The popular Tsui Wah brand from Hong Kong opens its first South-east Asian outlet in Clarke Quay today at 1pm, bringing its classic cha chaan teng (tea house) fare to Singapore.
The contemporary restaurant - which seats more than 140 and occupies more than 4,000 sq ft including outdoor seating - offers signature items such as milk tea ($3.50 for hot, $4 for cold) in its iconic porcelain cup, crispy bun with condensed milk ($4) and pork chop bun ($7.50).
Other highlights include borscht with thick toast ($5.50), braised abalone rice with diced chicken and kale ($14), king prawns in XO sauce with tossed noodles ($11), Kagoshima-style pork cartilage with tossed instant noodles ($9.50) and lamb chop curry with steamed rice ($29).
Set menus for lunch, tea and dinner will be available, as well as a selection of alcoholic beverages such as Tiger Beer and Guinness Stout.
Six chefs and operation staff from Tsui Wah in Hong Kong are in Singapore to train the local staff.
One of them is Mr Cheung Pui Yan, 54, Tsui Wah's director of kitchen operations, who plays a key role in overseas expansions of the brand ensuring that standards of quality and freshness are met.
Ingredients such as the curry paste for the curry dishes and the tea leaves used for brewing milk tea are brought in from Hong Kong, says Mr Cheung, who has been a chef for more than 30 years and with Tsui Wah for 10 years.
The Tsui Wah outlet in Singapore is a franchise by Vista F&B Services, a joint venture between Tsui Wah Holdings and Jumbo Group.
On how the partnership came about, Mr Peter Pang, chief executive officer of Tsui Wah Holdings, tells The Straits Times the Jumbo Group was not the only player to approach it.
Mr Pang, 59, says: "Jumbo is an ideal partner to work with because of its experience and credentials as a leading food-and-beverage group in Singapore and across Asia.
"Singaporeans are familiar with Hong Kong as well as its cha chaan teng culture and share a similar passion for high quality food, even in casual dining settings. It was therefore a natural choice to start our foray into South-east Asia through Singapore."
Mr Ang Kiam Meng, chief executive officer of the Jumbo Group, says Tsui Wah's chairman, Mr Lee Yuen Hong, has been his friend for many years.
"Talks have been ongoing for some time between Jumbo and Tsui Wah to finalise plans to bring the Tsui Wah brand to South-east Asia, starting with Singapore," says Mr Ang, 56, who adds that the Clarke Quay location was chosen for its mix of local and tourist patrons.
The Tsui Wah chain has more than 60 outlets in Hong Kong, Macau and China. The brand was founded in 1967 in the Hong Kong neighbourhood of Mong Kok.
Brands under the Jumbo Group include Jumbo Seafood restaurants, Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh and Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine.
Once operations for the Clarke Quay outlet stabilises, Mr Pang plans to open more outlets.
He also does not rule out extending opening hours to cater to the supper crowd in the Clarke Quay area.
Some outlets in Hong Kong open around the clock.
He says: "In the cha chaan teng culture, it's not about fast food, but we provide food fast. What you get here is at least 95 per cent similar to what you get in Hong Kong."
• Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ
• Tsui Wah opens today from 1 to 11pm at 01-03 Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road. It opens from 11am to 11pm daily from tomorrow. For details, go to www.facebook.com/TsuiwahSingapore