Being a concept brought by the same folks behind The Refinery at King George’s Avenue, Hello Arigato does seem to be a brand in the local cafe scene that is pretty aggressive in its expansion plans. Whilst they had just opened their very first outlet of Hello Arigato at Upper Thomson Road just around the end of 2021, a second outlet has already opened their doors just earlier this month at 314 Joo Chiat Road — just walking distance from Dunman Food Centre, and also several units away from Dickson Nasi Lemak; another notable and newly-opened establishment in the vicinity. The outlet at Joo Chiat Road has an interior that stays true to the original Hello Arigato at Upper Thomson — the design theme is no doubt minimalist with a touch of Scandinavian influence where wooden furnishings meet the largely white decor and concrete floors, all that with a shelf that includes designer items that is largely reminiscent of the same at the original outlet. Currently serving their soft launch menu, Hello Arigato’s menu at Joo Chiat is largely similar to that of the one served at their Upper Thomson outlet — patrons can opt for their popular items such as Wagyu Sando and Gyu Sando, as well as the Tamago Sando which have been raved about, whilst sharing plates include a Furi Fried Chicken, Hello Kombu Tater Tots or the Arigato Truffle Fries. That being said, the Joo Chiat outlet does feature some outlet exclusives, such as the HCG Sando, the Hello Twister Fries, and a whole new line of bakes that includes the Sticky Bun, Cookie Arigato (variations include Salted Choco Pecan or Matcha Mochi), and a Miso Banana Cake — just to name a few. Beverage options include specialty coffee, sodas, cold brew tea as well as NON spirits; a series of 0% alcohol “wines” created by an ex-Noma chef.

The HCG Sando here features elements such as a “48 Hr Marinated Shrimp Paste Har Cheong Gai Chicken, Crunchy Cucumber, and Japanese Milk Bread” as described on the menu. As one would have expected, HCG is the abbreviation of “Har Cheong Gai”, which translates to shrimp paste chicken — a local favourite dish that is often found in tzechar establishments. The concept of the HCG Sando where it features Japanese-meets-local fusion does remind us of their Otah Sando that we previously had at their Upper Thomson location, which is also not offered here at their Joo Chiat outlet. Here, the same Japanese Milk Bread sandwiches the other elements in between — the milk bread being toasted and provides quite a firm bite on its own. Always generously stuffing their sandos, the Har Cheong Gai is pretty much the show-stopper here with its crisp exterior and juicy, tender flesh — the marination of shrimp paste being especially prominent so one does get that hint of umami flavour with a good meaty bite; all that with thinly-sliced cucumber that provides for a refreshing crunch and a bit of mayonnaise to bring all the elements together.

With the trend for cafe food shifting towards that of sandos, it is little wonder how Hello Arigato had gotten so far despite being somewhat of a new brand that is run by folks experienced in the F&B scene in Singapore — they had already been a name that is well-associated with affordably-priced (where cafe fare is of concern) Japanese-inspired sandos. Quality of food at their Joo Chiat outlet is also pretty consistent with their Upper Thomson outlet, yet providing patrons with just a few new items enough to encourage cafe-hoppers whom have visited their Upper Thomson location to also check out their Joo Chiat outpost. Ticking off all the right boxes for a cafe that has opened in recent times, Hello Arigato is that spot that avid cafe-hoppers will certainly make a beeline for — something which was already evident as we were placed on a waiting list when we made our visit on a weekend afternoon.

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Caught wind of the new Bloom Coffee, which had recently opened its doors at the spot which the now-defunct Stamping Ground Coffee used to occupy — much of the layout of the shop is still somewhat reminiscent of that of its former tenant; the space also exudes rather Scandinavian vibes with its extensive use of wooden elements in its furnishing and fittings. With a focus on serving up Sangas and specialty coffee, the menu at Bloom Coffee is pretty limited — there are five different Sangas listed here, while those whom are looking for other items can also choose between shoestring fries (a truffle-infused variant is available at an additional charge) and a granola bowl. Being a cafe that is part of the third-wave coffee movement, patrons can opt between espresso-based (“by pressure”) or filter brews (“by hand”) — the beans available here are roasted by Mercanta Coffee. They also do offer a variety of other non-alcoholic beverage options here, including juices and other house-made concoctions.

Skimming through the list of Sangas which they have to offer, the Tamagoyaki Avocado Bacon Sanga is one that pretty much stood out for me — features smashed avocado, grilled bacon, tamagoyaki, Japanese mayonnaise and a basil yogurt sauce. Taking a bite into the sandwich here, the bread provided a light and crisp bite; pretty crusty, whilst the next layer would be the smashed avocadoes — smooth and buttery, and helps the bind the other elements such as bacon and tamagoyaki with the entire sandwich alongside the various sauces here. The bacon was crisp; carried a hint of saltishness that is typical of cured meat, providing much of the flavours for the sandwich while the tamagoyaki rolls provided a slight sweetness and a soft bite. The entire item felt comforting in a way similar to a big breakfast platter, reconstructed in the form of a Sanga rather than as separate elements co-existing on the same plate; pretty interesting and works even when had altogether at the same time.

While we are usually those who would often prefer the specialty coffee options offered in any given cafe, we would go to the extent of saying just do yourselves a favour and order the Yuzu Cardamom Lemonade whilst here — the fizzy concoction, though a little on the sweet side, is especially delicious considering how it carries a slightly spiced note amidst the sweetness. Bloom Coffee seems to hit all the right spots with their offerings — pretty thoughtful creations that are well-designed and goes together. The East has no short of good coffee spots all over, especially in the Katong neighbourhood, but Bloom Coffee does have its own unique identity to set themselves apart from the competition around — a spot that cafe-hoppers should add to the list of places to visit!

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Heard about the new Fraser St. Brothers at DUO Galleria; the establishment is by the same folks behind Meating Place which I especially love — had always been a fan of the type of cuisine which they have offer; the Free-Roam Half “Anxin” Spring Chicken & Tater Tots was something that has a special place in my heart. As opposed to Meating Place which is a more formal and of a bistro-style, Fraser St. Brothers is more of a deli with a bit of a playful touch — high tables and bar chairs, colourful furniture and fittings resembling a shack, they are also located right beside Meating Place at DUO Galleria, and serves up sandwiches, bagels, empanada (a Spanish turnover with fillings) and bakes. Beverages offered here includes espresso-based specialty coffee, as well as multiple cold brew concoctions — interesting flavours include the Lavender Milky Way and the Mocha Oat Chai.

Opting for the Grilled Pork Ragu & Cheese Sandwich, we shared the sandwich considering how we were also having the empanadas that were listed on the menu and also intending to hit another spot also for mains after the trip here. The Grilled Pork Ragu & Cheese is nothing short of satisfying; while Ragu is typically thought of as a tomato-based sauce usually used with pasta, Ragu is in actual fact, meat-based sauce — the folks behind Fraser St. Brothers pretty much took this definition to Ragu and ran with it; expect a really meaty and savoury meat sauce that is accompanied with gooey, stretchy melty cheese that would hit especially well with boys who love those heavier-tasting, more sinful sandwiches. Not doubt it does come a little greasy, but we did enjoy that slightly messy sandwich when eaten by hand with that crispy, crusty bread they have went for in the creation of this sandwich.

Apart from the Grilled Pork Ragu & Cheese Sandwich that we had, we also pretty much enjoyed almost everything that we have had here; the Empanadas can be best described as a westernised “curry puff” with various meat fillings for the local who isn’t exposed to such dishes, while we especially loved the Lavender Milky Way that was nothing being short of floral and aromatic amidst all that milkiness. If the Meating Place was one place that caught my heart for their well-executed dishes that has been prepared from scratch and lots of thought, passion and effort from the heart, Fraser St. Brothers is an extension of that with a splash of fun in a casual setting — also the more affordable establishment between the two that attempts to capture the cafe-going crowd. Whilst seats are rather limited at Fraser St. Brothers, we would still say that it’s a spot for meat and sandwich lovers, as well as cafe-hoppers to add to the list to check out — looking forward to them hopefully expanding a menu a bit; always intrigued by what they are able to come up with here!

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Dropped by the new Monday Coffee Bar at Blk 421 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10; the cafe is a rather small but cosy set-up that reminds me of specialty coffeehouses set up at the shop units on the ground floor of HDB blocks way back in the heydays of the third wave coffee movement. Decked in mostly wooden elements, the interior is pretty warm and inviting despite its size where it can only accommodate for three groups of diners throughout its indoor dine-in space (two counter seats, and two tables that seats two and five respectively due to social distancing requirements). Keeping the menu simple, Monday Coffee Bar only offers three different types of Sando, whilst also offering specialty coffee and a selection of Japanese tea for beverages.

Came by slightly before 12 noon and found ourselves snapping up the only sandwich that was available at the point of our visit — the Smoked Salmon Sandwich comes with elements such as smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and dill: all that sandwiches between what it seems to be wholegrain bread. The whole combination can be said as predictable and safe, though also one that feels comforting especially with the vibes here — the bread here isn’t overly toasted so it still comes fluffy and soft; the smoked salmon provides that typical savoury note of cured fish while the cream cheese gives a creamy texture that binds all the elements together. The addition of cucumbers here was a thoughtful one; not only did it provide for some refreshing crunchiness amidst the entire sandwich, but it also helped to improve the overall aesthetic giving the Sando a little thickness — nothing like those trendy Sandos these days that comes overloaded with ingredients which is incredibly difficult to bite, but definitely gave the Sando here some volume.

Would say that Monday Coffee Bar is pretty much of a rare find of a cafe these days. The food offered isn’t much, but it does give a feel-good type of vibe that is especially comforting alongside then environment that they have to offer. Whilst it is not as spacious as most coffeehouses these days, it is well-renovated with a well-thought layout that gives it a sort of charm that is a difficult find these days. For that, Monday Coffee Bar is a spot worth checking out, especially for those who are looking to soak up some peaceful coffeehouse vibes that are most reminiscent of cafes that were part of the third wave coffee movement in its heydays where cafes were still sprouting up all around the island.

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Zoomed past the new Gigi Gourmet Deli at Marina Bay Link Mall and made a mental note to return for dinner — one of those rare places within this part of the Central Business District that actually opens till 9pm on weekdays. Offering Sicilian fare, the gourmet deli not only serves up panini and salad, but also other items including pizza, platters (think Salumeria, Formaggi and Antipasto Misto) and Aracini — they also offer quite a sizeable dessert menu by offering cannoli, tiramisu, Panna Cotta and waffles (Brussels and Liege options available here).

Felt like having something on the lighter side for dinner so I went for the Panini Sandwiches — my pick was the Mama, which comprises of elements such as Mozzarella, Peppers, Eggplant, Artichoke Cream, Basil — patrons also get to pick between rocket leafs or mixed salad to be served in their sandwich; my choice was for the latter. I wasn’t really expecting a lot for the sandwich but this really quite blew me away — so much texture and flavours especially from the eggplant and bell peppers; the latter was almost akin to having poached tomatoes with its plump and juicy texture especially when it bursts as one chews on it. That itself gives the sandwich a refreshing taste amidst the ham sandwiched in the middle, while the rocket’s inherent bitterness seems to be softened by the umami artichoke cream slathered thinly on the bread itself. The bread itself is also worth the mention; so crisp, yet without being tough to chew. Undoubtedly one of my favourite sandwiches thus far.

While at it here, don’t forget to give the Cannolis a try — these are starting to get a little bit more easy to find these days around the island but I like how they have mini ones so I could try two at one go; my favourite being the Classic Cannoli with its fluffy and creamy ricotta that is spiked with orange zest for a slightly zingy twist that was quite appetising. Pistachio lovers can go for the Gigi Cannoli though — features elements such as Ricotta, Pistachio Paste, Chopped Pistachio and Powdered Sugar as well.

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Wanted to head to another spot within the vicinity for lunch, but got turned away as there wasn’t any seats available and that we did not make a reservation. Got reminded that Park Bench Deli had opened their latest concept, ONDA by Park Bench Deli nearby; so that was exactly where we headed to for lunch instead.

Being the first of a series of smaller shops that Park Bench Deli has intended to open progressively, ONDA by Park Bench Deli takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Sugarfin; the space only features standing dine-in areas, and is almost akin to a hole-in-the-wall concept. ONDA by Park Bench Deli only offers two sandwiches, with a small variety of light bites, where one will be able to pair with either coffee and alcohol drinks.

Being one of the two “mains” available here, the Cubano will be our pick over the Hot Dog. Featuring elements such as sweet ham, lechon, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard — all coming in between the soft roll. Upon its arrival on the table, it is well noted on how generously stuffed the sandwich is with meat — copious layers of sweet ham and lechon providing quite a meaty bite, considering how the elements have gone through the panini press so everything is compacted well together, making it very easy to eat without messing the sandwich whilst having it. Noticed how the sweet ham provided a hint of savoury note typically of cured meat; this went well with the meatier lechon — nothing short of being juicy and tender, without being anywhere gamey. The meats were well-balanced with the slight savouriness of the Swiss cheese, but the pickles and mustard help to provide a contrast of flavours that takes away some part of the meatiness which makes the sandwich easy to have; both providing a slight tang and a zing that kept things going here. The soft roll is a clear winner here though — toasted to crisp perfection, the bread did its job well with its audible crunch as one chews through the soft roll; absolutely appetising!

Being an offshoot of Park Bench Deli, it is difficult not to associate ONDA By Park Bench Deli’s sandwiches with those stellar sandwiches that Park Bench Deli had been consistently serving over the years — the Cubano is one that stays true to that. It is a showcase of the attention to detail — well-sized sandwich that fits well to a mouthful, whilst also beautifully layered with various elements that makes for the textural contrast. For those working at Circular Road where visiting Park Bench Deli at Telok Ayer May be a bit of a far walk for lunch; ONDA by Park Bench Deli is no doubt a good alternative to the original store for a sumptuous sandwich treat!

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Visited the new Ambling Turtle at The Flow just beside Roxy Square along East Coast Road over the past weekend — the new cafe had taken over the former premises of the mattress shop that previously occupied the same unit; the menu features a limited number of Peranakan-inspired mains mostly revolving around sandwiches, as well as desserts such as waffles and bakes.

Went with the Pulled Beef Rendang Sourdough Sandwich; there is also a choice of the croissant sandwich that seems to be more popular an option for those who have seemingly visited this spot and posted on social media. The sourdough toast was decent, though given how Micro Bakery & Kitchen is located just right across the road, the sourdough just isn’t the element that i would head down to Ambling Turtle for. Coming with elements such as cucumber, lettuce, chili padi and pulled beef rendang sandwiched in between, the pulled beef rendang did carry an evident hint of the spices whilst the meat is considerably tender, though was mild in terms of spiciness — some may also find it a tad dry considering the nature of the original dish but it does seem rather fitting here since their variants comes in a form of a sandwich and that would have caused the bread to soak up too much liquid anyway. Liked how the Peranakan touch here goes all the way to the items served on the side — the Achar providing a refreshing, tangy crunch in between morsels of the sandwich to reset the taste buds.

Felt that the croissant sandwich would have been a better option than the sourdough sandwich here, considering how the butteriness and flakiness of the pastry would probably have went together with the pulled beef rendang better as compared to the sourdough toast. That being said, Ambling Turtle is a spot to be commended for its effort to incorporate the neighbourhood’s Peranakan heritage into its theme — from the decor, to the dining ware and to its food menu; something which sets it apart from other cafes in the vicinity.

Headed down to Takashimaya for some shopping because things just kept breaking of the late — was more of just looking for a quiet spot that I don’t have to jostle with the crowds to dine at since I was hungry and didn’t really want to do all the shopping before I had my dinner. Got reminded of Grand Jete Cafe & Bar — a Japanese cafe that serves up pasta, sandwiches, and rice dishes that is hidden in a corner outside of the mall at the other side of the driveway away from the taxi stand.

Remembered how I did enjoy their Mentaiko pasta quite some time back, as well as their signature Apple Pie which seemed to have been quite a thing back then — decided to go for their Ebikatsu and Egg Mayo Sandwich this time round for how I have had multiple pasta dishes over the week, and how I am very much into fried Ebi patties in sandwiches and burgers. Was pleasantly surprised with the execution of the sandwich; the bread of the sandwich comes well-toasted and came all crisp — slightly buttered for a light savoury note while the other elements such as the prawn cutlet, egg mayo, lettuce and tomato cones in between. The greens and tomatoes were pretty fresh, but the star that took the show was the Ebikatsu that came with chunks of prawn flesh without much use of fillers; the fried, golden brown exterior being all crisp and the entire patty did not feel particularly greasy. The egg mayo features diced hard boiled egg that came in consistently-sized cubes; makes for a good texture whilst not being too heavily doused with mayonnaise — sufficiently creamy without being particularly jelak. Shoestring fries were sufficiently crisp, though the fries were also admittedly a little over-seasoned with salt.

Admittedly there seems to have been a change of ownership at Grand Jete Cafe & Bar; there has been substantive changes made to the layout, and the menu has also seen a revision (missed those illustrations that they have for the various items on their old menu) — there is now a section dedicated for light bites, while there are also a few collaborations with other merchants, including one with gelato from Denzy Gelato where the gelato is served with a Monaka Waffle that is exclusive to Grand Jete Cafe & Bar. A rather forgotten spot in the heart of Orchard Road that works great for a quiet meal away from the hustle and bustle of the malls.

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Checked out the new Puteca Abate Italian Street Food and Deli Sandwich Bar; a new concept opened by the folks behind Pastaria Abate which is located within The Working Capitol at 1 Keong Saik Road — also known as the former premises of now-defunct The Daily Roundup, 1KS, The People Vs and more.

Focusing on Italian street food such as Paninis and all, Puteca Abate Italian Street Food and Deli Sandwich Bar is still currently in its soft launch phase — items such as pasta and pizza are *likely* to be available next week, along with a wider selection of desserts and bakes. Going for the specials for the day, the Monte Cristo is more of sandwich of a French origin that uses elements such as ham and melted cheese; all that in between two slices of bread and egg-dipped before being pan-fried — comes with a sprinkling of icing sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup over the top. Think of it as savoury rendition of a French toast; shaved ham that seems to be provide not only the savoury notes of cured meat, but also texture in between the slices given how it is layered out, all with melty, gooey cheese in between the egg-dipped bread that is done the same way as our local variant of French Toast — all that combined with the sweetness of icing sugar and that rich maple syrup that gives it a nice sweet-savoury balance. Certainly a sandwich I hope makes it to the main menu here, and something which I most certainly wish that I can have yet again!

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Discovering Steeples Deli is like walking into a F&B establishment that is lost in time — the rustic delicatessen is one that I have always been wanting to drop by for quite a while, and the sheer rustic vibes and old-school settings have been well-preserved over time; the heavy use of wooden elements, bricks and tiles with counter seating simply brought us back to simpler times where having a sandwich/burger in such an environment was considered fancy and great for dates.

True enough, the Cuban Sandwich here stays true to the rustic vibes of the place. It’s only my first time here; not sure if this has been served the same way since their establishment 38 years ago — but nonetheless, it’s how the entire sandwich went together that really got to me. First bite down and the thing that hits is the crispness of the bread; almost akin to that of a good sourdough — crisp on the exterior, yet with enough tension for a good bite within. There on, the pulled pork here comes fairly chunky for a meaty bite; a slight hint of smokiness of the meat comes with a crunch of the pickle — all that without a porky stench with the meatiness well-balanced with the Dijon mustard slathered on the toast. Even the coleslaw is worth a mention; served cold, it’s crunchy, fresh and really refreshing — a good break between munches of the sandwich indeed. An item we have had no regrets on ordering!

Thought it’s kinda sad to see how Steeples Deli was pretty quiet on a weekday afternoon when we made our visit; gone are the days where the spot still remained buzzy and offering a wider variety of bakes — tough circumstances that has hit F&B establishments hard especially in this area and the CBD after the pandemic with work-from-home and social distancing measures in place. Given its heritage, Steeples Deli certainly has its place in the F&B scene even in such times; a spot worthy to check out for some old-school vibes and rustic eats that stood the test of time!

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Thought it would be good to make it a point to try Arabica’s food menu exclusive to their outlet at Chip Bee Gardens which was launched fairly recently; after all, this is the only Arabica outlet in the world to serve up a hot food menu — pretty much a highlight for those who are looking to experience their many outlets across the world, not to mention that the menu is developed by a head chef of a now-defunct Michelin-star restaurant in Taichung.

At S$32, the Beef Katsu Sando is the most exorbitant item on the menu — consisting of elements such as Deep Fried Japanese Wagyu Tenderloin, Homemade Katsu Sauce, and lettuce, this was an item that is pretty stellar in its own right. The toast comes soft and fluffy — pretty light and pan-fried slightly for a bit of sweetness; not too heavy on carbs but otherwise the star here is undeniably the Beef Katsu. One could easily tell the high quality of the Wagyu Beef being used for the dish here — not only was it melt-in-the-mouth tender, the sizeable chunks of beef carried a good meaty bite with every chew; no tough, fatty bits or veiny parts that refuse to fall apart — very delightful on its own that it does not really quite matter that the deep-fried batter was a little soggy from the Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce which carried a nice vinegary sweetness that cuts through the heaviness of the fried meat.

Must say that the item is pretty respectable in terms of quality and execution — it’s a pretty great Beef Katsu Sando to go for. That being said, its hefty price tag makes it feel more of a one-time off for me; sure, the beef is pretty high quality and all, but spending $32 on a single item in Arabica’s environment kinda feels a little excessive to me given the type of establishment it is. Still, something which I say it’s worth a try if one’s willing to splurge a little in their cafe escapades!

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From the newly-opened No Sleep Club along Keong Saik Road; a new cocktail bar which serves up bar bites, starters and also "Crack-wiches" (essentially open-faced sandwiches) alongside a long list of cocktail options with non-alcoholic options such as coffee and tea.

Featuring elements such as oak-smoked Mackerel, Kale, and Avocado Butter, the Smoked Mackerel on Toast works as a great brunch plate, as well as a good pairing with alcohol considering how it is not too heavy in its overall feel. Really liked how the Mackerel comes with an intense flavour from the smoking process; savoury, smoked fish that carries a punch while the avocado butter comes more like a smashed avocado here — the creaminess binding all of the elements together from the crusty bread all the way to the crisp kale and the smoked Mackerel altogether. The bread comes crusted on the exterior, whilst dense within and giving a bit of a tension with every bite — pretty good on its own. Coming with a side of pickles, the pickles take away the heaviness of the dish with its zingy notes — refreshes the taste buds from the smoked fish, avocado and toast. A pretty chill spot that is rather apt for the neighbourhood that it is in, No Sleep Club serves as a great option for brunch (though options albeit limited) in the Keong Saik area; would probably be back some other day for the drinks they have to offer.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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