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It’s hard to put a finger on what Daruma Tavern is all about. The 42-seater is named like a generic bar and even looks like one from the outside. So much so that our colleague who often drives past the area dismissed it as a “sad-looking bar”. Until she saw mouthwatering photos of its dark and sticky KL-style Hokkien mee being raved about on social media and urged us to investigate. The not-just-a-watering hole serves craft beers, alongside Western, Japanese, local and Thai food. It opened its doors at the Brooks II mixed-use development near Yishun in April (a stone’s throw from cha chaan teng Friends Cafe).

What’s even more intriguing upon deeper digging is that F&B folks with pedigree are behind this venture: the people who once worked at the popular Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee chain – which explains why the Thai portion of the menu includes wanton mee a la Soi 19, deep-fried wantons and grilled pork.

Claire Ng, 42, heads Daruma Tavern with her 38-year-old brother Alex (his wife Eve, also 38, helps with backend work). Claire’s boyfriend, Jeff Lim, 39, is the head chef here. The siblings ran the show at Soi 19, which was opened by their father at a kopitiam in Ang Mo Kio in 2012. Both have since taken a step back from Soi 19 to focus on expanding Daruma Tavern, leaving the noodle chain – which now has a total of four outlets – in the hands of another family member (they declined to elaborate further).

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