The second dining restrictions in Singapore brought the reality of the term “New Normal” in Singapore. Food delivery and take aways will have a majority say in the F&B establishments’ earnings now and in the future.
For a café to survive and thrive, it has to stand out and distinguish itself from the rest. They need to look beyond just the Instagram worthy décor that will get the first wave of customers, instead of focusing on delivering the delicious and well-curated menu. Above all, the menu needs to go above and beyond the usual of eggs, big breakfast and avocado toast.
Here are three homegrown hidden café to check out for the unique food menu:
Seng Coffee Bar
Truly a hidden gem located in the east, serving a blend of Asian, Singaporean and Western cuisine. They use locally sourced ingredients to complement their international style of cooking. The Squid Ink Risotto topped with grilled baby squid, ikura, Japanese puff rice and parmesan chips is pack with flavour and full of surprises. Be prepared to cover your mouth for a few hours, as the squid ink will render your teeth black.
On the lighter side, the vegetarian Kale Salad deliver a fresh, healthy and refreshing taste. Ingredients include kale, mixed mushroom, pomegranates, vine cherry tomatoes, pine nut and Japanese sesame salad dressing.
Fried Nan Lu Chicken and Roasted Pork Belly are not your usual café snacks. The fried chicken has a crispy exterior, followed by succulent infused fermented beancurd flesh. The roasted pork belly is sous vide for 24 hours, giving it a melt in your mouth sensation and crispy crackling even it was consumed an hour after collection.
A Retro-vibe Café filled with vintage furniture and collections available for sale. It feels like you are walking into a mini vintage gallery instead of a café. If the ambience and extraordinary four-seater sofa set converted from a real vintage mini cooper do not intrigue you, the food will surely do it.
Arancini (Golden Risotto Ball), the Italian answer to the Chicken Rice Ball in Melaka and Singapore. This dish is time-consuming to prepare and you need to get your timing spot on each component of this dish. At Brunches, you have the choice of Golden Risotto Ball with Cajun Chicken or with Red Wine Beef Stew. I choose the latter. The arancini have a crisp exterior, followed by plump al-dente arborio rice and oozing cheese in the middle. Meanwhile, the tender beef stew packs with strong tomato and red wine flavour that nicely balance the richness of the arancini. A yummy combination.
For a lighter option, go for their Queen’s Salad with Seared Tuna. Romaine lettuce tossed with Caesar Dressing, topped with Dried Cranberries, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Parmesan Cheese, Poached Egg and Croutons made the base of the Queen’s salad. Meanwhile, the curst of the Seared Tuna is packed with Japanese red pepper, seared to medium-rare. Each bite of the salad feels like a party in my mouth and yet it is so light.
As a mushroom lover, I can’t go past their Portobello Mushroom Fritters. Light crispy crust covering the juicy portobello mushrooms. Drizzle it with a bit of lemon juice, it is flavourful without the need to dip in the tartar sauce.
A fun, chic and warmth café serving brunch and lunch menu. Amber Ember specialises in Jaffles, brioche pressed in cast iron, served with a side of tapioca cheese. Ironically, Jaffles remind me of the craze of 7-eleven sandwiches from Thailand a few years back. Of course, the Jaffles are in a different class altogether as it is made with “atas” ingredients.
Jaffles – Fowl Play filled with lemongrass-ginger roasted chicken thigh, mozzarella, chimichurri and garlic aioli. The juicy and succulent fillings between the toasted brioche are tasty, creamy and finger-licking good. It looks simplistic; however, it packs punch. Although the drizzle of garlic aioli on top of the jaffles is good for presentation for dining-in, they might want to separate it for delivery or take away as it will make the jaffles soggy and difficult to reheat in a toaster or air fryer.
The Miso Butter Prawn Pasta from the Lunch Menu is a dish you can normally expect from a high-end Japanese-Italian restaurant. The fettuccine is al-dente, coated with robust and creamy flavour from the furikake miso butter, fresh cream and bonito flakes. The seared tiger prawns are juicy, bouncy and cooked to perfection. A dish that I would order repeatedly.
730 Upper Serangoon Road