Leaders share simple meal at eatery

PM Lee and Mrs Lee (hidden) having a meal with Mr Modi at Indian vegetarian restaurant Komala Vilas on Monday night.
PM Lee and Mrs Lee (hidden) having a meal with Mr Modi at Indian vegetarian restaurant Komala Vilas on Monday night.PHOTO: NARENDRAMODI/TWITTER

"The food was good."

Mr Rajakumar Gunasekaran, operations director of Indian vegetarian restaurant Komala Vilas, takes pleasure in even the simplest of praises from his customers, but this was no ordinary compliment.

It was made by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who caused quite a stir when he dropped in at the no-frills Serangoon Road restaurant with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Mrs Lee, on Monday night.

"In all that excitement, it was all I could remember from my brief conversation with him. But the best thing was that he enjoyed the food," Mr Rajakumar, 29, told The Straits Times yesterday of his meeting with Mr Modi.

Mr Rajakumar's grandfather opened Komala Vilas - which has become something of an institution for vegetarian food on the Little India culinary scene - in 1947.

The eatery was told in advance about the visit. The VIPs arrived at about 9.15pm, after Mr Modi's Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel, and stayed for 45 minutes.

Excited staff served them a vegetarian spread of idli (a rice cake consisting of fermented black lentils), vadai (savoury fritters) and the restaurant's famous thosai (a crepe made from rice batter and lentils).

Their simple meal was accompanied by traditional Indian drinks - sweet yoghurt lassi, mango lassi and lime juice.

The VIPs' appearance was a major surprise for other customers. Business went on as usual on the restaurant's second floor, but the first floor was occupied only by Mr Modi, PM Lee and Mrs Lee during the meal due to security concerns.

A crowd of gawking onlookers gathered outside the eatery as word spread of Mr Modi's presence, said cashier Kavitha, 27.

Mr Modi and Mr Lee both posted wefies taken at the restaurant on their Facebook pages.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Leaders share simple meal at eatery'. Print Edition | Subscribe