SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Leave it to the young to find stuff that other young people like.
Mr Lee Lock Teng, 26, the brain behind Ah Lock Tofu at Yishun Park Hawker Centre, has given his brand an update and moved it to the Central Business District, landing in Tanjong Pagar Centre.
He gives local food twists to draw the young and trendy.
And it has worked.
I found out about Ah Lock & Co only because a popular fitness personality posted a picture of himself at the restaurant, beneath the Eat My Tofu neon sign, as have many others.
Some cafes have used fancy signboards and decor as distractions for being unremarkable, but here, that does not seem to be the case. Not everything on the menu sings, but many dishes hum along nicely.
The hit seems to be the Hakka Tofu Bowl ($7.80), the signature item from the first outlet. About half of the patrons had this on the table. The elements - meatballs, tofu, rice - are done well.
The recipe comes from Mr Lee's grandmother, so while the dish is not thrilling, it is definitely comforting.
My favourite is the Hakka Pork Bowl ($9.90), which will have me coming back for more.
The generous portion of tender pork slices is the key ingredient, supported by broccolini, sous vide egg (it is a place for the millennial, so egg has to appear in one form or the other) and rice.
It is really all you need for a satisfying lunch. I would have preferred a fattier cut of pork but it is not a deal-breaker.
Pay extra to add the Thunder Tea soup ($1.50 a la carte) to your meal.
When the soup arrives, it does not look like it is worth the money - gone in barely three gulps - but you can taste the vegetables and herbs, and it helps you pretend that you are eating healthy.
An easy takeaway item is the min jiang kueh ($1.60) in three flavours - Original Skin Peanut, Charcoal Skin Coconut and Green Tea Skin Red Bean.
The charcoal version is gimmicky but the coconut filling makes up for it. I found the green tea version a tad sweet and the original version competent.
I bought all three, and all were nearly cold, which is bizarre. Is it a young person thing to want cold food? I would have wanted it at least warm.
I have had butter coffee before only at Heap Seng Leong coffee shop and it is not a common sight, but it is available at Ah Lock & Co at $2, so you have to try it at least once.
You do get the hint of creaminess and it does not leave an oily aftertaste, but the coffee lacks depth.
Maybe because it is a quick service outlet, service is not a consideration. Or it could have been a bad day, but on the morning I ate there, except for the cashier who took my order, there was nary a smile from the staff. Some cheer would have been nice.
But if it is a case of eat-and-run for you, where you just want a nice, inexpensive, tasty meal and you don't really care about interaction because you have your earphones on anyway, you have come to the right place.
Ah Lock & Co
Tanjong Pagar Centre, B2-22/23/24 Tel: 8826-0244
Opens 7.30am to 8.30pm on weekdays, 10am to 4pm on Saturdays