by Noor Adilah (17S06B), Jeanne Tan (17A01B), Joan Ang (17A01B)
Last week, three Press reviewers (henceforth labelled Stuffy Eater, Picky Eater and Iffy Eater) and some of their friends decided to go cafe-hopping. Since two in our group are Muslims and could only eat halal food, we chose Arab Street as our hunting ground for the most enjoyable food experience.
I AM Cafe
674 North Bridge Road, #01-01, Singapore 188804
We first stopped by I AM Cafe, an open-air cafe with some beautiful cakes on display. Our group was ushered to the second floor, where we got the entire air-conditioned room to ourselves as we prepared for the food adventure ahead. With two picky eaters on hand, this was bound to be an interesting start to say the least.
Pesto Portobello ($14.90)
This was extremely delicious. Picky Eater and Iffy Eater can attest to the fact that even those unused to vegetarian food would love this. The different elements of the burger came together in perfect harmony. The main star of the show, however, was the portobello mushroom, which managed to taste meaty and go well with the onions and leafy vegetables. 5/5 stars!
One of our friends proposed that it would go well with the Iced Nutella Chocolate, because the two combined, “would make the ultimate comfort food pairing”. The rest of us agreed that the Iced Nutella Chocolate tasted like death by sugar and should probably not be consumed with anything!
Seafood Pasta ($16.90)
The sauce was very light – all of us felt it was nicely done. Some of us insisted that the pasta would have been better if cooked longer, but Stuffy Eater found it pleasantly springy. The seafood was reasonably fresh, nothing to particularly draw comment on. Overall, it was a light, pleasant dish and a good contrast to the other two mains we ordered.
Simply Margherita ($12.90)
It is generally agreed that if you go to a place to judge the quality of the pizza, you order the Margherita. Picky Eater is a regular consumer of the Margherita and found it so exceptional that she forgave the tomatoes for their overwhelming presence on the pizza. The first few bites were quite heavenly, cheesy and sweet in equal parts, but the taste of tomato unfortunately became more overpowering as the ratio of cheese-to-tomato per bite became more uneven. Iffy Eater found the experience quite greasy as the thin crust made shoving the pizza slice into one’s mouth a challenging task. Stuffy Eater, on the other hand, found the thinness of the crust forgivable, and remarkably crispy at the edges, though admittedly floppy in the middle.
We bought this to counteract the richness of the food, but unfortunately we were unprepared for the intensity of the sweetness about to come our way. The citrus flavour was overpowered by the sweetness of the syrup, which was acceptable for maybe two sips before we were rushing to grab glasses of water. Fortunately, Iffy Eater gets a kick out of both citrusy and sweet things, so this drink was the perfect compliment to the seafood pasta for her.
Iced Nutella Chocolate
1 star for human beings, 4 stars for extreme sweet tooth!
This was extremely sweet and thick, and many of us did not enjoy the concoction. However, if you have a sweet tooth and want to treat yourself, then this is the drink for you!
This was a very good start for our trip around Arab Street, despite our mistake with the drinks. Overall, very good quality food, with the atmosphere of the room making for a very enjoyable experience with friends.
1 Jalan Pisang, #01-01, Singapore 199069
We arrived at this small corner shop just as it overflowed and were relocated to some spare plastic tables outside, which gave us a different experience from what was inside. The walls of the building were decorated with graffiti that enhanced The Lab’s charm. Having just come from a partial meal of substantial food, we opted for the lighter option of fries rather than a third main course.
Chilli Fries ($4.00)
The Lab prides itself on being experimental, but perhaps we could have been warned about this dish. Sweet potato fries have a special place in some of our hearts, but the topping of Western Chilli was an unwelcome surprise.
It was certainly not what any of us from Singapore were thinking of when we ordered “chilli fries” – kidney beans and tomato sauce, lacking the minced beef that usually improves the topping when served on nachos. None of us had much to say, apart from feeling that perhaps more could have been done with it. 2.5/5 for effort.
Turkey Bacon Egg ($12.00)
This dish had several elements: the turkey bacon, the runny egg, the onions, the bagel bun, and some spinach. All three Press writers agree that, individually, the ingredients were delicious, but when put together, the flavours cancelled each other out. Stuffy Eater notes that the way the cheesy bagel bun was created was amazing. The bagel and cheese were melted together, and then the cheese-bagel flipped upside down to top off the whole burger. Iffy Eater believes that eating the cheese-bagel on its own would be enough to please anyone.
Veganation Burger ($10.00)
The concept of an eggplant burger is certainly experimental, and could easily go one way or the other in terms of customer satisfaction. At The Lab, it fell firmly on the negative side. After the Pesto Portobello burger, our standard for veggie burgers had skyrocketed, and this burger fell far short. The eggplant, meant to be the body of the burger, was cold and too sour, leaving a bitter aftertaste. The chips were unnecessarily spicy, which didn’t help its case. The highlight of this meal was the bread, which left Iffy Eater with something to contentedly chew on after giving up on the rest of the burger. 1/5 stars for the bread and not much else.
Despite the anticipation created by the interesting surroundings, The Lab proved quite disappointing in terms of the food quality. Maybe we should have been warned by the missing pages of the menus (innovatively held together by a hanger). Maybe we shouldn’t have tried to order eggplant. Maybe cassava chips just don’t belong anywhere. Maybe some of the experiments at the Lab went wrong. But most probably, our standards were too high after eating at I Am Cafe.
4 Jln Pisang, Singapore 199071
This is a small cupcake store opposite The Lab, more of a take-out experience than a dining one, but the quality of the products were well worth the lack of seating. This charming shop had a fine selection of cupcake flavours, from German Chocolate to Durian Pengat, as well as a sampling of tarts. While we made the mistake of foregoing the durian, we were quite excited about our choices, but forgot to take forks with us, resulting in the awkward situation of having to send one person back to grab seven forks from the counter and leave.
German Chocolate Cupcake ($4.00)
We had high hopes for this German Chocolate Cupcake, but it fell short of our expectations. The chocolate was rich and creamy, though it was a bit of a task to saw through the thick layer of dark chocolate icing. Perhaps leaving the cupcake out at room temperature would have made the cream softer and easier to eat. Picky Eater and Stuffy Eater were not fans of the dessicated coconut topping, though, which they both felt overpowered the rest of the chocolatey taste. It would probably have been better on its own, without the coconut shavings. However, biting into the center of the cupcake held a nice surprise – delicious nuts suspended in the gooey chocolate filling!
The negatives and positives balanced this cupcake up, giving it a teetering 3.5/5.
Mango Passionfruit Cupcake ($4.00)
Picky Eater was the only one of us who tasted this cupcake, and she has nothing to say because it was utterly flawless. Sweet and light and fluffy and flavourful all in one, and it melts on your tongue like a perfect sponge cake. The best dessert right after (two!) heavy meals. 5/5
Red Velvet Cupcake ($4.00)
This cupcake was the first cupcake from Fluff that Iffy Eater had ever eaten and it got her instantly hooked! Although a tad too rich, the oozing caramel center enclosed by a cloud of puffy red velvet is largely enjoyable. This is a safe first choice for most people, given the relative popularity of Red Velvet cakes. However, make sure to pair this with a tart, in case you (or whomever you gift this to) get put off by the caramel center’s richness.
Lemon Tart ($6.50)
This was a special order from Picky Eater, a huge fan of lemon tarts of any kind. As expected, we were unanimously impressed by it. It was gorgeously silky, while the curd struck a good balance between sugar-sweet and citrus-sour. The crust had hints of an unusual but enjoyable mildly salty taste, making it a nice contrast to the curd. Two of us took issue with the cream: Stuffy Eater didn’t care much for the blob, but Picky Eater wished that it had been an entire layer rather than just a blob. Iffy Eater, meanwhile, was perfectly contented with it.
Picky Eater just really regrets not buying the Durian Pengat, it looked so delicious.
Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro
257 Beach Rd, Singapore 199539
The last stop on our food hunt was Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro. Having wandered through the entirety of the Arab Street area, we were curious to see whether Fika could still surprise us. Looking at the menu, we found the prices disappointingly high — the platter alone was $69 — but picked a few dishes to sample regardless.
Swedish Meatballs ($19.00)
These meatballs were delicious. If IKEA meatballs are the only meatballs you have ever eaten in your entire life, then these will change your views on the dish dramatically. With a bite, the crispy skin of these meatballs readily gave way to the meat within. Inside, the meat was tender and juicy, with subtle flavours from secret ingredients us commoners will never know. Iffy Eater recommends trying at least one without the sauce to appreciate the meatball as it is in all its glory. In fact, Gardenia wants its slogan back because these meatballs are good enough to eat on their own.
Being non-Swedish Singaporeans who have never travelled to Sweden in our lives, none of us had any idea what this dish was supposed to taste like. The rectangular chunks covered in tomato stew were chicken sausages, accompanied by buttered rice. Put together, this meal was reasonable and very delicious. Picky Eater felt that this meal would be a fun one to share – eating 15 mini sausages on your own sounds kind of sad. (Stuffy Eater maintains that having all 15 to oneself would be a dream come true). However, this dish, despite its complementing ingredients, did not stand out from the other food we had eaten that day. Admittedly, we were tired and very full, two factors which may have severely impeded our judgement.
Strawberry Fruit Ade ($4.00)
Picky Eater just wanted a nice fruity drink after walking around and eating all those desserts. Fruit Ade sounded unique, and it was the cheapest thing on the drinks menu at $4. She should have just invested a few extra dollars. Fruit Ade was just strawberry syrup in water. ‘Nuff said. No stars needed.
(We would like to point out that $4 is the same price as one of the cupcakes from Fluff, which would undoubtedly be worth more of your money!)
Dairy lovers will find this milk pudding perfect, Iffy Eater asserts. It was light and sweet, which made eating it after a heavy meal like the Meatballs or the Korvstragonoff a good choice. It was well made and the accompanying fresh fruits complemented it well. A perfect end when you have a full stomach and an empty wallet.
This restaurant was clearly high-brow and required large amounts of cash and extensive food expertise to appreciate – both of which we lacked. Fika isn’t a cafe-hopping kind of establishment to say the least – maybe eating here with your family or friends as a filling lunch would be more appropriate. We would also like to commend Fika for the extra mile that it goes to donate a portion of the revenue from selling water ($0.50 per glass) to charity.
To conclude this enjoyable cafe-hopping experience, we headed back to Bugis MRT Station with our hearts, and stomachs, bursting with food. And happiness. Cue the food coma.
So if you’re looking to have some fun with your Muslim friends after PW Oral Presentation, after A-levels, or if you are simply aching to be in a food paradise, Arab Street is the place to go!