on. It remains to be seen as to how they will survive - I have hopes of Waraku which is pretty crowded whenever I go there. Samy's Curry - not so sure. I think that afficiandos would flock to the "mother restaurant", and in Katong the fish head curry competition is a fierce one. Whilst Samy's have their signature fish head curry, many zi cha stalls will give you a choice between Thai style, Assam, Hongkong style and so on.

Finally, the main office of the old Police station has a new tenant, a Hongkong style noodle restaurant. The home of law and order has transformed into a rather more fun space. Pictures of cantopop stars adorn the walls, and stacks of magazines to read encourage people to hang out here. This place is one of the few which sells my old favourite, beef hor fun in black bean sauce, complete with onions and green capsicum, topped with black pepper. (I acquired a taste for this in my student days where it was the staple of all the Cantonese restaurants in London's Chinatown.) And of course it sells instant noodles with various meat toppings, Yinyang coffee/tea mix, hot coke with honey and lemon etc etc. But their function rooms (for rental) and the outdoor alfresco dining area are often empty. Surprising, as compared to the Hongkong restaurant further down East Coast Road, it is probably better value for money and has better car parking facilities to boot. I suppose only time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. I visited the Immigration Department lockup more 11 years ago (no I was not detained there) as part of my Civil Service Foundation Course. The stench and heat was so unbearable and I remember feeling so sorry for the detainees even though they had broken the law. Thankfully, immigration offenders are now housed in more humane surroundings.



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