Hello, Kitty! Goodbye, Kitty!
By Kiat-Sing Teo Photos by Shellen Teh
“Would you Hello Kitty café with me?” I proposed to Shellen, as if the famous not-cat is an action verb. “I mean the newest one, lately opened in Singapore.”
“Ooo…I’ll check if they take reservations!” she replied, much to my relief. I had counted her in my inner circle of conspirators to check out all things cute and curious. After all, it was on her account that we bravely almost lost (but found) our way to the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Sleepy Hollow County. I was determined that this themed café affair was going to be different; it was going to be MY kind of fantasy – a lace-and-frills overload, preferably in about 50 shades of pink.
The café was planted in Terminal 3 of the Singapore Changi Airport, and, as if to justify its presence and distinguish itself from Japan, birthplace of kawaii, Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Café (its official name), takes on the characteristics of its host country. The restaurant mascot wears an additional bow in red and white stripes, reminiscent of the Singapore national flag. And, of course, the café’s white pergola structures had hanging orchids and decorative birdhouses that emphasized the garden theme, and recalled the city-state’s reputation as a garden city. (Despite my speculations, however, I was unable to explain Half-blood Kitty’s longer eyelashes that the Classic did not have.)
There was a no-reservation policy, and a relatively short line when we arrived. We gleefully took our places, and consoled ourselves that being ‘in a queue’ is a quintessential Singaporean experience. The wait was even eventful, since the wait-staff (mainly Norman, who claimed that it was his last day) made a point of showing us the best photo spots – with the Kitty likeness in the front and at the back. He also promised to watch our belongings as we (again) waited, and took our turns to pose with the almost 2 feet high statuettes.
When we returned to our table to study the menu, which appeared thoughtful although some items seem to make puzzling references; Kitty Meets Benedict, Twice! is two eggs benedict served on crusts of focaccia, with smoked salmon and duck, and Oops Kitty Did It Again! is a toppled bucket of peel-cut fries with a dip of truffle ketchup. There were only 15 items (4 of which were described with exclamation marks!), offered in 6 categories; all-day breakfast, side and salads, sandwiches and wraps, rice, pastas and main courses, sundaes, and desserts.
As soon as our orders arrived, Shellen and I put up a polite fight that the other deserved the only nacho to be toasted with a Hello Kitty (Orchid Garden version, not classic) face in the portion. I don’t recall now who lost, and sunk her teeth into the coveted nacho, but it could well have been me. I had flashbacks of episodes during my childhood when my cousins and I jostled over the token bit of red mark at the peak of traditional Chinese sponge cakes; it was just food coloring, but we pretended it elevated our life experiences.
“It’s a good thing we came when we did,” I indicated a light-box poster – to be fair, it had a filigree border to my approval, that announced, “Please note that there will be a limited menu offering our most popular dishes from 12am – 6am daily.”
“Maybe we should have tried the Pokemon pop-up café at Bugis Junction instead,” Shellen shrugged.
Soon after this adventure, Shellen Teh bought Kiat-Sing Teo her first Kinder Surprise, and took up diving to explore the sophisticated and vast unknown. Kiat-Sing continues to update her instagram @singsingsingsing.