Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tian Kee and Co - A Slice of Dakota Crescent Nostalgia Until December 2016

We sat on the high stools back facing from the main cafe and glancing at the main road, and the sense of old Singapore came flooding back almost instantly.

Then came news just yesterday that this entire neighborhood will make way for redevelopment come 2017. The persistent deconstruction of Singapore's past, has present Singapore really come to this?

Tian Kee and Co used to be a provision shop for more than 50 years before it was turned into a hipster cafe just a month ago.

Despite bearing the monicker of hipster, everything about it is anything but hip.

From the signage to the tables and chairs and the rustic looking furniture, looking from afar might suggest that it is a coffeeshop that has stood since 1970.

Classic Furnishings Within

Take a closer look and you start to see modern pastries and lattes being pushed out from the small kitchen behind. There are a selection of outsourced cakes and pastries, and some classic drinks like bandung (rose syrup with milk) on the menu.

Iced Pink Lady and Mr Brown having a hot date

The drinks may bear clever names, but they are still pretty much renditions of classic beverages from our childhood. The bandung and kopi ping (iced coffee with milk) evoke a taste of familiarity, albeit served in modern glass jars and looking a bit more spiffy than old.

Chicken Pie with Prawn Crackers

The chicken pie looked and tasted like it was catered from elsewhere, and the prawn crackers were packaged ones. Nevertheless, it was still passable and I guess the food is not the main thing here, but simply to accompany the rustic atmosphere that has a comforting and classic feel. Heck, there is not even air conditioning here.

Yet, in spite of all these negatives, we somehow enjoyed the experience of sitting in a neighborhood that reminded us of what it was like when we grew up in the Queenstown area of the 70s and 80s.

The wide open spaces, the shorter apartments that bear some semblance to colonial structures dating back to the early part of the last century.

The irony of what will become of Dakota Crescent after 2016 is not lost on this writer. The food served in Tian Kee may not be spectacular or amazing, but it's the whole experience that counts.

Similarly, putting new development in order to maximize the value of the property area and giving way to skyscrapers and commercial spaces bearing franchised names means nothing if we lose the identity of who we are and where we came from.

The owners of Tian Kee may be young, but they bear the same diligent, hardworking ethics of our pioneer generation and whatever they put up is worth sampling. Being young means that they can improve over time, and I am hopeful that they will. At the very least, it means more than another Toast Box popping up in its place in 2017.

In less than three years, Tian Kee and all its surrounding buildings will be gone. And with that, another part of Singapore history will go along with it.

Personally, I do not need to see another spanking new condominium or another glossy mall. All I want is my old Singapore back.

Wishful thinking it seems.

Tian Kee and Co.
12 Dakota Crescent

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