Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So long Asha

Over the weekend, I found out that one of my favourite restaurants had recently closed down. While this probably shouldn't be too much of a surprise in post-quake Christchurch, with many central city businesses out of action for the conceivable future, the chain of events which have lead to this are regrettable.

Well, back in its heyday a few years ago, Asha was an absolutely thriving dim-sum restaurant, with queues to get into the place (with extra tables spilling outside) and the place buzzing with people especially during lunch service, so much so that at one point they rented the shop next door and later opened a hole in the wall to expand the seating capacity. Part of this was due to its prime location, located just beside a major shopping mall and accessible from a major road.

And then a couple of years ago, a few new restaurants opened around the rest of the city, decreasing patronage (including a few good restaurants, but also quite a few crappy mainland-Chinese-operated-outfits with unpalatable hotpot+chilli-laden abominations they dare to call "food"). Still, Asha still had the greatest variety of food, including some dishes which simply did not feature on the menus of ANY other restaurant in Christchurch, even to this day. Another factor was that with many of the other restaurants, you could quickly tire of their food after one or two visits (you'd definitely want to space out your visits a bit), although that wasn't the case here. Unfortunately, as a result of this closure, it looks like I'll have to buy some several $k plane tickets over to Hong Kong if I wanted to sample some of this cuisine again.

With the global recession as well, patronage further dropped, to a point where the restaurant scaled back their operations, going back to just the original floorspace, with the hole in the wall being patched up again sometime over the last year.

Despite all this, things in recent times had seemed to be taking a good turn. The restaurant survived two major earthquakes, being able to open and serve customers while many in the CBD were either closed pending insurance/EQC cover or the reopening of cordons put in place due to nearby unstable buildings. Heck, as a result of the February quake, it was once again thriving from the increased number of people now flooding suburban businesses following the closure of the CBD. There had even been some renovation work done recently to spruce up the place.

Sadly, it appears that as a result of some legal wranglings induced by a former employee (who apparently quit around the time when patronage was starting to die off, marrying an old bloke whose wife had recently died, and under whose apparent watch as "head chef" the food quality started to get a bit so-so IIRC), or rather, an "immigration consultant" (AFAIK, a rather 'lucrative' industry ;) launching retrospective claims to the e.r.a on her behalf against the owner personally. Apparently laden with debt following the e.r.a's ruling (according to a newspaper "tell all" publicity stunt), the restaurant appears to have been sold, with the site being (rather-conveniently) taken over by low-quality restaurant that used to trade on Colombo St (whose store is currently still part of the red zone, if it hasn't collapsed already, and used to have some really garish yellow decor).

Passing by the other day, I noticed that the new tenants had taken to trashing the store, with a large skip outside containing the remnants of kitchen equipment, and a lot of the recent rennovation work stripped from the walls. Judging from this, it's hard to imagine them not wanting to put up their garish yellow decor again to continue serving their slop from a prime-restaurant site.

Perhaps if this take over had resulted in another one of my favourite restaurants (also on Colombo St, but currently out of action, after their quake-ravaged building was pulled down) had set up shop here instead, this would not have been such shocking change. Nevertheless, it is hard not to suspect some under-the-table dealings in this whole sorry affair.

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