W39 Bistro & Bakery, Jalan Mas Puteh

Recently on Facebook, I came across this post that talked about cafes in “ulu” (i.e. description of a place that is far from civilisation) parts of Singapore. These aren’t exactly unpopular cafes, the very fact that they were mentioned and listed in the post obviously means that despite their unpopular locations, they have still garnered quite a following, suggesting that there should be something good about them that warrants a visit perhaps. Or maybe it is just due to the fickle nature of cafe-goers to always check out someplace new, and with posts being shared on social media, especially by those with a wide follower base, it isn’t hard to gain popularity whether or not there is a good product behind it. Marketing is important, more so that the product, when it comes to attracting crowds, but of course when we talk about sustainability, many other factors come into play, so we shall see if the cafes listed on that post are still around in time to come. Who knows? But most of them, I may not even have the chance to visit once, let alone re-visit, simply because they are just too faraway for me to consider, unless someone again volunteers transport!

Over the Good Friday long weekend, my friend suggested checking out W39 Bistro & Bakery that is located in the West Coast area. When I first heard West Coast, I was thinking to myself, “What – where?” because to me, that is just ‘ulu’. Even though it is probably nearer to where I stay now as compared to before, west coast connotes a very faraway locale that I went at most a couple of times in the past. East Coast rings a closer vibe somewhat, because I’d only associate it with Marine Parade, which is just a short distance away from the downtown area of Suntec/Marina (ok it may be further but that is just my own thinking).

Anyway, as my friend’s driving and offered to pick me up from home, I gladly and readily agreed. Hehe, that is how easy it is to get me to go somewhere, just provide the transport! I Googled W39 and read about its ‘iconic blue-and-yellow chairs’, which I thought was funny/interesting because it conjures up a sort of beach image to me – like deck chairs that we would see on the pristine beaches somewhere else? But it was anything but. There was no shoreline, not even a silver of lake, where W39 is located. The road name in itself, Jalan Mas Puteh, makes me think like we were going somewhere outside of Singapore. It’s actually within a private residential estate somewhere in the western part of Singapore, not that far off from Clementi actually, so it isn’t that far west (think Boon Lay or Pioneer). Along the way there, making our way to find a parking spot, it reminded me of the Upper Thomson area where there were some cafes also located within a private landed estate.

I didn’t take any photos of the place, but you can easily find them online and you will see the blue-and-yellow decor that was described of the cafe. We perused the menu, and I was a little torn, whether to order the usual stuff that I would order for brunch, or try something new, which is local offerings of breakfast food. In the end, I chose the Nasi Lemak! I know it isn’t something exceptional, but I haven’t had it in a really long time and considering that I needed more protein to enable my body to recover faster, I thought this would be a good idea because of the chicken thigh that is the main feature of this dish! Ok, there is coconut rice too but I didn’t really take much of it so I can’t really comment – but I think it’s not as fragrant as traditional nasi lemak from the hawkers though.

So there you go, my Nasi Lemak with Roasted Chicken Thigh, that came with half a grilled tomato and poached egg – talk about fusion, haha. The ikan bilis was nice and crunchy and the sambal chilli was really something that I had missed. It feels like a long time too since I last had such sambal chilli, and although it’s a little too sweet and salty for my palate now, it complements the rice and chicken well. The chicken felt a little dry though, despite that it looks more fried than roasted, so maybe I can comfort myself that it isn’t oily or dripping in oil.My friend’s order is also pretty interesting, a fusion of sorts, but of the sweet and savoury type – Eggs Benedict, which was shredded lamb shank and mushrooms on their Butter Top Loaf (which turned out to be a waffle?). She found it pretty light despite that it’s waffle and lamb, because there wasn’t that much lamb on it, maybe something like pulled pork and the waffle was the light, fluffy type and not the thick spongy kind. I might have ordered this too, if not for the fact that I don’t really like having so much sauce on eggs, i.e. I have never ordered Eggs Ben for brunch, and I don’t really take lamb/mutton. But the veggies looked good though! After this, she still had quite some space left in her stomach so a dessert was ordered, which I actually had quite a bit of too, despite my huge nasi lemak.
The Mister Chocolate cake, a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate chips, covered with melted chocolate, came served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake was served warm, I think, because the layer of chocolate outside was in slight molten form when it came, and the fact that it’s actually a sponge cake on the inside made it more enjoyable because it isn’t too dense and heavy for a chocolate cake. I don’t really like brownies so much as a dessert because they are too dense and overwhelming for one person to have. The vanilla ice-cream complemented the cake very well too, although its taste wasn’t particularly distinctively vanilla like some that I have tried. It was a very generous scoop that was given though, so at S$6.80 for this, it’s actually pretty value-for-money.I also had a coffee, which was not too bad (can’t comment as usual) but sometimes I really wished that Long Blacks / Americanos came in larger sizes. I know that good coffee doesn’t need to be in large quantities, but I am perhaps too used to the Tall sizes of Starbucks to find the coffee cups in these cafes too small. Maybe my strategy in future should be to order the coffee only after I have my food, so that it can still be hot / warm to drink, and that I can slowly sip and enjoy the coffee properly after eating.

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Ben & Jerry’s, Dempsey Hill

Went to Dempsey Hill one afternoon for lunch. It was a tad warm but with a balmy breeze blowing so it wasn’t too bad. Weekday afternoons are fairly quiet at Dempsey, even if the F&B outlets are not devoid of people. There are still people who drive there for lunch, but maybe the warm mid-day sun bearing down kind of slowed the pace down a few notches so it just felt kind of lazy and quiet.

Headed to the Ranch, home to Ben & Jerry’s and CA*California. Originally, we thought they were closed, because the sign posted on the door of the outlet displayed a forbidding CLOSED, yet when we peeked in we saw that it wasn’t the case. So we popped in, perhaps to the chagrin of the wait staff who probably thought not flipping the sign to OPEN would mean they could spend the afternoon languishing in the cool comfort of the eatery.

So anyway in we went and created quite a bit of noise. We asked about the menu, which was misrepresented to us in terms of the breadth of items available. We were told when we just entered they only had the finger food, which was shown on a page of the menu, but then it was afterwards upon further probing and clarification that we understood that everything else could also be ordered. Hmm.

Anyway, it’s standard typical bistro food, nothing special to rave about and no big complains either. We were there for the ice-cream to be fair, and this was one of the orders. A waffle with a couple of scoops of their yummy ice cream. I cannot now remember what flavours these were, but one of them supposedly contained potato chips. Isn’t that interesting, ice cream flavours these days are getting more and more unusual and out of the ordinary.

IMG_0040.JPGAnd for lunch, besides all that bar-grub type of food like truffle fries, chicken wings and deep-fried cuttlefish balls or whatever, this is the healthier amongst the lot, a great mixture of rockets, walnuts, strawberries, raisins and peaches. I really enjoyed this salad, much more than anything else, which can be a good or bad thing, since our intent on visiting was the ice-cream.IMG_0038.JPGTo be fair, I am not so much an ice cream person these days. Besides, our grouse with the ice cream was that it melted way too fast. Even upon presentation of the waffle to us, which was when the picture was taken, it was already melting. By the end of it, I guesstimated that the amount of ice cream that was actually eaten was probably just a little over 50% per scoop since the rest of it had already liquified.

Little Prince Cafe, Somme Road, Singapore

Unfortunately, this outlet will be closing its doors for good in a few days’ time on September 27 due to some problems of the landlord. But the good news is that it’s not the end of the road for Little Prince Cafe, as they have another outlet in Toa Payoh! Not surprisingly, I am totally clueless about this place, even though I don’t stay very far away from it, just like how there is the well-known Creamier that is so hyped but I have never tried it once. I have heard that it is perennially packed with people and it would be kind of strange to buy a waffle with ice-cream for takeaway, as I can imagine that in the heat of our little island, by the time I get home, there will be just waffles and cream, no more ice.

So anyway, those are another story for another day. I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, finally connecting again. That is called making the effort. We decided to go check out Little Prince Cafe as my friend’s suggestion and it was a nice, quiet afternoon, albeit a tad humid towards a certain point especially since we took a fairly long hike from the MRT station to the cafe. Along the way, we actually passed by a couple other places, one of them being the Tiramisu Hero and Window Sill Pies, the latter being totally packed with a queue forming outside. I’d wanted to try Window Sill but have not had the chance, yet.

So, Little Prince was quite quiet, with us being the only other set of customers. But it is a cosy shop with few tables, so it was good for catching-up.

We ordered a waffle to share, and two scoops of ice-cream, a Thai Milk Tea scoop and an Earl Grey Tea scoop. We didn’t opt for savoury waffles which they had started offering on the menu too. The waffle is quite yummy and freshly made in store, I think. As for the ice-cream, I found the Thai Milk Tea to be a tad too creamy and sweet. Earl Grey was fine but somehow it still loses out a little to Fauchon. I don’t know, perhaps they don’t really differ much but somehow Fauchon has set the bar at a level that sub-consciously I might have already deemed it as the best, none too creamy but still with a distinct scent and aroma of earl grey. IMG_0032.JPG

IMG_0031.JPGI ordered a coffee as well to go with the waffle but it was quite a small cup, though that was not the highlight I suppose. Anyway, coffee or waffle are secondary, the meet-up was the main dish for the day!

Caffe Bene, Seoul

Continuing with my Seoul food indulgences, one of the places that I never fail to visit at least once (usually only once haha) would be Caffe Bene. It’s a cafe that an ex-colleague recommended and the first time I tried it, I was sold to their waffles. They are made in the Belgian style, or at least that is what I call it Belgian style, different from the (almost) perfectly-formed round waffles that we often get from our local cafes. These waffles come with raw edges and tend to be slightly thicker, and if baked/toasted long enough, the edges are nice and crispy.

I liked their waffles so much because I recalled on the various occasions when I ate them, there seemed to be some nuts included in the waffle batter, that provided some kind of variation in chewing it. Unfortunately, this time round, I was disappointed; perhaps I have held high expectations of what I would be getting. First things first, my usual order is a Blueberry Yogurt Waffle but I didn’t see it anywhere on the menu so I thought I would just try something else. I ordered a waffle with ice cream, and chose a scoop of Pistachio Almond ice cream. 20140703-075107-28267571.jpg

The ice cream was pretty nice because of the mix of crushed pistachios and almonds in it, but because it was a relatively warm day out in the city, especially at about 2pm in the afternoon, even whilst enjoying my dessert-lunch in the air-conditioned cafe, the ice cream was losing its form to the heat quickly so I didn’t have the luxury to savour it even if it was that nice. But the cool sensation of the nutty ice cream without an overwhelming sweetness was still good. That was the saving grace for the dessert because I really didn’t like the waffle as much. It didn’t contain any of the nutty bits that I remembered and loved it for, so it was bland and boring eating it, and the inside felt too flour-y. I ate what I liked from the slightly-burnt edges and some more of the inside that cemented my lack of enjoyment of it, and left the rest of half of it untouched.

The serviette was interesting though. Even if I haven’t the slightest idea what’s written in Korean.20140703-075107-28267461.jpg

It does look decent and nice from the picture, but maybe the waffle that I enjoyed back then was a special type and not the usual ordinary plain waffles that are served together with ice-cream, I don’t know. Unless I can figure out if there is a difference, I guess the next time when I pass by another Caffe Bene, I won’t drop in for their waffles. Perhaps their ice creams are worth a go still, but definitely not the plain waffles. There are way more other waffle places that I could check out the next time Seoul beckons! 20140703-075107-28267526.jpg

Hokkaido Milk Cafe, Tokyo

I think I might not have gotten the name correct and unfortunately I have not taken other pictures of the place except for these of the food I ordered. But anyhow this is a cafe that I chanced upon in December last year when I was in Tokyo; it’s in the basement 2 of the main Parco department store in Shibuya, behind the building where the famous Starbucks is. In December last year, I made a boo-boo with my order and ended up with a parfait or sundae of sorts although I had wanted a waffle, no thanks to my lousy Japanese language skills, and believe it or not, I didn’t even finish that item I ordered and was too affected by my wrong order to even take a photo of it.

I decided to go back to it this April when I was in Shibuya, because although I had wanted a simpler coffee break, with just coffee and maybe a small pastry, all the cafes in Shibuya that I popped into were crowded, on a Tuesday afternoon at about 3-ish. Don’t the Japanese have to work at all? So I ended up in Parco’s basement, where I recalled, wasn’t too crowded the last time I was here, but even on this day there weren’t many empty tables. Perhaps the timing accounted for the tea-time crowd, who knows, they may jolly well be among the group of home-makers who do not work and are out having tea with their friends before heading home to prepare/just eat dinner.

My friend commented that compared to many years back when he visited Tokyo, he felt that the Japanese are no longer as petite/slim/small-sized as he remembered. From all the cafes that we saw and visited, and how many foreign patisseries and restaurants have set up branches in Tokyo and perhaps all over Japan, it isn’t hard to fathom the reason behind this apparent “growth”. Most of the cafes showcase their recommended items that are inundated and overflowing with cream, caramelised stuff and so on and so forth. These seem to be popular with the locals as the shops selling crepes in Harajuku and the cafes selling ice-creams and sundaes attest to this fact. I am not a big fan of creams, not much anyway, so the last time when I made the wrong order and ended up with a sundae that was covered in cream, I ate the ice cream and some ingredients and left the bulk of the sundae behind.

This time, I finally got my order right; a waffle with vanilla ice-cream, red bean and some chestnuts. It’s a rather interesting combination although I was deliberating between this and another more convention option but since this was some seasonal/Hokkaido variant, I thought it would make a good choice.  

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The chestnuts were fresh and not too soggy, and the red bean wasn’t too sweet, as is the scoop of vanilla ice-cream. My only grouse was that the waffle didn’t live up to my expectations, it felt a little cold and soft, like it wasn’t freshly-baked or perhaps I was eating it too slowly that it lost its crispness to the air-conditioning? I don’t know. It could also be that I wasn’t really in that mood for waffle that day or the walking around in Shibuya prospecting for a place to rest my feet while I recharge my body with some food made me tired to really enjoy and savour it.

But if you are a fan of waffles, it could be a place worth checking out as they have various other types of toppings available to choose from! On top of waffles and sundaes, they serve other kinds of food as well like sandwiches that contain fruit, which seemed like an interesting choice too!

Caffe Bene, Seoul

Last year when I was planning to make stopover in Seoul enroute to San Francisco to meet Jade and her family, although it was a short 3-day affair on my own, I had some friends who gave me some recommendations on where I could check out, knowing what a big cafe buff I am. One colleague suggested Caffe Bene, which he claimed serves great waffles.

So I did. I actually had their waffles twice during the span of three days, and on both occasions I ordered the same thing, once at their store near Myeong-dong and the second time at the airport while waiting for the SF-bound flight. On the two separate occasions, the waffles tasted different. I think the first time I had it, I was rather impressed, and might I say, blown away at how good the waffle was. I ordered the waffle with blueberry yogurt, and recalled thinking how great it tasted, with what seemed like walnut bits used in the waffle mix that gave it a nice crunch when you bite into the waffle. Plus I think at the store in town, the waffle was freshly-made because it did take some time to be ready, whilst at the airport it was probably pre-made, to cater for passengers who might want a waffle fix but didn’t have too much time to spare lest they are rushing for a flight. So you can guess that the waffle I had at the airport tasted somewhat un-fresh. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it just wasn’t as crisp and warm with the fresh-baked scent. That second time, I was disappointed.

Late last month, I was in Seoul for a business trip. I was not-so-secretly happy to be able to go to Seoul for a business trip even though I have gotten really sick of the travelling, since Asia has become a more favoured choice of destination for me now, probably because it takes less hours to travel there and they can rival some European/American destinations in terms of sights and sounds, and definitely where ease of feeling more integrated wins hands down. This time round, I realised just how much of a cafe city Seoul is; along every street there is at least one cafe, and in one small area of the neighbourhood, maybe even just on adjacent streets, you can find two or more cafes of the same brand. Talk about sales cannibalism. Around my hotel, there were easily two Caffe Benes I saw, but I never get to try either of them because they were almost always crowded when I popped by, and there are days when I just want to be at someplace that isn’t brimming with people and activity. So the only time I got to sink my fangs into a Caffe Bene waffle was when I was at Incheon airport, this time waiting for my flight home. I got to the airport fairly early so I had a lot of time to waste, and as I walked about I decided to order a waffle, with the exact same topping I had last year.

This time, maybe because this was just the first time I had it on this trip, it didn’t disappoint even though I think it still is pre-made. I didn’t have to wait at all!