SINGAPOREAN shipyard boss Sunny Liew Tin Fook wanted something different for his next investment venture, far removed from the world of steel production, ship-building and swimming pool construction. So, he opened a fast-food restaurant in the Chinese capital of Beijing, which is introducing the city's residents to the delights of Singaporean fare. The US$750,000 food court is close to the trendy downtown shopping district of Wangfujing, which already boasts fashion stores galore, the world's largest McDonalds and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. Now there is the Singapore Catering and Amusement Centre, which offers Lion City specialties such as bak kut tae (pork rib soup), beef noodles, Hainan chicken rice and Tiger beer - at prices much cheaper than back home. The dishes range from just over $1 for a simple plate of noodles up to $2 for a Western-style meal. Pride of place on the menu goes to spring chicken, a deep-fried preparation which chef Sim Bee Guat makes with a total of 15 spices imported from Singapore. ''So far reaction to the food has been very good,'' said 46-year-old Mr Liew. ''We had some problems with the food being too salty when we started up, but that has now been sorted out. We can seat about 380 people in the building, and so far we have had about 3,000 people every day.'' Pleasing the customers is proving to be easy: Beijing youngsters are becoming increasingly trendy, anxious to sample all kinds of international food, fashion, music and movies. But starting the restaurant was not so easy. Mr Liew had to obtain a total of 37 different bureaucratic agreements over a four-month period. He said a similar kind of food-court application would be processed in two days flat back home. Next on the entrepreneur's agenda is a karaoke bar and disco on the top floor of the four-storey 1,200-square-metre building. To help during the start-up period, Mr Liew has brought along a small band of Singaporean family helpers to Beijing; his wife Yeo Kwee Kim, 38, and daughter Liew Yee Jean, aged six, also fly there during school holidays. It is the businessman's second contact with mainland China, but this time in a radically different capacity. Six years ago, he hired almost 500 mainland Chinese engineers for a steel mill project in Libya, which his other firm - Lih Hong Engineering and Trading - had contracted to build. The engineering outfit still occupies most of Mr Liew's time: turnover has grown to S$1 billion (about HK$4.78 billion) in the past 10 years, with a total of 280 employees working on projects such as ship building, housing renovation, oil tank repair and swimming pool construction. Opening a restaurant in Beijing is, to say the least, diversifying from a tried-and-tested heavy industry background. The managing chairman said he applied the same principles to both - learning every aspect of the trade from top to bottom. Indeed, Mr Liew has become so captivated with the booming China restaurant business that another Singaporean food emporium could follow soon. Already, staff are scouting around for possible sites, in the knowledge that permission from the Chinese bureaucratic behemoth could be a long time in coming. ''It's a good business,'' he said. ''I'm thinking about another one in Beijing or possibly in Shanghai. ''I've thought about a steel mill in China as well but that might be too hard. The China and Singapore business thinking is not the same. When you start you have many problems.''