Popular Cantonese restaurants, Loy Sum Juan and Mitzi, reopen at hawker centres

Mr Chan Pak Hoi. -- PHOTO: K.F. SEETOH
Mr Chan Pak Hoi. -- PHOTO: K.F. SEETOH
Mr Roy Loi. -- ST PHOTO: STEFFI KOH
Mr Roy Loi. -- ST PHOTO: STEFFI KOH

Two popular Cantonese restaurants, Loy Sum Juan and Mitzi, have reopened at hawker centres

When the going gets tough, the tough downgrade their businesses and get on with it.

Weighed down by manpower and rental woes, two popular Cantonese restaurants, Loy Sum Juan and Mitzi, closed and have returned as hawker stalls.

Loy Sum Juan, which wound up at Murray Terrace in March this year, has been revived by its second-generation owner Roy Loi as a stall called 12 Stones Noodle House.

After three months at ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre, the stall closed yesterday and will re-open at Market Street "Golden Shoe Car Park" Food Centre on Aug 4.

Mitzi, which closed two years ago in Tanjong Pagar, sprang up in March this year at Chinatown Complex, where it takes up the space of two hawker stalls.

Relocating is nothing new for Loy Sum Juan, which first opened in 1976 at Outram Park and moved to Tiong Bahru Plaza for 15 years before settling down at Murray Terrace.

But the shift to the food centre has been a steep learning curve for Mr Loi, 46.

Back at Loy Sum Juan, his 49-year-old brother did the accounts and his 48-year-old sister managed the front-end operations.

They also had 12 staff and a few part-timers on weekends. Now Mr Loi is pretty much on his own, with only one helper at the stall.

"At Loy Sum Juan, I just had to cook," says the owner.

"Now I'm on my own and I have to do everything from scratch by myself, from cleaning to preparing ingredients."

This is despite the fact that he has downsized the menu drastically.

The stir-fried dishes have been dropped, and only four popular noodles dishes remain - dry noodles with stewed beef brisket, mixed beef, Hainanese pork chop and shrimp paste chicken.

Business was slow at the stall in its first month. He did not serve Loy Sum Juan's dishes then - because he was "trying to be too smart", he jokes - and diners did not recognise him.

Things picked up after he changed his signboard to include his family's famed dishes, especially the shrimp paste chicken that follows his 72-year-old mother's recipe, he says.

It is a similar story at Mitzi, where chef-owner Chan Pak Hoi, 76, is still at the helm and the wok.

Although he has shrunk the menu, it still offers more than 50 items, including favourites such as sang min (crispy egg noodles), pork ribs with bitter gourd and mustard greens with crab sauce.

He says: "I'm tired but I need to cook for my regular customers."

Ahead of another move, Mr Loi hopes 12 Stones will thrive at Market Street.

The owner, who served lunch and dinner at ABC Market, is looking forward to working shorter hours and on only weekdays at the new location.

Market Street has a bigger crowd, and he is confident that he can afford to serve lunch only.

The father of two sons says: "So far, I've been working from about 8am to 10pm from Mondays to Saturdays, and don't get to see my sons and wife very much.

"Even on Sunday, I am preparing food for Monday."

Months since the closure of Loy Sum Juan, the restaurant still has its fans.

Senior engineer Michael Lim, 45, who dined at the eatery when it was at Murray Terrace, says: "I was sad when it closed. So when I heard about the noodle stall opening, I had to try its food again.

"I was hoping for more items from its menu last time, but at least I got to eat the chicken."

And Mr Loi is cautiously hopeful about reopening the restaurant, even as he laments the volatility of the food and beverage business.

He says: "My mother said it was a pity to close it, but we had to move on from the stress of dealing with manpower and rent problems. She encouraged me to work harder now that I'm on my own."

He adds: "If the labour rules and my age permit, maybe we can make a comeback."

euniceq@sph.com.sg

12 Stones Noodle House opens at Market Street Food Centre, 50 Market Street, 02-21, on Aug 4. It will open from 10am to 3pm, weekdays only.

Mitzi opens from 11am to 2.30pm and 5 to 9pm, Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Monday, at Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith Street, 02-153/154.

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