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A quiet kopitiam tucked away on French Road in the Lavender area is not where you’d expect to find rather fancy French-Japanese-influenced rice bowls. But that’s where former restaurant chef Mandel Ban, 25, decided to set up his hawker stall, simply named Nice Rice, in early December. It offers modern rice pilaf bowls topped with torched salmon, sea bass or steak, starting at $5.80 a pop.

The young chef specialised in French and Japanese cuisine – including three years at the now-defunct one-Michelin-starred French fine-diner Vianney Massot Restaurant. 

Nice Rice’s storefront, complete with noren curtain and logo of a samurai helmet against the blue, white and red of the French flag, stands out in the sedate kopitiam (which also houses Mr and Mrs Nasi Lemak) – as does its immaculately-groomed towkay, whose slicked hair, glowing skin, earrings and snug tee wouldn’t look out of place at a hipster bar or salon.  

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