‘Yes my food is expensive but…’

Fann Sim

Would you pay $421 for a dinner for four adults and two children at Geylang?

On 6 June, salesperson Gelene Ong visited Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant with her family of six and received a rude shock when she called for the bill.

Just what did Ong order on her first visit to the shabby restaurant?

Her dinner consisted of scallops ($50), conch ($50), prawns ($77), frog legs, ($78), crab bee hoon ($130) and vegetables ($12). Other items on the bill were peanuts and drinks ($20.40) and wet towelettes ($3.60).

Dinner at Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant came up to $421 for Gelene Ong and her family. (Yahoo! Photo)
Dinner at Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant came up to $421 for Gelene Ong and her family. (Yahoo! Photo)

Ong did not know that she would be patronising an Anthony Bourdain-endorsed restaurant.

"That place was recommended to me by a friend who told me that I should try the crab bee hoon, but I didn't expect it to be so expensive," said Ong.

When Yahoo! Singapore paid a visit to Chef Danny Lee's restaurant along Geylang Road, he defended his restaurant's prices.

"It's all a one-man show. Every dish we have, I make sure I take the orders and cook it myself. I also make sure that my ingredients are clean and fresh" Chef Lee said.

Chef Danny Lee defends his restaurant's pricing. (Yahoo! Photo/Fann Sim)
Chef Danny Lee defends his restaurant's pricing. (Yahoo! Photo/Fann Sim)

The chef also explained the steps he takes to ensure that his dishes are fresh: "For my gong gong (conch), I always tell people 'if you don't take my gong gong here, try not to take it elsewhere. I keep my gong gong in the tanks for a week for it to clear out the mud and dirt."

He also voiced his doubts that other seafood restaurants actually serve live seafood.

"They are serving such a big crowd everyday and they always only have a few fishes in the tanks. At the end of the day, you still see the fish swimming in the tank," Chef Lee said.

Ong was also put off by the lack of communication between her and the restaurant. She was not informed of the prices when her orders were taken.

"The restaurant had no menu. The service crew was also pushy about getting us to order an extra fish when we already had so much food," Ong added.

The extra fish she was asked to order was Cheng yu, otherwise known as Parrot Fish, and it comes at $120 per kilogram.

Chef Lee clarified that his restaurant does not provide menus.

"We don't have a menu. People who come here know me and, most of the time, they will ask me how much the dishes are. It just happened that on the day she visited the restaurant, she did not ask for the prices. Even if she asked, I would not have charged her differently," Lee said.

Chef Lee took out a stack of receipts to show the amount paid by other customers. It was exactly as he said: the prices were standardised.

Chef Danny Lee took out a stack of receipts to show us that he does not give special prices. (Yahoo! Photo/Fann Sim)
Chef Danny Lee took out a stack of receipts to show us that he does not give special prices. (Yahoo! Photo/Fann Sim)

Chef Lee is also known as the "food nazi of Geylang" by food bloggers and can be quite obnoxious, according to some reviewers on foodie site HungryGoWhere.

Customers visiting Sin Huat should be prepared for long waits and should avoid ordering from food stalls beside the restaurant, as Chef Lee doesn't like that.

"Sometimes people complain I serve too slow. I only have two hands and I'm the only cook. People may see me looking like I'm angry or impatient because I have no time to entertain them," Chef Lee explained.

Chef Lee's favourite customers are those who know how to appreciate good food. "No point buying cheap food and it doesn't taste good. There's nothing special about that," he said.

Expensive meals have been in the limelight recently. Last month, Yahoo! Singapore ran a story about nasi lemak going for $8.30 along Upper Serangoon Road.

According to TODAY, an expatriate was charged $1,107.32 for a seafood lunch on Wednesday. Company director Ian McArthur ate at Forum Seafood Village Restaurant with another friend and had Australian lobsters, fried rice and king crabs.

McArthur said that he was purposely misled when the restaurant staff did not inform him of how much the crustaceans weighed or cost before cooking the food. McArthur claims that he was "grossly overcharged" and told TODAY that "it wasn't just the price. We feel that we were misled, that's why we were upset about it".

He later filed a complaint to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) on Wednesday and is requesting a $900 refund.

The practice of not informing customers of the prices is because some customers feel that it's too troublesome and tell the restaurant stuff to not bother them. It may also imply that the customer might not afford the dishes.

CASE has received 12 complaints for alleged overcharging by food and beverage outlets from January to May this year.

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