The entrance to Tinoq’s private diner looks just like a typical HDB home in the ageing Tiong Bahru estate: a freshly painted white door draped with an auspicious red banner, a massive paper lantern swinging overhead. But step inside the two-room flat and things get a bit surreal. The tiny living-cum-dining room looks like the set of a TV show that mixes elements from Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet and Ch 8’s The Little Nyonya.
Spotlights illuminate a table draped in pink cloth, surrounded by retro Chinese restaurant-style chairs upholstered in maroon. On a shelf above: a myriad of knick-knacks like tiffin carriers, rattan baskets, fish-shaped lanterns and a fabulous neon-lit signage that says ‘Good vibes only’. Separating the dining room from the bedroom and kitchen is a curtain, riotously covered in pink blossoms and turquoise. The drapes are swept aside and our host-cum-chef, Tinoq Russell Goh, sashays in. His shock of platinum blonde hair, tanned skin, purple-rimmed glasses and hot pink apron as colourful and quirky as his home.