While on his way to work yesterday, Mr Kasivishvanaath Ayyak-kannu, who runs Muthu's Curry, received a text message from his friend congratulating him on the restaurant making the Singapore Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand list this year.
The 47-year-old had to do a Google search to find out what the accolade was, and then said he felt pressure to meet the expectations of new customers.
Yesterday, French tyre manufacturer Michelin released its Bib Gourmand list for 2018. Its inspectors select food establishments which offer good value for money and serve quality food for no more than $45. The announcement comes ahead of the launch of the 2018 guidenext Wednesday, during which the list of restaurants here which have received its coveted stars will be revealed.
On the Bib Gourmand list this year are 50 establishments, mostly hawker stalls and casual restaurants. Seventeen are new entries. They include zi char restaurant Sik Bao Sin in Geylang, Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre and nasi lemak restaurant The Coconut Club in Ann Siang Hill.
From last year's list of 38, five were dropped: Sichuan and Cantonese restaurant Peony Jade, Nepalese and North Indian restaurant Shish Mahal, 328 Katong Laksa, Liang Zhao Ji Duck Rice and Tsuta ramen.
Mr Ayyakkannu, chief executive of Muthu's Currinary, which owns Muthu's Curry in Race Course Road, said: "The award is recognition for what we have done so far and serves as motivation for us to do even better."
Muthu's Curry was established in 1969 by his late father, Mr Muthu Ayyakkannu, and its signature dish is its South Indian-style fish head curry (from $22).
Mr Tan Lee Seng, 52, of new entrant Lao Fu Zi Fried Kway Teow in Old Airport Road Food Centre, was overcome with emotion. His late mother, Madam Kuah Quat Keow, started the stall 30 years ago, and died in March last year at 71. Servings start at $5 a plate.
He said, teary-eyed: "I am very happy I won this award but also very sad that my mother is not here with me to share the joy of this win. The credit for the award goes to her, as she started the stall and taught me everything."
Mr Bren Tham, 43, who runs Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff, said he was shocked but honoured his brand has been recognised. "It is a local stall that was passed down by my dad, and I hope it can be recognised not only locally but (also) even regionally," he said.
His father learnt to make curry puffs from a Hainanese sailor when he was 19, and passed the recipe to his son. The puffs are $1.50 each.
Sik Bao Sin owner and chef Desmond Chia, 50, said long-time customers of his father's zi char dishes at Sik Wai Sin Eating House in Geylang were the ones who encouraged him to start his own place five years ago. His father retired in 2013 and Sik Wai Sin closed in 2015.
He said: "I am the only chef in the kitchen, so I hope my customers will be understanding if their waiting time increases when we get more customers."
Signature dishes at Sik Bao Sin include steamed fish head ($26), steamed pork with salted fish ($17) and ginger chicken (from $19).
Regular customer Chew Thye Chuan said he works in Woodlands but makes the trip to Geylang once or twice a month for Sik Bao Sin's food. "That should tell you how much I like the food here. It is inexpensive and offers good value for money," said the 66-year-old, who works in the beverage industry.
Business developer Audrey Lim, 24, who was at The Coconut Club with a friend from Switzerland yesterday, said of the shop: "I have been here three times and I usually bring my friends from overseas. I don't think there is anywhere else with comfortable seating and good nasi lemak."
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New on the list
CHAI CHUAN TOU YANG ROU TANG
01-51 Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre, open 11am to 1.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday and public holidays
CHUAN KEE BONELESS BRAISED DUCK
01-04 Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, open 10am to 8pm (Friday to Wednesday), closed on Thursday
EMINENT FROG PORRIDGE & SEAFOOD
323 Geylang Road, open 4pm to 4am daily
FRESH TASTE BIG PRAWN NOODLE
01-04 Zion Riverside Food Centre, open 6pm to 11.30pm (Monday to Friday), noon to 1am (Saturday and Sunday)
HENG CARROT CAKE
01-28 Newton Food Centre, open 5pm to 1am daily
HONG KONG YUMMY SOUP
01-51 Alexandra Village Food Centre, open 10am to 4pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday and public holidays
LAO FU ZI FRIED KWAY TEOW
01-12 Old Airport Road Food Centre, open 11am to 10pm (Monday to Friday), open every alternate Saturday (it is open on Saturday this week), closed on Sunday
LIAN HE BEN JI CLAYPOT RICE
02-197/198/199 Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre, open 4.30pm to 10pm (Friday to Wednesday), closed on Thursday
MUTHU'S CURRY (RACE COURSE ROAD)
138 Race Course Road 01-01, open 10.30am to 10.30pm daily
OUTRAM PARK FRIED KWAY TEOW
02-18 Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, open 7am to 9pm daily
ROLINA TRADITIONAL HAINANESE CURRY PUFF
02-15 Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre, open 9am to 2pm daily
SHI WEI DA TEOCHEW PORRIDGE
01-236 Fengshan Market and Food Centre, open 8.30am to noon daily
SIK BAO SIN
592 Geylang Road,open 11.45am to 2.30pm, 5.45pm to 9.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday
SIN KEE FAMOUS CANTONESE CHICKEN RICE
Block 40 Holland Drive, open 11am to 4pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday
TAI WAH PORK NOODLE
02-16 Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, open 9.30am to 7.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday
THE COCONUT CLUB
6 Ann Siang Hill, open 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 9.30pm (Monday to Saturday), 11am to 3pm (Sunday)
TIONG BAHRU YI SHENG FRIED HOKKIEN PRAWN MEE
01-13 ABC Food Centre, 6 Jalan Bukit Merah,open 3pm to 10.45pm (Wednesday to Monday), closed on Tuesday