“1 hour! I’ve been waiting for 1 hour!”
People are starting to stare. I’m staring.
The lady boss’ attempts to calm the agitated customer proved futile. Oh, he’s flailing his arms.
1 hour earlier…
My husband and I arrived to the hustle- bustle of the famous Village Park Nasi Lemak. Extra tables line the sidewalk, each one occupied. I counted 20 people waiting in line at the cashier. The atmosphere resembled a morning market: people talking to people, and people talking over people. Judging by the number of ang mohs (westerners) seated at various tables, this restaurant’s reputation precedes itself.
After waiting in line for about 5 minutes, we are led to a corner table for two. A polite and no- nonsense Myanmar waiter in a cap greeted us. We quickly ordered the acclaimed nasi lemak with ayam goreng (fried chicken). Then, we added chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) as a side. Thus began the tiresome task of waiting.
15 minutes and a short debate about the ethical repercussions from Harambe the Gorilla’s incident later, the drinks arrived.
We sip on our barley and Teh-O for another solid 15 minutes before the food was served.
I took a mouth full of rice. It was fragrant, the santan (coconut milk) taste present yet not overwhelming; slightly moist, texture favourable. The sambal (hot sauce) was a perfect balance of sweet, spicy and savory. The perfectly salted ikan bilis (anchovy) and crunchy peanuts complete the trio. Cucumbers aligned the edge of the plate.
The ayam goreng was hot, which might explain but does not excuse the 30 minutes wait. A bite of chicken proved pleasant to the taste buds. But the pleasure ends there. The meat put my teeth to work extra hard. Based on the sardine- fish- in- can feel one gets from this restaurant, the turnover rate of chicken should be pretty high. However, excuse me when I say that the chicken might have died a solid year before actual consumption. But I realized this might be an isolated case, since nobody else has aired similar concerns.
The chee cheong fun spotted semi thick sweet brown sauce, of which I smeared all over my rice rolls. The slightly spicy sambal gave the chee cheong fun the right boost. I let the blend of plain carbohydrates, sweet and spicy settle in my mouth, savoring the enjoyable flavour.
The growing line of customers pressured us to vacate our seats. We headed for the cashier…
…Where we were met by the raised voice of the unsatisfied customer. He has been waiting for an hour, he says. I pitch in about our waiting time, although 30 minutes is pale in comparison. The customer behind joins in. I make a few passing remarks about the management style. I mean, they don’t cook the Nasi Lemak plate by plate, do they? The rice is steamed batch by batch in rice cookers large enough to bath a 2 months old baby. The sambal, cucumbers, ikan bilis and peanuts are pre-prepped. The crowd is no stranger, so the waiting time suggests a lack of planning and poor management.
Then the guy next in line delivers the million-dollar verdict, “if you think the food is worth the wait, then wait”.
My husband and I exchange looks.