Farrer Park is one of those areas that is of no lack of cafes — the Owen Road and Rangoon Road areas has already seen the existence of multiple specialty coffee establishments such as that of Old Hen Coffee / Kitchen, SYIP, Daizu Cafe and many others. Despite so, the neighbouring HDB estate at Race Course Road hasn’t seen much developments within the local food space until very recently. Located at Blk 681 Race Course Road, Cafe Ren is the newest addition to the neighbourhood; the cafe is located at the foot of the HDB block, and takes up a shop unit that is rather close by to Exit B of Farrer Park MRT Station along the North East Line. The space that Cafe Ren takes up is of a rather large size for a shop unit at the ground floor of a HDB block; decked in a way that is both simplistic and welcoming, the interior largely comprises of white walls and wooden floors that is matched by furniture and fittings of similar materials — the cushioning of the seatings being of either blue or black for a bit of a contrast. Being a cafe, Cafe Ren does serve up quite a variety of brunch items, though it is interesting to note that Cafe Ren does segregate their brunch offerings into an “all-day brunch” and “brunch” section; the former being items available all day throughout the operating times of the cafe, while the latter is only available for the cafe’s brunch service till 3pm. Apart from serving all-day brunch items and brunch items, other items which are available throughout the entire operating hours of the cafe includes the dishes in the Sharing, Mains, Add-ons and Dessert sections of the menu. Beverages available at Cafe Ren includes the list of usual espresso-based coffee items that one would typically find at a specialty coffee joint, though Cafe Ren also serves up some interesting milk-based drinks like the Sweet Potato Latte, Tea by the Pot and other unique concoctions under the “Drinks” section such as a Matcha & Mango amongst many others.

Given how Cafe Ren is an establishment that serves up what others say to be fusion dishes with Asian and Western influences, Cafe Ren does serve up a menu where we found certain dishes to be rather intriguing. One dish that we had found to be rather interesting would be that of the Ren’s Fried Mac & Cheese Ball — this dish it said to comprise of elements such as Triple Cheese Bechamel, XO Sauce, Lao Gan Ma Chilli, Macaroni and Pork Ragu. Being listed as an item that is part of the “Mains” menu, the Ren’s Fried Mac & Cheese Ball is a dish that would likely work as a side for those visiting Cafe Ren in a group, and wanting to go for an item that is great to share as a side between two to three pax — this is especially so considering how the Ren’s Fried Mac & Cheese Ball is presented in the form of three Fried Mac & Cheese Balls sitting on top of the Pork Ragu. Going straight for the Pork Ragu, we thought this was where the fusion element at Cafe Ren comes into play — the Pork Ragu, being a tomato-based sauce, comes with notes that can be described as chili crab-esque. This might have been due to the addition of XO Sauce and Lao Gan Ma Chili; the chunks of pork replicating the texture of shreds of crab meat with a bit of a bite. That being said, the sauce did come with a noticeable tang in its finish from the tomato that goes into it; fulfilling the fusion aspect of the dish. As one bites into the exterior of the fried Mac & Cheese ball, the exterior is crisp and crusty; the golden brown batter was also not particularly greasy as well. Chewing into the fried Mac & Cheese ball reveals the chewy and bouncy macaroni that is packed itself, all that laced with a bit of that Triple Cheese Bechamel that gives it that cheesy flavour — one can also see the laces of stringy, melted cheese holding the macaroni together as well. Given the nature of this item, it is best to consume the Ren’s Fried Mac & Cheese Ball hot when it arrives the table; the consistency of the batter, as well as the macaroni within and the Pork Ragu beneath does change when left at the table for a while.

It is interesting to note that Cafe Ren isn’t exactly a newbie into the local F&B scene; in fact, it was during the time when we have started writing on this post that we found out that Cafe Ren are run by the same folks behind KUKI. For those whom have yet to hear about KUKI, KUKI was an online-based business which specialises in molten lava cookies — this also explains about the Pistachio Lava Cookie that is being listed in Cafe Ren’s menu in the “Dessert” section. Considering how they had made the leap to go from a online-based business into a cafe operation with a brick-and-mortar store serving up hot food and specialty coffee at the same time, it is pretty much a brave move to say the least. The folks of Cafe Ren does seem to have their own concept of the brand, though we sometimes do feel that certain elements are rather confusing — the menu comprising of both an All Day Brunch section and Brunch section at the same time where the latter ends at 3pm does seem a little unorthodox. Items like the Sweet Potato Cheesecake was also a little abstract and difficult to grasp, the inclusion of small chunks of sweet potato into the cheesecake terrine might not be something that is quite to everyone’s preferences. While the food at Cafe Ren does come with an interesting twist that is daring without being particularly offensive, we do feel that the service staff might need some getting used to the day-to-day operations — there seems to be too many folks behind the counter, and that the service staff do lack initiative at times. One particular instance was when our dessert was served after we were done with the main course; while we were asked if we would like to have our dessert served, the service staff landed our dessert on one side of our table since our table was filled with empty plates — we were thinking if the empty plates would be cleared so that we could have the dessert plate placed in the middle, though the staff just walked off after serving the dessert and the fresh utensils. Overall, Cafe Ren is a spot with interesting ideas, though we do wish they can take some time to refine things a little — still a spot that is worthy to drop by once to see if it is up to one’s fancy.