Island Cafe at Tangs

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CK Tangs is the first Department Store in Singapore. Its flagship store is in Orchard Road and with the little pagoda that stands above the building it occupies, it rules Orchard Road, in as much the same way that Macys rules 7th Avenue in New York and Marshall Fields (even though it has been bought over by Macys) used to rule over Michigan Avenue with its green awnings. Tangs is an institution in Singapore. Some argue that Robinson’s should share the same honor. But Robinson’s was started by a British family and is currently in the hands of other foreign hands. Tangs has always been Singaporean. And its first owner started the store by selling his wares door to door with a metal basket on a bicycle (or something like that). Its a classic rags to riches story and I love it even though I can barely afford any of their stuff most times.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling reckless, I may buy something small, just so that I can carry a Tangs bag out. Sort of the same reason why I bought toothpaste from Bloomingdales. Not because $10 toothpaste cleans my teeth better than a regular $2 toothpaste from RiteAid, but because walking out of there with the Little Brown Bag made me feel just a teensy bit special for well, quite frankly, the whole day. Actually, once I bought a pair of jeans (which I still own) from Bloomingdales. It was a very special treat for myself. I had published a paper and my sabbatical year at the NIH was coming to an end and my heart had been broken for the second time and I wanted, just once, to own an expensive pair of jeans. A buy that doesn’t really make sense since I don’t really wear jeans (Singapore is too hot) but I just wanted to act reckless for once.

Anyway, I had arranged to meet my sister with her children at Tangs. I figured she might want an extra pair of hands to help her with her children. And she mentioned that she hadn’t had a hair cut in almost a year. Having an aunt and grandmother to watch the children is probably the only way she was going to be able to have that haircut. I remembered that she enjoys eating at Tangs. I’ve never actually had a meal there before so I suggested we stop by the Island Cafe for lunch before her pampering hair appointment.

First of all, the prices. If you think about the fact that it has a great view, there’s air conditioning, and we are downtown, the entree prices really aren’t unreasonable. But what made me a little uncomfortable was that the menu items were regular Singapore food items like laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, Hokkien prawn mee, etc. $16 for chicken rice??!! The Singaporean in me nearly fainted from shock. But then again, I suppose an Italian probably won’t be particularly pleased to be paying 16 Euros for a plate of pasta (I think).

But when the food arrives and I have my first taste of the laksa, the grumbling in my brain starts to ease a little. First of all, the laksa came with crawfish (mostly shell, not much meat) and the soup was very very good. Not too spicy. Not too oily. It was just nice and the portions were huge. I tried MamaMonkey’s prawn mee. Again, very good. My sister’s chicken rice wasn’t too bad either (but it still won’t beat Boon Tong Kee!). The waiters were very nice and very patient with us even though we took about 20 mins to settle down and read the menu.

The question, of course, then becomes was the laksa worth $20? I suppose that won’t be an amount that I’ll be willing to part with on a regular basis for a bowl of laksa. But sometimes, when you just want a piece of heaven in Orchard Road and you want to treat yourself, just a little, then yes. Maybe.

Important info:

Island Cafe

4/F Tangs Orchard

Tel: 6311 3424

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ChiefMonkey

I've been swinging from place to place looking for new adventures every day.

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