Second Helpings

Isle of Singapore

I'd forgotten just how much I liked Isle of Singapore. It had been years since I'd been there, years since I'd given the place much more than a passing thought. And yet, stepping back inside after a long absence, Laura and I immediately recalled every detail of our meals there five years ago ("Singapore for Your Supper," September 12, 2002).

"That's where we sat," Laura said, pointing to a table along the banquette, second in from the right, with no view of anything but the banquette on the other side and the Starbucks sign glowing from across the parking lot. My most powerful memory was of the durian fruit smoothie that we'd shared, the smell of which had lingered on our skin and in our hair for days.

The menu was the same, as was the politeness of the staff and the speed of the kitchen. It was quiet on the night we visited last week — just us and a couple other tables, a few people slurping contentedly at their noodles. We ordered Hainan chicken, the boiled meat still on the bone, hacked into rude chunks and served over rice with a red chile sauce that was peasant-simple, delicious and comforting; the Singapore fried rice with shrimp and pineapple was sweet and savory. The only disappointment was the roti canai, which had been excellent when we'd tried it before, with roti as thin as a dream in a curry sauce that was like a soup of everything good in the Malaysian canon. This time, the roti were thick, greasy and pancakey, the sauce a gelatinous goop with the texture of half-set pudding. Still, it tasted wonderful.

As we ate, I tried to figure out why we'd stayed away so long. Isle of Singapore was one of the first restaurants in town we'd fallen in love with, one of the first truly bizarre experiences we'd had after moving to Denver. And yet we'd let it slip away as we found other kicks and other thrills in other places that, one by one, supplanted our pleasant memories of this little spot. As we left this time, I promised myself I wouldn't let it happen again.