Chin Hin Eating House Bites the Dust

Chin Hin Eating House at 75, Commonwealth Drive.

Nestled among four now-empty HDB blocks at 75, Commonwealth Drive is an old-school coffeeshop (known colloquially as kopitiam) called the Chin Bee Eating House. It’s one of the last few eating places that still retained that old, traditional look and feel. Everything from the stall placement to the interior layout, to the way the coffee/toast all evokes a sense of old-world charm seldom found in today’s newer kopitiams, let alone the new-fangled air-conditioned food courts.

Unfortunately, it will soon bite the dust and give way to new developments. I got alerted of their impending closure when a friend shared the information on Facebook. By that time, it’s less than a week to closure and I felt an immediate sense to photograph it for posterity. I had missed photographing the last days of the iconic pre-war Tong Ah Eating House at Keong Siak Street earlier, and sure don’t want to miss this as well.

Interestingly, I had stopped by this particular kopitiam for a pitstop while photographing the KTM railway from Buona Vista to Jalan Hang Jabat. but somehow did not take any photos. I guess most of us have the tendency to take things for granted until it’s gone or going to be gone.

So anyway, I decided to leave home earlier today and head over to Chin Hin Eating House for breakfast before going to work. Thankfully, being a stones throw from the Commonwealth MRT, it’s not that out of the way.

The signboard of Chin Hing Eating House.
A more modern-looking signboard inside the kopitiam. Yes, they do have a Facebook page. Do visit and “Like” them!
Customers enjoying a chat over a cup of coffee.

I ordered the traditional soft-boiled eggs, kaya toast and since the weather was kind of hot, a cup of iced milo.

Soft-boiled eggs – nicely done.
Kaya toast and iced milo. These are as good as, if not better, than Ya Kun’s!
A customer spends a quiet moment over coffee and papers. I wonder what’s going through his mind when he learnt that the place will be closed in a couple of days.
Two kinds of traditional paper calendars hang on the wall. The owner appears to be counting down the days to the closure on the bottom calendar.

At the top of the shelf where most of the food preparation is done lies several memorabilia. You see old soft drink bottles, an antique fan, even old cellular phones! I think they go well with the character of the place.

Memorabilia lies the top shelf.
A classic orange coin phone, seldom seen these days. I wonder if it’s still be being used.

The shelf holds all the utensils as well as serve as a place to prepare food like soft boiled eggs, toast, etc. It’s amazing what they can do with such a small space.

The proprietress cuts 2 slices of steamed bread.
Making coffee the traditional way.
I believe this blackboard is used to write down customer’s orders. These are probably regular customers to be able to have a column of their own!

Something that’s also seldom seen nowadays – used milk tins used to dabao (takeaway) hot drinks. This is from before recycling even became “cool”.

Used milk tins used to takeaway hot drinks.
Coffee socks
The stove keeps the coffee and hot water hot, and also toasts the bread. Not sure if this is charcoal-driven.

Chin Hin Eating House only has two food stalls, one selling laksa/yong tau foo and another selling wanton noodles. The apparent lack of food choices does not appear to be an issue for customers. Choice can be a bad thing sometimes, and hence we have the paradox of choice.

The yong tau foo store owner prepares a bowl of yong tau foo.
The wanton noodle seller hands over a bowl of wanton noodles to a customer.
The interior is a flurry of activity.
News of the closure brought many customers to the kopitiam, with many sitting outside having their breakfast, chit chatting or reading the papers.
And old couple enjoys their wanton noodles.

With the society advancing so quickly, it’s sad to see such nice old places going by the day. Very soon, such eating places will no longer exist, being replaced by expensive food courts which comparatively lousier food.

The last day of operation of Chin Hin Eating House is on 28 February 2014. That’s just two days more, so if you can, go there and visit them, order something eat and soak in the atmosphere of a place that’ll soon be history. Do also visit their Facebook page and share your memories.

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