The youth-centric SCAPE has been known for its underground retail market, gaming places, dance studios and music centres.
However, not many would notice this NEW Thai restaurant Pope Jai Thai on its second level.
This is not just any ordinary Thai dining place.
Upon a closer look, you would realise that it is a social enterprise, one that employs staff from eight different groups of beneficiaries.
In fact, 80 – 90% of the staff is from these beneficiaries, which is probably the only F&B in Singapore which is doing so currently.
The idea of “social enterprise” to some Singaporeans can be a fuzzy one. Some may think it has something to do with charity. Not quite so.
Pope Jai Thai provides training and creates employment opportunities to beneficiaries such as the disadvantaged, special needs, youth at risks, hard for hearing/deaf and physically disabled individuals.
When I asked the owner, also named Daniel, why not all from the same beneficiary – which is what many social enterprise restaurants are doing.
He explained that this could help build complementary strengths among the staff members.
For example, one who is deaf may be suitable for certain tasks that a wheelchair-bound person would have difficulty doing.
I talked to one of the employees Ann Shun, who came across as a jovial and sincere person.
His role in the restaurant included receiving stocks, preparing ingredients and food, to serving customers especially when it gets busy.
Noticed that the chopping board was slightly different?
Through simple re-designing, there were fixed markers placed on the board which allowed Ann Shun to chop vegetables in consistent lengths.
Another staff Koh Sing, though with hearing disabilities, still enjoyed her work in the kitchen making beverages.
I revisited Pope Jai Thai on my own with a friend, and she was also able to take orders from us competently. As customers, we just need to be mindful to fill out our order chit clearly.
While a lot of people would think it is for charity, Daniel replied in an interview that this was not the case, “You can employ them and they will be part of a team.”
That is not to say the taste of the food would be compromised.
All ingredients are prepared from scratch by the beneficiaries, in order to preserve the authentic Thai flavour.
Signature items you can expect include Garlic Honey Chicken ($12), Basil Minced Chicken or Pork ($12), Homemade Thai Prawn Cakes or Fish Cakes ($8.80), Tom Yum Hor Fun Seafood ($8.80), Pad Thai ($7.80, $8.80), Deep Fried Ocean Catch with Thai Belacan OR Mango Salad ($28) and BBQ Pork Collar ($15).
One of my favourite dishes was the Garlic Honey Chicken ($12) though not exactly Thai-flavoured, should be a crowd-pleaser of moist chicken pieces coated with sweet tangy sauce.
The Tom Yum Soup ($15) available in clear or red versions, tamed down from the super-strong hot and spicy flavours, was still a light and deeply comforting soup.
My friend and I both enjoyed the Thai Style Kang Kong ($10) fried with wok-hei and retained its spicy flavours with fragrance from the deep-fried garlic.
I would encourage customers to dine there with an open-heart.
The reason why I say so, is that the negative feedback that the restaurant received, generally complain about its “slow service”.
If the service is slower than usual, or if orders are not understood clearly, let’s just be a little more patient and encouraging.
This is also a guide dog friendly restaurant, with space for wheelchairs to manoeuvre. Pope Jai Thai also conduct regular stimulation with disabilities workshops in the restaurant for the public.
Pope Jai Thai
SCAPE, 2 Orchard Link #03-03 Singapore 237978 (Somerset MRT)
Tel: +65 6634 1238
Opening Hours: 12:00pm – 10:00pm (Mon – Sun)
Other Related Entries
The ART Assumption Restaurant for Training (Cashew Road)
Soi 47 (Toa Payoh)
Tiew Mai Thai Boat Noodles (Hougang)
Easy Chatuchak Beef Noodles (Circuit Road)
Saap Saap Thai (Our Tampines Hub)