Last night we ate dinner at this crazy Japanese place. (As an aside, one thing that strikes me about Singapore is how rooms and buildings and roads are just kind of tucked in wherever, with no particular regard to how well they fit, what shape they might end up being, or whether they'll be easily navigable. In fact, I suspect a certain cultural predilection for being lost.) The restaurant door is just a sliding door behind some curtains off a sidewalk. We poked our heads in and were greeted loudly, in chorus, by all the cooks and wait staff. Next thing we knew we were seated at one of the three large tables, a bit disconcerted because we were the only diners and everybody else in the room seemed intent on watching us, and we had no idea what we were supposed to be doing. (Sushi bars I can deal with, thanks to martial arts-minded friends; hack-em-chop-em benihana type places, also understandable. This was something entirely different.)
The tables are kind of like a bar, built around a produce stand, built around a grill. All this slopes up from the level of the table, and behind the grill is the cook, sitting up high above it all, watching you. After we realized that the sake menu was the only one we were going to see, we finally asked what we were supposed to do next. Turns out you just point at stuff, and the cook leans down, plucks it up out of the ice and starts to prepare it. Want asparagus? He skins it, chops it into sections, skewers it, slathers it with oil (or butter?), sprinkles on same salt and puts it on his grill. Potato? Goes into a boiler. Prawn? Skewered tip to tail, then grilled.
All of this takes place with a whole lot of hollering, kind of a call-and-response ordering system between the servers behind us and the cooks in front. As each dish finishes, the cook arranges it on a plate and passes the plate on an elongated pizza paddle looking thing across the erstwhile pantry to the diner. Then, because there's nobody else in the place, they all watch while we try to eat a prawn with chopsticks ;-)