MAKING WAVES
Traditional, But Trendy
LOCAL COMEDIAN MARK LEE’S LATEST F&B VENTURE 13 STAGES MANAGES TO BE MODERN WHILE KEEPING TO ITS OLD-SCHOOL VIBES.
01-Mar-2018

THE TERM "TRADITIONALLY TRENDY" might be oxymoronic but that's exactly how Mediacorp actor and funnyman Mark Lee would describe his latest F&B venture. Located on level one of the Kallang Wave Mall, 13 Stages, as it is called, serves primarily chicken rice and kopi (see next page for more). The name of the casual eatery, which can serve close to 50 dine-in customers at one time, was coined in homage to the milestones of Mark's life and the roles he has played at various stages — from calefare to comedian, host, actor, scriptwriter, director and businessman, just to name a few. We chat with the 50 year-old father of three — whose kids are aged four, seven and nine — and self-professed kopi-addict over some of his personal favourite items on the menu.

13 Stages is not your first venture into F&B. You're also behind the Old Town White Coffee chain. What inspired you to open a new eatery altogether?
In June 2016, my family and a friend and I went to Melaka for a short break. While my wife and children went to the museum, my friend and I looked around for a café to have a drink. We walked into a trendy café, and I asked for an Americano. But the waiter told me they didn't serve ang moh coffee; they offered only local coffee from the different Malaysian states. We ended up having seven to eight cups just to try it out! Long story short, we've partnered the owners to bring the same concept here. And if you can't decide which of the 13 kinds of kopi we offer to try, order our Gems of 3 States Kopi ($7.50 before GST). This way, you can try kopi from two states and even customised your third cup!

And why Hainanese chicken rice?
I've always like food and drinks that are rooted in their traditions, but with a twist. Hainanese chicken rice is a Singaporean classic, but there's only one type — it generally tastes quite similar wherever you go. So my friends and I tried combining it with other popular local flavours. So what's on the menu is still essentially Hainanese chicken rice, but with a hint of something else. We make sure to try all the flavours we offer first to make sure they taste shiok.

How is it like to "set up shop" at the Kallang Wave Mall?
Well, I already have one branch of Old Town White Coffee café in the mall. It's doing rather well, so I take it as a good indication. The human traffic here is healthy, and it's not just so when there are sporting events or concerts. To me, the Kallang Wave Mall is a family-friendly hangout place. There are many sporting activities that cater to families, and because my eateries also target families, it works out great. We are already planning to expand 13 Stages to the store just next door, but with a cosier, and more relaxing vibe. We start construction in February, all through to Chinese New Year. Look out for it!

What are you usually up to when you're not running your businesses (which also include a salon)?
I'm still acting, performing, hosting and not planning to retire anytime soon! In fact, my 2018 is already packed with various filming projects so it will be a busy year for me. Jack Neo's new comedy film Liang Xi Mei, which I am in, will be out this Chinese New Year. I also try to spend as much time with my children as I can. We usually go swimming together, and I'm training one of them in sprinting, because I used to compete in short distance events when I was in school.

You really do it all. What's your secret to this seemingly abundant energy?
I'm doing what I like all the time! Doing what you enjoy will give you that extra burst of energy and that much-needed adrenalin.

13 Stages is located at Open daily from 10am to 9pm.

Tel: 6384 0502.

SPOILT FOR CHOICE

The first thing you'd notice at 13 Stages is the variety it offers — seven flavours of Hainanese chicken rice and 13 kinds of kopi to be precise. Only chicken legs are serve no matter what flavours you pick, be it Imperial Ginger, Sesame or Mala, and these are steamed in bamboo steamer to lock in both moisture and flavour. Choose either chicken rice or white rice to go with your set ($8.90 before GST) that also comes with a bowl of soup. Every weekday from 12pm to 2pm, add just a dollar to your chicken set for a side of either stir-fried beansprouts or seasonal greens. Every cup of kopi is freshly brewed and are named after the 13 states of Malaysia. Not sure what to select? Try Mark's go-to choice: Assam Chicken Set with a cup of Melaka kopi!