Of course the name is a pun, a clever idea to make it catchy for a forward thinking breed of customers in town. And that was a bold move, coming from a chef who learns on the fly and wings it, and who was once so shy when being pictured. Kai Koh, I believe is one of the gutsiest makan entrepreneurs who once requested to cover his face when I first asked to photograph him and partner Randall Gan some 4 years ago at his first attempt running a hawker stall at Old Airport Road hawker centre. Today, this confident chef, always dressed in authentic “hawker fashion” garbs (crumbly tee and bermudas with sandals) does not bother to explain his looks, “that’s who I am” he tells me. That attitude is also translated to his foray into the business. In that four short years, he has opened about half a dozen eateries (closed two) with various concepts, all revolving around his signature dishes, Cantonese roasts. Today he still has hawker stall concepts and two bespoke speakeasy cze cha and bars (legal of course), Fook Kin and Izyfook (cocktail and cze cha plates kind of bar).
This spot off Killiney Road, a stone’s throw from Orchard Road, was his first foray in to the restaurant business. He cleverly partnered some radio deejays, celebrities and another F&B player in the burger business. But it was no breeze, bearing in mind the overcrowded food scene there and the very tight manpower situation. He believes in “fair treatment, good working conditions and a viable incentive scheme” for his staff. And his customers are still following him from his Old Airport Road hawker centre days. His idea of partnering with people that can help expand and improve his brand in a clever one too. His menu has certainly improved at this first restaurant concept, Fook Kin, a cze cha and Cantonese roast eatery with daily comfort double boiled soups.
The stunning platter of Signature Fook Kin Double Roasts ($17, cha siew and sio bak) is to behold. Set on a millennial pleasing chopping board, the cha siew was soft, roasty and had a burnt caramel “bark” outside. The sio bak or roast pork, you can see, was moist with a crispy crunchy crackling, and when you run it through those streaks of mustard, it sets the tone for the meal. The teaser bites of Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Root Chips ($7.80) was so easy to like. They have to do this fresh upon order as these chips go limp and rancid if you let it sit too long. The Mala Fragrant Fried Chicken ($12.80) was refreshing, but I think the mala thing in general, is overdone. It gave whole meal some bite and woke up the palate, this is obviously beer and chat chow. If you like some comforting cze cha items to go with a decent lunch or dinner, just add their Braised Broccoli with Shimeji Mushrooms ($9.80) and black wood-ear fungus. Devour this slowly over rice, and you’re charged up for the next hurdle in life.
F&B business may be tough in today’s climate and we need quiet icons, like Kai, who will stand up after a fall and march on. It’s not easy but not impossible either.
111, Killiney Road, Singapore 239553
Tel: +65 6737 3488