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Situated along Sims Avenue in Geylang, lies a small building that shall henceforth serve as a faithful homage to a generation of racers and manga-readers.
If rising rentals and change in land use here do not do it in.
Fujiwara Tofu Concept Shop Singapore is a bistro largely based on the manga and anime, “Initial D”.
Growing up playing the “Initial D” driving game at Timezone, and being a bona fide fan of all things automobile, this writer just had to check the shop out.
The shop was surprisingly easy to find, being the odd one out amongst the row of shops along the busy stretch of Sims Avenue.
A large patio and a parking space beside it screams “Instagram time”.
I was assured by the owner, Charwin Tan, 39, that a replica of the iconic Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 will be parked outside the shop permanently once the shop has officially opened.
The car was donated by several local car enthusiasts.
Charwin said the car community in Singapore played a big part in seeing to this project, and he wished to transform the space into a place for car enthusiasts and fans of the series to chill and hang out.
The owner explained that the parking space beside the small shop is a public parking space shared by the tenants around the area.
But as the shop opens from the evening to the wee hours of the morning, he foresees the space being available for public use.
In addition to the indoor dining area, the shop’s side hosts a small al fresco dining area, which draws inspiration from American-style garages.
Shop opens from 6pm to 2am
The shop opens from Tuesday to Sunday, from 6pm to 2am.
The reason behind the peculiar opening hours, Charwin explained, is that he and his wife initially planned to work in the day and run the shop at night.
However, Charwin eventually left his job of five years at Carousell to commit to his dream fully, saying that he wanted to try something new with his wife, Su Wen, 34.
Both of them envisioned the space to be a community-centric area, where one can go and grab a beer and snack after work.
But what they did not expect was the warm reception they have received so far, from not just the car community, but by common folk too.
“Within 15 minutes of putting up the signboard, there was almost an accident outside because people who drove by wanted to see the place,” Charwin chuckled.
Local artists contributed to the interior
The interior of the shop, while tiny, felt lit due to the art on the walls.
The artwork put up were designed by Charwin’s niece, and features manga-style drawings.
Charwin was immensely appreciative to the local artists who collaborated with him on the shop.
The shop will also sell “Initial D” related merchandise, such as t-shirts, some of which were designed by Charwin himself.
A couple of items were on display, including a collection of “Initial D” manga, and small models of the cars in the manga.
The sitting area, while limited — 20 pax indoors — felt quaint and cozy.
The seats face the car park, so that patrons can catch a glimpse of potential cool cars parked outside.
The outdoor seating area, which can accommodate up to 20px, will be used for events.
Owes it to the global car community
Charwin’s fascination with the series burgeoned in his teens, when he was first exposed to the titular manga series.
He would go car hunting with his friends.
And as part of a larger, more global car community, he and others who share a collective love for cars would meet up and talk about, well, cars.
It was the members of this community who supported his venture, and also to whom he wanted to give back to.
He explained that instead of meeting others at car parks and random public spaces, sitting on uncomfortable deck chairs, he decided to open up this space to be used as an alternative area where enthusiasts could gather.
Charwin also noted — funnily — that wherever car guys went, they would bring their girlfriends too.
Hence, Su Wen, who was in charge of the kitchen, also wanted to whip up tasty snacks so that everyone could relax and unwind together.
He also welcomes people to snap photos of his establishment, so long as they do it safely.
The shop predominantly serves bar snacks and tidbits to accompany alcohol. (Those who drink should not be the designated drivers. *Wink wink*)
Su Wen explained that most of the dishes on the menu are foods that the couple and their family would enjoy at home, and they wanted the menu to be a fusion of Japanese and local cuisines.
As the shop is unrelated to those in Malaysia and the U.S., the menu is different.
Firstly, the menu is available via scanning a QR code, accompanied by a cute car clip.
Charwin said the cars were from his personal collection, which he used to play with when he was young.
Su Wen also brought out an iced lychee tea for me to try, which was light and refreshing.
She also brought out two starters, a crab meat salad and mala seafood dish, both of which were appetising.
I managed to try a platter of different types of foods, which was impressively plated, and perfect for the camera.
When served, the middle portion will be decorated with dry ice for a wow factor.
Unfortunately, they did not have enough dry ice when I arrived as they were experimenting the night before.
There was a tofu dish on the menu, a nod to the original series.
The tofu was served with chili sauce, and was a delicious sour and spicy palette cleanser.
Hence, you can tell the whole world without turning red that you are going to Geylang to eat tofu.
Fan favourites, such as fried calamari, chicken karaage and French fries were also served — addictive accompaniments to cold beer.
The bacon-wrapped lychee provided enough contrast, with the sweetness tempering the fried food taste.
My personal favourite was the roasted garlic, which was intensely aromatic.
Su Wen emphasised that people eat with their eyes and camera first, and thus emphasised the importance of presentation.
The food on the platter can also be ordered individually.
Last, but not least, their water cups were decorated with a cute sticker, another very iconic reference to the original series.
A type of training that Takumi Fujiwara, the main character of the “Initial D” series, did was to drive and drift down a mountain as he tried not to agitate the cup filled with tofu and water.
If the water spilled, the tofu he was delivering would spoil.
Charwin also said he hopes to start a TikTok challenge with the cups so that people can participate in the “Initial D” fun — such as running around with it.
Because you are not supposed to drift in Singapore (*Wink wink*)
All photos from Mothership