The Populus Coffee and Food Co. @ Neil Road

Tanjong Pagar is certainly no stranger to an abundance of cafes, but we all know that not many have managed to pull through the high rental costs in the area. There are of course, several famous cafes we all often patronise for brunch or say, desserts and many have recommended The Populus Coffee and Food Co. has joined their ‘to-go’ list as well.

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A hipster cafe indeed, business was brisk at around 11- odd on a Sunday morning as the establishment experienced an endless stream of customers. There were nice wooden expensive- looking furnishings and I was somehow reminded of a typical contemporary- looking cafe in Japan.

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Roast Chicken Grain Bowl ($19.50)

The Roast Chicken Grain Bowl is prepared with all the right ingredients for the health- conscious diner. The juicy chicken was cooked fork- tender and was well- accompanied by a variety of vegetables such as the cous cous, Furikake baby corn, chargrilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes and L&P mixed mushrooms. Another available option is the Pulled Pork Grain Bowl at a similar price.

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The Populus Scramble ($18.00)

Spotted on almost every table, the Populus Scramble was the stand- out winner during our visit. The scrambled eggs were comforting- silky and creamy, stacked with marinated feta, streaks of fatty meaty bacon and set atop  a buttery crisp croissant. With a substantial serving as well, it is definitely a must- order at the cafe.

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Buckwheat Pancakes ($20.50)

Another crowd favourite in which customers were certainly unfazed by the 20- minutes preparation. The fruity notes from the berry fruit compote and passionfruit curd was delightfully sweet with the thyme infused maple syrup, providing for most of the taste flavour of the dish. The dense Buckwheat pancakes had a delectable crisp to the sides and was delectably matched by the cornflake crumbs that provided for another gratifying layer of texture to the plate. However, I found it to be a tad heavy on the palate after a few mouthfuls.

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Cappuccino ($5.50)

A nice jolt of acidity made the cuppa provide for a great start to the day. One of the better coffees around the area, in my opinion.

Hitting all the right notes, brunch at Populus was certainly an ideal choice since it offered good food and service, coupled by a decent environment though the space was a little cramped and the place was a tad crowded and noisy. Nonetheless well yes, certainly one of the places I would consider going for brunch in smaller groups!

The Populus Coffee and Food Co.
146 Neil Road
Singapore 088875

Contact Number: 6635 8420

Operating Hours:
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9.00am- 7.00pm
Thursday to Fridays, 9.00am- 10.30pm
Saturdays, 9.30am- 10.30pm
Sundays, 9.30am- 7.00pm

Jasper N.

Kilo @ Orchard Central

Kilo is situated within a multi- concept store dubbed as Pact, which offers a range of trendy consumer products. The restaurant prides itself on its sincerity that comes with its dishes- they serve comfort food made with their heart. A thorough look through the menu also provides the impression that strong Japanese influences are incorporated in the offerings at Kilo.

The main dining area comprises a long bar setting and several tables set up around the area. The style of the restaurant blends very well with the overall concept of the store, a hip yet cosy setting for a restaurant that may be a tad unfamiliar to many local diners, I would say. It could be the extensive use of ornaments and plants, that allows its customers to feel more at home rather than trying to connect with the ambience as something that is too complicated.

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BBQ Pork Riblets and Parmesan Wedges ($20.00)

The BBQ Pork Riblets featured fork-tender meat wonderfully glazed in delightful sweet sauce- certainly one of the better renditions I have had in town. While portions could definitely have been more sizeable given the price, these should be pleasing enough to put a grin on one’s face. The Parmesan Wedges were somewhat addictive, provided for a crackling sensation with a flavour that is not too overwhelming,

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Salmon and Crispy Chicken Skin Sushi ($20.00)

The Salmon and Crispy Chicken Skin Sushi impressed more on its gratifying mix of textures and fared decent in the taste department, I would say. To me, it was more of a simple play of textures to the bite or to some, an appetiser that helps to fill the stomach before the mains arrive.

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Angel Hair with Ebiko Cream and Sauteed Prawns ($23.00)

My favourite dish of the night, the heavenly bowl of pasta worked its magic on my tastebuds with its medley of creamy, savoury and sweet notes that came together beautifully. Lightly lifted by the fragrance of the ebiko in bright orange roe, which also added an additional layer of texture to the dish; the prawns were fresh and had a nice comforting bite to them- all these in addition to the well- cooked pasta, made for an ideal delicacy to enjoy.

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Squid Ink Fettuccini ($24.00)

Another must- order pasta number on the menu, the Squid Ink Fettuccini was flavourful on its own though could be cooked a tad longer to the degree of al dente. Tossed with sauteed prawns, crispy baby squid which were just as notable highlights of the overall profile of the plate, what was most remarkable for me was that it was topped off with a raw egg yolk; it was utterly fulfilling when had all the varying ingredients together, drenched in yolk.

An ideal spot for dates or individual dining (a few expatriates were spotted hopping onto one of the stools at the bar area and were enjoying a meal on their own while reading). I enjoyed my experience at Kilo and it did certainly surpass my expectations since I was initially more intrigued by the concept but the seemingly home- cooked food tugged on my heart- strings, demonstrating the fact that it was not all about boasting their looks and concept but much emphasis was placed on how concise the details were. If you are ever looking for a dining spot that is further away from the over-crowded areas, this can certainly be a viable option.

 

Kilo
181 Orchard Road
#02-16/18, Orchard Central
Singapore 238896

Contact Number: 6884 7560

Operating Hours:
Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11.30am- 3.00pm and 5.30pm- 10.00pm
Sundays, 11.00am- 6.00pm

Jasper N.

O’nya Sayang @ Paya Lebar Square

To be perfectly honest, I am a loyal supporter of Peranakan Food and it is certainly one of the most under-hyped cuisines within our local culinary scene. The complexity of flavours, the sophisticated use of differing ingredients and the variety of techniques to prepare and cook the food, these are a few aspects of the cuisine that I deeply admire and have always been able to strike a chord with. I have been really busy with my usual commitments but when I first received an invite from O’nya Sayang, I knew I had to make time and pay a visit to the eatery.

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Unlike its parent Dulukala however, O’nya Sayang hopes to tone down the complexities and strong flavours a little, so as to better accommodate the younger crowd and that, is the owner, Zan’s goal. He hopes to blend his family’s recipes and his own innovative inspirations together so as to win over the young, in which he finds not so easy to achieve and has devoted much effort and time into O’nya Sayang. This can be first seen from the restaurant layout that is a little more unexpected of a traditional Peranakan family restaurant. When I was first asked about my comments of the setting, I replied “Clean, trendy with the right elements of Peranakan furnishings to provide insight into the culture without giving off too much of an old- school vibe.”

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Lor Bak Noodles ($12.90)

The Lor Bak Noodles was a clear winner for me. The first mouthful instantaneously reminded me of the rendition my Grandma used to prepare for me, the one I was so utterly fond of and this one here brought back all those memories. The considerably large Pork chunks each had a nice layer of fats and brought bursts of flavours infused from both the meaty juices and rich black gravy. Contrary to common belief that one might eventually get a little sick of it, this dish grew on me and I would really love to have another plate of this.

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Assam Seafood Nonya Set ($15.90)

Packed with an adequately spicy, sourish and savoury punch, the Assam Seafood was overflowing with ingredients such as Squid, Prawns, Eggplant and more; well- cooked together with the main feature of the dish- a whole entire fish which provided for a nice bite to its flesh.  This makes for a rather exciting decadent dish that is worthy of one’s order.

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Chap Chye ($10.90 for ala- carte)

Having had a not-s0-great Chap Chye elsewhere, I was initially a little wary of the version served here and was more than thankful that they got my favourite Peranakan dish right. The vegetables retained a slight crunch to them while most important of all, the gravy was deliciously flavourful in which the cabbage and black fungus were very well- immersed in.

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Bakwan Kepeting Soup ($12.90)

A humble bowl of clear and light soup that is ideal for sharing, the taste is mainly lent by the giant meatballs made of crab meat and pork. For me, the dish spelled comfort as like some of the other offerings, it had a nice home- made feel to it.

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Babi Pongteh Nonya Set ($13.90)

Stewed in their signature bean paste sauce imported from Melaka, the Babi Pongteh surprised me with its distinctive flavour profile- a wonderful combination of sweet and salty notes. In addition, it fared just as well in the textural department; the hulks of Pork boasted a fine proportion of fats and fork- tender lean meat demonstrating the right execution of the delicacy.

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Ayam Keluak Fried Rice Nonya Set ($14.90)

Prepared from their family’s secret recipe, the Ayam Keluak features a sizeable Chicken thigh instead of the usual suspect(s) commonly served in the other Peranakan restaurants. Catering to the younger palates, the gravy is a little more balanced flavour- wise and texturally; not too overpoweringly rich. For those who want an extra kick, you can add more of the Keluak served alongside. Not forgetting to mention about the Fried Rice, it was aromatic with a seemingly slight hint of pepperish taste to it and was no doubt a perfect pairing with the bowl of Ayam Keluak.

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Chendol Ice Cream ($5.90)

A must- order should you pay a visit to O’nya Sayang, it is noteworthy to mention that the heavenly Gula Melaka used in this concoction is sourced all the way from Indonesia. It might well be one of my favourite desserts for now, given how soul satisfying it was for me and I am pretty sure it is largely due to the brilliant pairing between the Coconut Ice Cream and Gula Melaka. This makes for a perfect ending to a fulfilling meal at the restaurant.

A tad too hidden within the shopping mall, O’nya Sayang is situated right at the corner of the basement and might be a little hard to find. This extra effort is worth the experience, nonetheless and I would definitely make a return visit for some of the dishes offered. For me, I feel that Zan has certainly done a very good job in trying to make sure that the epicurean experience appeals to the young yet not straying too far from the traditional flavours of the cuisine and that is not all, prices are extremely wallet- friendly and I have no idea how he does it. O’nya Sayang is really recommended, I must say.

Many thanks to Mr. Zan Ho and Ms. Alicia from Dulukala for the kind hospitality and invitation.

O’nya Sayang
60 Paya Lebar Road
#B1-30/31, Paya Lebar Square
Singapore 409051

Contact Number: 9101 5147

Operating Hours:
Mondays to Sundays, 10.00am – 10.00pm

Jasper N.

Sunday Folks @ Chip Bee Gardens

Sunday Folks is better known as the sister outlet of the much- acclaimed Creamier that is still deeply rooted within the heartlands of Toa Payoh. Maybe ensuring that they dominate the Ice- Cream scene in the country, the team has proven once again that with a recipe of Instagram- worthy looking desserts that are of fine quality ingredients, a food establishment can kick up a storm within the social media space so as to form a long line outside the cafe under the blistering hot sun.

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Certainly much more spacious as compared to a typical Ice- Cream parlour in Singapore, Sunday Folks boasts a chic look with minimalistic furnishings. There is plenty of space to roam about but not as many available seats as a walk-in customer would have hoped. A tall table is situated right in front of the counter, a spot for probably two or three to enjoy their Ice Cream cones and that is if they do not mind standing.

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Belgian Waffles with Earl Grey Lavender Ice Cream ($11.80)

The aromatic scent of flavours from the Ice- cream provided for a medley of sweet delicious notes that satiated the palate and that was for me, one of the highlights of my visit here at Sunday Folks. While I must say I was initially a little concerned if the texture of the soft- served Ice Cream would be a fine match with the Belgian Waffles, my worries were turned out to be unfounded- perfectly done like those served at Creamier, the waffles here were just as fragrant and crisp and went remarkably well with the Ice Cream.

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Seasalt Gula Melaka Ice Cream in a Cone ($7.20)

One of the hot sellers from the menu, the Seasalt Gula Melaka Ice Cream in a Cone really did not disappoint. As aesthetically mouth watering as it was presented, the dessert hit all the right spots with its delightful mix of salty, savoury and sweet flavours that was just heavenly. That is not to forget the remarkable combination of gratifying differing textures from the accompanying ingredients such as the Sesame grained Cracker, Charcoal Cone and the Mochi bits. A separate selection of toppings can be added at a cost of $1.50 or $1.90 each.

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Black Forest Cake ($7.90)

A few cakes were available during our visit and all were rather pretty- looking, so much so that my friends and I were really spoilt for choice. We settled for the Black Forest Cake but found that it could have done better taste- wise and in the textural department as well.

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Flat White ($5.00)

Sunday Folks serves a considerable range of beverages as well, to accompany one’s afternoon tea or snacks. The Flat White would have tasted better if there was a stronger jolt of acidity and was a tad too light for complete enjoyment.

Conveniently located and with delightful offerings that can certainly make one cheery, it is no wonder why Sunday Folks is still as packed as ever. I happened to pass by the cafe on a few occasions and I witnessed a long line outside the establishment. Definitely an ideal alternative to Creamier for Ice- Cream I must say, but I would prefer to avoid the peak hours.

Sunday Folks
44 Jalan Merah Saga
Chip Bee Gardens #01-52
Singapore 278116

Contact Number: 6479 9166

Operating Hours:
Tuesdays to Fridays, 1.00pm till 10.00pm (Last order at 9.30pm)
Saturdays and Sundays, 12.00pm till 10.00pm (Last order at 9.30pm)

Jasper N.

Pho Stop @ Tanjong Pagar Road

Since Va Va Voom ceased its operations two years ago, Pho Stop has been one of my most favourite eateries to satisfy my cravings for Vietnamese fare. Following its relocation, Pho Stop now features an even more spacious dining area; definitely what many of the cubicle rats working around the area have been looking forward to for a long time. That’s not all, what is most exciting about its opening is an all- new rooftop bar, dubbed as The Bar Above.

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The new casual- dining eatery certainly did not lack cosiness and seemingly never fails to bring its customers’ tastebuds closer to home. While its menu remains restricted to the same old Vietnamese favourites, it now serves a wider range of drinks with a selection of Martinis and Hitachino Nest Japanese craft beers.

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Be greeted with a lovely sight of the surrounding skyscrapers as soon as you step right out into the outdoor area. Quaint and humble- looking, it is like stepping into your outdoor balcony back at home (given that you even have such a spacious one). The al- fresco seating area offers an ideal spot for a session of drinks with one’s friends, an experience like no other in the region of Tanjong Pagar- Outram Park.

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 Vietnamese Fish Cakes ($5.60)

It should be easy for these home- made Southern Vietnamese- styled Fish Cakes to please, simply done yet surprisingly tastier than expected. Packed with a salty spicy kick, these are delectable bites that are worthy of being ordered to be shared among a group of friends before the arrival of mains.

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Deep- Fried Spring Rolls ($5.00)

With the rightly- done crisp and greasiness to delight fans of deep- fried snacks, these Spring Rolls boast a savoury profile, featuring a pleasurable moist mix of minced pork and yam on the inside.

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Summer Fresh Rolls with Prawns and Chicken ($6.00)

One of the most generously- stuffed Vietnamese Summer rolls around, the Fresh Thai lettuce provides a nice crunch to one’s bite while together with the use of Mint, makes the roll utterly refreshing. Stuffed with whole prawns, chunks of chicken and rice noodles- all wrapped in a Vietnamese rice paper, this is an appetiser that does more than just helping to whet one’s appetite. For an extra hit of richness, pair it with the Home- made Hoi Sin Peanut dip that is packed with a spicy- sweet savoury kick.

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Beef Feast Combo ($8.90)

Many have given much praise to this Vietnamese eatery’s broth base of their Pho selection. The warmth from the flavourful soup creeps up one’s veins while the home- made feel to the bowl helps to put a grin on one’s face just after the first few mouthfuls. The Beef Feast Combo is a crowd favourite, because for a slightly more expensive price as compared to the other numbers, you get a sizeable amount of everything available from their Pho selection. The noodles are cooked till al- dente perfection, adding to the fact that Pho Stop has indisputably got every element right for the perfect bowl of Pho. Do add in the accompanying vegetables, chilli and squeeze a little lime juice for the maximum taste.

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Sliced Beef with Pho ($7.80)

The Sliced Beef with Pho is another delish alternative that spells comfort with its very generous serving of Beef slices provided for in the bowl. While especially gratifying to have on a rainy cold day, this soul- satisfying bowl would most certainly make anyone walk out of the establishment as a happy diner anyway.

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Grilled Pork Chop Rice ($8.90)

Another one of their popular numbers, the Grilled Pork Chop features a delightful delectable marination over its well- executed meat that has a nice chewiness to it. Getting all the elements right for a fine plate of rice with the show-stopping chunks of Grilled Pork Chop and the other accompanying highlights, the dish tugs on one’s heart strings while filling up the tummy as well.

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Grilled Chicken Chop Rice ($8.50)

The Grilled Chicken Chop Rice is yet another crowd favourite and I heard that it has been a popular take- away option for all the cubicle rats working around the area. Kissed with smoke and char, the delicacy is well- balanced texturally and provides a medley of savoury notes that should leave one craving for more.

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An American Brownie in Saigon ($5.50)

Old- fashioned brownie topped with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and sprinkled with chopped fresh mint, roasted cashews, peanuts and walnuts. This would make an ideal dessert to leave a lasting impression at the end of a pleasurable meal.

Let us all be realistic here, Pho Stop does not offer a dining experience that is out of this world but really, for the convenient location, the wallet- friendly prices and what it offers to its diners in terms of food and ambience, one cannot help but to frequent this place often. Comfort is what I have always experienced during my visit and when I leave the establishment, I feel satisfied.

Pho Stop
72 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088493

Contact Number: 6534 8178

Operating Hours:
Mondays to Tuesdays, 11.30am till 10:00pm
Wednesdays to Thursdays, 11.30am till 12:00am
Fridays and Saturdays, 11.30am till 2.00 am

 

Jasper N.