By Calista Chong (18A01A), with guest writer Sophie Low (18S07A)
After a laborious week of (and a month studying for) CTs, our real respite came in the form of Youth Day. What better way to spend it than to go food hunting? The reviewers visited two different soft serve places, Brother Bird and Matchaya, which were conveniently located around the same area.
Address: 30 Bali Lane, Singapore 189866
Closest MRT station: Bugis (EW12/DT14)
Opening Hours: 12pm – 10pm (Closed on Tuesdays)
We confess, the mouth-watering pictures of adorably poop-shaped soft serves atop glazed mochi donuts on Instagram brought us to this place. Brother Bird is a venture started by the owners of Stateland Cafe. A five-minute walk from Bugis MRT, this cafe was easily accessible. However, Brother Bird’s exterior is pretty nondescript and easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled when trying to find the place.
At about 4pm on a Monday afternoon, the cafe was impressively packed, with seats on the first floor all taken. That being said, the cafe is rather small, with only 30 seats on both floors combined.
The cafe gave off rustic and homely vibes – the warm fluorescent bulbs and groovy music complemented its atmosphere. The furniture, wooden chairs and tables, adorned with plastic wheat flowers, further enhanced this theme with its muted grey-brown palette, making the cafe all the more suitable for a cosy catch-up with friends.
We had originally hoped to try the Earl Grey and Milk Chocolate Mochi Bursts, but to our dismay, it was unfortunately unavailable. We settled instead for the Signature Mochi Donut, and chose the soft serve flavour Hong Kong Milk Tea. Other choices at the cafe include Cafe Mocha and Yuan Yang. Their soft serves are served on a rotational basis, and past wacky flavours include Taro Milk Tea and Barley, part of the June rotational menu, as a tribute to Gong Cha.
Signature Mochi Donut with Hong Kong Milk Tea Soft Serve ($15)
Melt-worthy rating: 3.5/5
In a previous feature of this cafe, we learnt that glutinous flour was used to prepare the donut – giving it its chewy texture – as the typical donut will turn soggy once the soft serve melts. The dessert looked extremely appetising, with colourful corn flakes and raspberry sprinkles. We were particularly surprised by the huge serving of ice cream, which bears a comically striking resemblance to something, given the shade and shape of its swirl.
The Hong Kong Milk Tea soft serve had a distinct flavour reminiscent of bubble tea, which both reviewers had a predilection for. However, we thought that the soft in soft serve was not delivered as we had wished – the ice cream was somewhat icy and lacked the creaminess we craved, a minor letdown.
On the other hand, the Mochi Donut did not disappoint. We liked its unique texture – crisp on the outside, sticky and chewy on the inside. The condiments, corn flakes and raspberry sprinkles, added a satisfying crunch to the whole amalgam.
Given the price and portion size of this dessert, we think one is fit for two to share – be prepared to feel stuffed should you wish to take on the endeavour of devouring this alone. While both reviewers have a sweet tooth, we were thankful that the sweetness of the mochi donut did not cloy.
On the whole, we would recommend Brother Bird to intrepid eaters, adventurous enough to try its unconventional soft serve flavours.
Address: 12 Gopeng Street, #01-72, Icon Village, 078877 / #01-08 The Cathay, 229233
Closest MRT Station: Tanjong Pagar (EW15) / Dhoby Ghaut (NS24/NE6/CC1)
Opening Hours: 9am – 9pm (Mondays to Fridays), 10am – 7pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
The reviewers then took the East-West Line three stops from Bugis to Tanjong Pagar, where Icon Village was a 3-minute walk from the station. Located at a little corner of this food village sat Matchaya, a minimalistically-designed confectionary shop.
Matchaya was founded in 2015 by the duo Kaelyn and Kevin. They embarked on an expedition to Japan at that time, searching for premium ingredients to make quality Japanese tea. However, Matchaya is now acclaimed for its curation of delightful desserts – specifically its soft serves.
While there was sufficient counter space set up for us to enjoy our treats, one of the reviewers was slightly disappointed by the lack of seats. Thankfully, the quality of the desserts more than made up for it.
It was clear from the unostentatious make-up of the store that the focus was on the food. With a wide array of drinks and desserts, ranging from matcha lattes to swiss rolls, and the main highlight – the parfaits, the reviewers were spoilt for choice. However, we eventually decided upon their classic Matcha Soft Serve ($5.90) with two Shiratama (for an additional $1), and their monthly special flavour of Lavender ($6.90) with Azuki Red Bean (for an additional $1).
Matcha Soft Serve with Shiratama ($5.90 + $1)
Melt-worthy rating: 4/5
This Matcha Soft Serve was far from plain vanilla. From the first lick of the top of the soft serve, the intensity of the matcha notes in the soft serve was apparent. We were greatly impressed by the authenticity of the matcha flavour. Coupled with the creaminess of the soft serve, we maintain that Matchaya’s matcha soft serve is one of the best – if not the best – matcha soft serves around. The strength of the matcha flavour was further accentuated by the light dusting of green tea powder around the soft serve, and it was clear that the quality of Matchaya’s desserts was not something to be compromised upon.
However, for those who may not be accustomed to the authentic flavour of matcha, its strong flavours may be slightly overpowering, and it may have a drying effect on the throat. Fortunately, the comparatively plainer flavour and chewier texture of the Shiratama balls provided a good contrast to the soft serve. The biscuit that came along with the soft serve was buttery and crisp, which also provided a delightful contrast to the intensity of the matcha notes, though it became a little soggy after being placed in the soft serve for a period of time.
The serving size was also commendable. Do not be fooled by the seemingly small size of the cup in which the soft serve was served, as the portion was actually quite large, and one of us had trouble finishing one serving by themself. That said, the size more than made up for the slightly pricy soft serves.
All in all, this Matchaya dessert is synonymous with the term “Matcha Soft Serve”, and if you are a matcha fan, this is a dessert that simply cannot be missed!
Lavender Soft Serve with Azuki Red Bean ($6.90 + $1)
Melt-worthy rating: 3.5/5
While the first reviewer had chosen classic Matcha, this reviewer decided to take a leap of faith and try Matchaya’s “Mystery Flavour”, which changes weekly. Previous weeks featured mystery flavours like Genmaicha (made from brown rice), Houjicha (made from Bancha tea leaves) and Nama Choco, and this time it turned out to be Lavender. After waffling over which add-on she should choose for the soft serve’s finishing touch, she finally settled on Azuki red bean.
The dessert was presented magnificently. The generous dollop of lilac goodness and the layer of Azuki red bean pooling beneath the tall swirl did more than enough to whet her appetite.
The strong flavour of the lavender could be tasted from the very first scoop – just like its matcha counterpart. As this was the reviewer’s first time trying lavender ice cream, she was not accustomed to its unusual taste. Yet, she still applauds Matchaya for the silky texture of its soft serves.
The biscuit stuck into the soft serve was undeniably delicious – reminiscent of Japan’s famous Shiroi Kobito cookies. However, the reviewer found the Azuki red bean overly viscous and gooey, and would have preferred it to be chewier to counterbalance the creaminess of the soft serve ice cream.
Just as for the Matcha Soft Serve, the serving size of this dessert may also be too filling for one person, though the generous serving does compensate for its price.
The modest soft-serve ice cream may look unspectacular, but it has won our hearts with its versatility. Brother Bird made its exotic soft-serve flavours more than merely icing on the cake – or rather, ice cream on the mochi donut – and so has Matchaya, adopting unique Japanese tea flavours to the traditional soft serve.
On the whole, we were extremely impressed by the quality, as well as the ingenuity, that went into creating these delightful desserts. We highly recommend soft serve enthusiasts to check these places out, with friends or family – so that you’ll leave these places with your hearts full and stomachs fuller.