Dining Out 3 minutes 06 May 2018

Singapore’s Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, A Noodle Story Open In Hong Kong

Making their overseas debut alongside Tian Tian & A Noodle Story are two other Michelin-listed hawker stalls from Singapore — Lao Jie Fang and The 50s.

Hong Kong street food Singapore

Hong Kong foodies can now enjoy Tian Tian’s Hainanese chicken rice every day — if they wish. They can also dig into popular hawker dishes from three other Michelin-listed stalls from Singapore, all making their debut on the Hong Kong food scene on 17 May.

A new multi-concept restaurant, Tian Tian Plus, which is soft-launched today, will serve dishes from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice from Maxwell Road Hawker Centre and A Noodle Story, famed for its ‘Singapore-style ramen’ from Amoy Street Food Centre. They are both Bib Gourmand eateries.

The other two eateries are coffee and kaya toast joint The 50s from Chinatown Complex Food Centre and Cantonese-style beef noodles stall Lao Jie Fang from Mei Ling Food Centre, which are recommended in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore.
Tian Tian Plus is located at Fashion Walk mall in Causeway Bay. (Credit: Gwern Khoo)
Tian Tian Plus is located at Fashion Walk mall in Causeway Bay. (Credit: Gwern Khoo)

The sprawling 3,800-square-feet restaurant, which seats more than 100 diners, is located on the ground level of Fashion Walk mall in the bustling Causeway Bay shopping enclave.

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The menu at Tian Tian Plus will be different for lunch and dinner. In the afternoon, it will serve set meals such as chicken rice, noodles with potato shrimp fritters, char siew and soft-boiled soy egg or braised wagyu beef, and braised beef brisket and tendon noodles.

Set meals start from HK$80 (S$13.60). Diners can add on sides such as smoked egg and deep-fried beancurd with cereal, as well as kaya toast, and coffee and tea.

Come dinner time, the space morphs into a “fusion-style restaurant-bar” offering inventive dishes such as deep-fried rice rolls with wagyu and bell peppers, Italian-style stir-fried egg white with scallops, roast pork belly and Mao Shan Wang durian beancurd.

Some side dishes from the eateries will be upgraded. For example, the potato-wrapped shrimp fritters from A Noodle Story will be topped with truffle paste.

Tian Tian Plus is the first food and beverage venture by Charles Choi, chief executive of a publicly-listed garment manufacturing company in Hong Kong. Speaking exclusively to the Michelin Guide Digital, the self-confessed gourmand, who “flies to Singapore two or three times a year just to eat chicken rice”, says: “I enjoy the hawker scene in Singapore, which has an amazing variety and quality of food.”

Initially, he only planned to bring Tian Tian Chicken Rice to Hong Kong, but decided to add three other Michelin-listed eateries to his venture. He explains: “People in Hong Kong are familiar with Tian Tian and they like to eat chicken rice, but they cannot eat that dish every day.” Armed with the MICHELIN Guide Singapore, he shortlisted the other three eateries after a “three-month food tour” in Singapore.
(from left) Owners of A Noodle Story, Ben Tham, Gwern Khoo with Mr Khoo's father and Tian Tian Plus founder, Mr Charles Choi (Credit: Gwern Khoo)
(from left) Owners of A Noodle Story, Ben Tham, Gwern Khoo with Mr Khoo's father and Tian Tian Plus founder, Mr Charles Choi (Credit: Gwern Khoo)
Besides securing the Hong Kong franchise for these four Singapore eateries, he intends to use Tian Tian Plus as a springboard for these brands to expand into China in the near future. He approached eateries that have the potential to do well in the Chinese market. He says: “Chinese diners love their chicken and beef noodles, and A Noodle Story has such a stand-out dish that has Guangdong-style wonton noodles fused with a Singapore touch.”

Gwern Khoo, co-owner of A Noodle Story, who has received four or five franchise offers over the past five years, jumped at the opportunity to be part of Tian Tian Plus when he was approached late last year. He says: “ As a chef, it is a dream to have your food eaten as widely as possible and this is a good way of spreading Singapore hawker food culture all over the world.”
'Singapore style' ramen from A Noodle Story (Credit: Tian Tian Plus)
'Singapore style' ramen from A Noodle Story (Credit: Tian Tian Plus)
His signature dish of ‘Singapore-style’ ramen will remain largely similar, save for the custom-made wonton noodles that are made with duck egg from Hong Kong and an X.O sambal sauce with dried scallops. A bowl of noodles is slated to cost HK$88 (S$14.90) while it ranges from S$8 to S$15 in Singapore.

He also plans to serve other local dishes such as stir-fried noodles with asparagus, bak kut teh and laksa.

Besides the opportunity to enter into the China market, he was impressed that Choi has opened a central kitchen in the New Territories for the eateries to prepare the ingredients in bulk and set standard operating procedures to ensure a consistent quality of food. He intends to expand the manpower at his popular stall in Amoy Street Food Centre as he and his co-owner Ben Tham will visit their Hong Kong outlet every quarter.
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Choi also adds that the head chef of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice will be based in Hong Kong for a year. He has spent “no less than HK$34 million” on this venture, from setting up the central kitchen to having posh restaurant interiors complete with marble tables and fanciful lighting fixtures. Each eatery will have a signboard and a video screen depicting their stories.

On choosing to open a multi-concept restaurant, Choi says: “Hong Kongers have the perception that a food court serves very basic food, that’s why I have decided to open a restaurant to show that the quality of food from hawkers can be amazing too.”
By having multiple eateries under one roof, he hopes that this will be a launchpad for the eateries to expand as standalone businesses in Hong Kong too. He says: “Rental rates are expensive in Hong Kong, so this restaurant is a good way to build momentum by getting diners to try out the food at one location before expansion plans can take place.”
Beef brisket noodles from Lao Jie Fang (Credit: Tian Tian Plus)
Beef brisket noodles from Lao Jie Fang (Credit: Tian Tian Plus)

On standing out from the intense dining competition in Hong Kong, he says: “Diners here are simple-minded — as long as the quality and pricing are good, people will come.” It also helps that diners in Hong Kong are familiar with Tian Tian and A Noodle Story as they had visited the stalls in Singapore.

Choi is confident that Tian Tian Plus will do well in Hong Kong and plans to open a second Tian Tian Plus restaurant, with the same four brands, in Elements Shopping Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui by October.

RELATED: The Results: Bib Gourmand Awards For The 2017 MICHELIN Guide Singapore

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