Curiosity egged me on to journey to the other side of Singapore – from Bugis Junction to the airport – for a late lunch. I was once an avid collector of its merchandise in my younger days, so upon learning that Hello Kitty had morphed into a bistro-cafe naturally piqued my interest. It was something I had to see for myself. A Hello Kitty- themed birthday party seemed more possible than a full-pledged dining place. I was mistaken.
Named Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, it is located at Level 1, Terminal 3 of Changi Airport and festooned with colorful orchids high above the ceiling and its white metal grates carved with the tell-tale silhouettes of Hello Kitty. The backrest of the chairs are shaped into Hello Kitty’s iconic bow while the marble top tables are stamped with her face. At the entrance is a display counter of Hello Kitty pastries and to the right is a Hello Kitty wall of merchandise. The place wasn’t that full or empty at 230pm, its tables filled with either solo diners or those with children in tow. Its menu is a Hello Kitty picture book of dishes – pasta and rice, chicken, fish, sandwiches and wraps, pastries, sundaes, and many more.
The feeling was surreal; I was half expecting Hello Kitty’s friends, Kiki and Lala (popularly known as Little Twin Stars), and My Melody, to come out of the kitchen bearing my order. But that was my mind on hyper imagination mode. The service crew who took and brought my order out were definitely regular humans decked in jeans and red/black checkered long-sleeved polo shirts.
Closing the picture book-menu, I settled on Enchanted Forest (S$17. 90) for my main course and Hello Kitty goes Banana Split for the sweet coup de grace to my dining experience. Admittedly, I was intrigued by the name, Enchanted Forest, and persuaded by the pink bow attached to the name – it is one of Hello Kitty’s specialities. How would a magical woodland translate to a culinary affair? For this immortal cat, it is a wooden platter of quesadillas, or four pieces of tortilla shells filled with prawns, slices of avocado, caramelized onions, melted cheese, and their special blend of wasabi sesame mayonnaise. For someone who isn’t fond of wasabi mayonnaise, it was a treat biting into the quesadilla as the flavor slowly built up into a soft, gentle explosion in the mouth. There was no need to keep drinking water to quell the fire in the mouth. It was a smooth transition from one quesadilla to the last one.
The waiter highly recommended the Hello Kitty goes Banana Split (S$18.50) when I asked for suggestions for dessert. His first suggestion was a panna cotta, but the banana split won me over. Hello Kitty’s version tweaked the classic banana split. The usual three scoops of ice cream has been replaced with gelato – wild strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate – while the plain slices of banana has been reduced to one but topped with caramelized sugar. To complete the banana split, pieces of macarons and berries are added, and finally drizzled with marshmallow sauce and raspberry coulis. One would think that the whole concoction would be overly saccharine, but it wasn’t, as there is a perfect balance between the gelato scoops, macaron, and berries with every bite.
From merchandise to a full-blown bistro-cafe, Hello Kitty has come a long way and her orchid garden-themed place has not disappointed. Hello Kitty fan or not, there is something to highlight one’s dining experience. I was fortunate on two counts: I got to enjoy a trip down memory lane and savor delectable spins on classic dishes.