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The Singapore Law Gazette

Sinfully Sinpopo

Most of us in the legal fraternity would be familiar with the story of how Lyn Lee, who graduated from NUS Law in 1996, went on to establish Awfully Chocolate, which is now found all over Singapore and whose products may be found on supermarket shelves in the region. But not many of us would know that Sinpopo, which was first opened in Katong – and as an ode to Katong – in 2013, was also the brainchild of Lyn Lee.

Having spent most of my childhood and teenage years in the East Coast, the suburbs of Katong and Joo Chiat hold fond memories, steeped in the Peranakan heritage. I have always enjoyed the nostalgic food offerings at Sinpopo on Joo Chiat Road, and wondered whether its move to Tangs Level 2 would compromise the excellent standards I had come to expect on every visit.

I dare say I was not disappointed on a number of visits to its new premises. Although the current location in a department store had resulted in the loss of its quaint Katong ambience – the décor can be improved – the food is worth one going back again … and again.

It has an extensive and innovative lunch menu ranging from Dry Mee Siam ($20++) to Har Jeong Kai Wings ($12++) to Bak Kut Teh 2-Ways ($20++) (all my favourites), and its new a la carte buffet menu for dinner is absolutely shiok! At $58++ per pax, it is good value for money considering the high quality of items on the menu. Unfortunately, it is a different menu from the lunch menu – the must-have Dry Mee Siam is still on it – but after I have gone through eight superb little dishes, I can forgive that. For dinner, you tick off items on a menu, hand it to the service staff, and the dishes will keep coming. The portions are tiny – literally a mouthful for some of them – but I guess you can keep ordering if you like them, and this does reduce wastage significantly. My only quarrel with Sinpopo is how they refuse to serve tap water or warm water; you just have to pay an exorbitant amount for bottled water. That is indeed a turnoff and bad form for a restaurant compared to many of its Orchard Road neighbours who offer a choice of sparkling, still or tap water. This is also an issue from the perspective of environmental sustainability. The Grand Hyatt, before it closed for renovations, used to offer unlimited flow of its in-house bottled still and sparkling water for just $2 per diner.

I enjoyed the starters of Jambu Jack Salad (with grilled jackfruit and fresh mint accents), Har Jeong Kai Wings (with a side dip of prawn paste sauce for the extra oomph), Calamari and Youtiao Rojak (smothered in thick aromatic prawn paste) and Satay Ayam (one of the thickest juiciest I have ever had). I would be happy having just unlimited servings of these four starters for the whole meal.

Next up was Sotong Hitam which was preternaturally tender and delightfully flavoursome, and Beef Cheek Rendang (that melts in your mouth). Then came Nyonya Chap Chye (with a thick slice of fish maw) and Assam Sambal Prawn. Each table gets one serve of a Curry Fish Head with okra and eggplant which I would recommend you do not forego. On a number of occasions, the Curry Crayfish was a letdown, and I think the kitchen is still trying to perfect this one. The eponymously named Sinpopo’s Famous Dry Mee Siam is constantly a triumph – served with half a lime. Many of these dishes are available at lunchtime, so if you want to have a casual catchup with a client or meet up with friends for an hour, you can still sample them.

The desserts on the a la carte buffet menu are unremarkable – okay, the Pulut Hitam is nice – but it is the cakes in the display shelves that you should try. They are not on the menu, and cost about $10 per slice. The Mao Shan Wang Durian Cake, Dripping Kaya Cake and Putu Piring Cake are sensational. What’s a few extra dollars for a moment in heaven?

The reviewer paid for his meal at Sinpopo Tangs.

Professor, NUS Law
Head (Intellectual Property), EW Barker Centre for Law & Business, NUS Law

Co-Director, Centre for Technology, Robotics, AI & the Law
E-mail: [email protected]

Professor David Tan is the Co-Director of the Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law (TRAIL) and Head (Intellectual Property) of the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business at NUS Law.