Urban Hawker, which features 11 Singaporean hawkers handpicked by food guru Kf Seetoh, had a soft opening this week in New York, to long lines and much acclaim.
The eatery is a dream fulfilled of sorts for Mr Seetoh, who had discussed the idea with the late famed chef Anthony Bourdain, many years ago.
Naturally, many Singaporeans have been excited about seeing hawker fare in what is arguably the most famous city in the world.
However, some early feedback about the prices of the dishes, as well as the high salary of the staff of Urban Hawker have made the news recently, and Mr Seetoh has responded.
In a Sept 24 (Saturday) Facebook post, he wrote that “good and honest feedback” is welcome, but other news has been “misleading” and “confusing.”
Most of the reviews for Urban Hawker have been positive, and long lines have been photographed at the venue and shared online.
Notable guests such as Manpower Minister Tan See Leng and Singapore’s Ambassador to the US, Mr Ashok Mirpuri, have also graced Urban Hawker.
The Makansutra founder wrote that Dr Tan, together with former minister Mah Bow Tan had given Urban Hawker “very good and honest feedback” that can be “easily fix(ed).”
“That’s kitchen work, no problem. Thank you for gracing our Urban Hawker in NYC.”
However, Mr Seetoh added, “But if you went to makan Mee Soto and reviewed it as Mee Rebus..that’s dementia, doctors also have problem fixing it. I have to agree that the mee soto does not taste like mee rebus..it’s soupy.
Then if you compare our teochew oyster omlette with the soupy taiwan version.. that’s fair criticism, from your end.”
He then took issue with “freedom keyboard online news warriors” who made much of the US$18 price tag on Prawnaholic Collections’s hae mee, which had been reported in Shin Min Daily News on Sept 23 and quoted in Mothership, AsiaOne, and mustsharenews.
Shin Min Daily News had spoken to Prawnaholic’s Alan Choong, who said that he is paying kitchen assistants US$5,000 (S$7,150) monthly.
Mr Seetoh called it “quite confusing” that the cost of Prawnaholic’s hae mee in the US was compared “with the cheap Sg hawker prices, then gets Alan to justify and explain the high cost of rentals, taxes, ingredient costs, salaries, housing in NYC in these inflationary times, then praises the whole Urban Hawker being in NYC and all.”
Mr Seetoh also took issue with the headline that said prawn mee soup at Urban Hawker costs S$26.
“Misleading la..didnt even ask thier local NYC native friends if the prices are reasonable nor compare it with Manhattan Chinatown prices.”
He then offered a piece of advice for those who found Urban Hawker’s prices too expensive: “Best if you stay in Singapore and keep demanding hawkers must serve you cheap food. don’t even bother thinking about their high cost of operations today.”
Mr Seetoh added that when “online news commandos… shoot off their keyboards” it’s “like a stray bullet into society.”
He assured followers that Urban Hawker will “take note of the truly responsible feedback, both bad and good” and “will fix all these teething soft opening issues” thanking those who offered constructive responses.
He also wrote that Urban Hawker is closed on Sunday (Sept 25) but will open again the following day.