Recent circumstances had put me in a situation which I dislike – dining alone in Singapore (or anywhere else for that matter). There are articles extolling the virtues of solo dining and providing good reasons why people should eat alone. But I have come to the firm conclusion that I don’t like to eat alone.
My latest occasion to eat alone was at Sabar in Japan Food Town in Wisma Atria Singapore. Like what I experienced in many places, the server gestured towards the counter seating area when she found out I was dining alone. Which was a good thing, because the counter is a probably the least uncomfortable place for single diners. There is an unwritten rule of etiquette when dining alone at the counter – do not take the immediate seat next to an existing person unless there is no choice. See for example the picture above. The men should be familiar with this rule as it also applies to the selection of urinals.
Sabar is one of the more popular restaurants at Japan Food Town. We have written about them before and you can read more about it in our earlier post. It is a small cosy place which could be a reason why I decided to eat there. The delicious mackerel also played a part.
It did not take long for me to place my order as the star attraction at this restaurant is their plump and juicy mackerel from Japan. I ordered the Grilled Mega Tomo Saba ($20 for half a fish). Up till this stage, there was nothing bad about dining alone in Singapore because there was activity. Selecting the seat, reading the menu and speaking to the waitress about the order.
The consciousness that you are dining alone only strikes you when there is no activity. Fortunately these days we all have our mobile phones. So each of us at the counter were busy and engrossed with our phones. In reality, we were just pretending to be busy. I did some still life photography and in doing so I noticed the happy hour beer prices, but decided against it. Eating alone is unpleasant but drinking alone is sad.
I also used the time to google “eating alone”. From the many search results, it seems that I am not the only one bothered by the prospect of solo dining. Many articles try to be encouraging, providing reasons why it is okay to eat alone. For example,
The latter suggests some reasons to dine alone, for example “You’ll get to experience some solitude” and “no small talk necessary”. But then these are the exact opposite of why I like to go to restaurants. I did not succeed in psyching myself into believing that solo dining can be enjoyable.
What I concluded during my period of solitude at Sabar that day was that while it may not be enjoyable, the discomfort of eating alone can be minimised. I realised that having some real activity was essential. It is the period of lull when there is nothing to do that makes solo dining so dreaded. Once my grilled mackerel arrived and the process of eating starts, everything was well again. It was a nicely grilled fish. But it did take some time to prepare – about 25 minutes which seemed like 50 minutes when you are waiting alone for it. Ordering such a slow cooking dish was a bad idea.
So the way to deal with dining alone in Singapore (which we all have to do one time or another) is to stick to one golden rule. Pick a place and type of food with the minimum waiting time. Which means a one-dish food which is quick to prepare. Ramen might have been a better choice that day.
Japan Food Town
Wisma Atria Level 4
435 Orchard Road
Nearby MRT Station: Orchard