This new eatery seeks to capitalise on the wave of nostalgia over childhood foods. I noticed this trend in London and I guess it's natural to start seeing this occur in Singapore, albeit slightly delayed. I think it's a byproduct of increasing affluence and a global focus on the past-as-better as the world becomes increasingly frightening.
Yi Bao serves specialities from Ipoh, Malaysia, a city known for its hor fun, bean sprouts and chicken. Something about the water there - perhaps no longer given its development.
It's an air-conditioned restaurant with table-service and a small outdoor area. The service is atrocious as I had to wave like a madman to attract the uniformed waitress. I asked for a glass of water to accompany my hor fun and chicken and was told it was 30c.
"What is that for," I asked.
"We charge 30c for water," she replied.
"What for?" I enquired, hoping to point out how cheapskate and ludicrous it was to charge for water when I was already buying food.
Like a robot, she replied, "We charge 30c for water."
All right then, I thought, I'll have the barley. I chose the barley without ice as ice costs an extra 80c for hot drinks.
"Barley no more, already," came her clipped reply. "You want fruit juice? Soursop?"
Fruit juice, a cold drink, costs 40c more without ice. So I pay for ice if I want a hot drink cold, and pay for no-ice if I want my juice undiluted . This is standard practice at hawker centres and local coffeeshops. I have no problem with that. But a place that has nicely printed menus, airconditioning and uniformed waitstaff are just impudent if they want to charge me for water in its various phases (ice and liquid).
It's a different set of priorities I guess, perhaps it's a Singaporean thing that paying for food and airconditioning is okay, but extras like ice they can do without. Perhaps it's a perception that ice is a luxury?
My horfun had good texture and was all right, but I was cranky from the experience and left after eating. I'd already been asked to pay the waiter when my food arrived - I guess I was a flight-risk.