Chillin’ Cafe Corners

Chillin’ Cafe Corners

Need a place to sit back with a cuppa and escape the bustle of real life? Fancy some sweets and brunch deals over the weekend? Or just need a spot to catch up with friends while people watching? Take a gander at this list for inspo!
Mystickal / Melly W
Mystickal / Melly W

[ New Café – Solid gelato at XM Studio’s Gelato and Coffee Bar ] Had the opportunity to visit a certain someone’s friend’s new gallery-office-café space at Kitchener Complex mid-week during their grand opening! Big congrats!! (Where was this café when I was looking for places to chill pre-D&D 🥲)

If you’re a fan of figurines and collectibles like me, you’ve likely already ogled at their intricate statues and figurines at toys/hobby conventions over the years. The best bit? XM is homegrown! How’s that for inspiration?

Since I consider myself a casual hobbyist at best when it comes to comics/TTRPGs/adjacenthobbiesandthelikes, I’ll hold my opinions – just swipe past the food for some of my fav pieces in their gallery! (Yes, it’s open to the public so feel free to visit!)

What I do consider myself more a snob of, is food. When I was sold – multiples times, mind you! – that this new café spot will be serving some mean gelatos, a certain someone and I hauled our behinds over after sweating it out at the Gardens By The Bay for some much needed reprieve.

And oh boy, they delivered.

I’m quite forgiving when it comes to ice creams/gelatos and the likes, but it’s fairly difficult to please me beyond mild satisfaction. So when my face lit up after rolling the velveteen texture of my pistachio gelato around my mouth – one of their two non-dairy options – we knew we had something special, literally, in our hands.

Pistachio can either be a breathtaking or an exhausting flavour. It either coils at the back of your mouth with the scent of smoky roast, tugged by the melting flavour of nuts upon your tongue, or it languishes in dull bitterness against the walls of your mouth, like an indelible acrid aftertaste.

No prizes for guessing which one this falls under.

Their scoops can be yours at three different price points: $6 for their classic batches, $7 for their premium, and $8 for that sweet, exclusive selection.

We sat nursing our drinks – my coffee was a lil bland, but his roasted green tea was a delight – as the rain pattered outside, watching XM staff meander through the spacious area, and making plans for which gelato to try when we return.

[ Food Review – Vday at Kong! Ft. new menu items! ] Our fav café having a debut V-day menu + burgeoning cases = guess how we spent our V-day dinner! Added perk: No traffic woes you can easily walk over!

(And yes, Kong was open at night – until 10pm, no less! – to commemorate the occasion!)

The menu of the night was a 3-course set ($48.80) that included options for appetiser, main, and desserts, accompanied by drinks. Which was a very nice surprise since many larger places don’t even offer that level of customisability!

Our choices for the night were the Platter of Mandoo & House-made Kimaree for sides, Army Stew for our main, Brownie w. Vanilla Icecream for sweets, and 2 shots of Peach Soju to whet our (his) appetites. (Spoiler: We ended up ordering extras just because we didn’t want the meal to end, oops!)

As much as a certain someone and I love the Rarabokyi, the Army Stew was just what we needed after a day of rain. Unlike places that create the illusion of depth with chives, onions and cabbage, Kong’s stew was brimming with pockets of spam, hotdogs, tofu, and tteokbokki; it even had dumplings and shrooms inside! Better yet, the broth isn’t made with beef stock, so friends with dietary restrictions, Kong’s gotchu!

Normally, the Army Stew would’ve been an easy winner, but my goodness, the Kimaree was a thing of beauty. Made from wrapping glass noodles in seaweed before deep frying them, every bite was an addictive tug-of-war between the crackle and pop of the seaweed and the slick sweetness of the noodles. We had to get a second plate. Had. To.

The last item of note turned out to be the crème brûlée that I’d initially skipped over because I was uncharacteristically craving chocolate! A certain someone decimated it in literal seconds after I snuck off with the sugar layer; the cream wasn’t too sweet, and the sugar was evenly, and more importantly, sufficiently burnt for that honeyed goodness.

Add on the relaxed vibes, pleasant crowd, a very enthused Hanna personally serving tables, and a little too much soju for him and sugar for me, we now have another memorable V-day in our pockets!

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Today’s dish in focus is one I rarely post; not because I don’t like it — on the contrary, it’s one of their bestsellers! — but more because I can’t get enough of their ramyun, oops. Say hello to Kong’s Korean Chicken Wings!

Whether you’re looking for a between-meal snack or trying to find a more robust full meal to energise yourself, these wings got your back. You can savour them alone or let them accentuate your ramyun or rice bowl, but if you r e a l l y want to bring out the South-meets-East Asian in you, go for that unparalleled harmony-in-diversity route of sweet-savoury(-spicy) by enjoying them with freshly made waffles. (Geddit? South because it’s a Southern dish; East because of the Korean influence. Okay, I’ll see myself out.)

The last time I covered the wings here, I raved about the improved honey butter variant. If I’d thought it couldn’t get any more aromatic, my goodness, if a n y o n e orders it, I’d be fighting self-restraint trying not to get a plate for myself, regardless of how full I am (when we get to dine-in again, that is).

That doesn’t mean the spicy version is any less fragrant! Where the former entices with the silken scent of butter, this entrances with it feisty sauce. Unlike certain big chains who overwhelm with the spice level, Kong’s tends to sit at a comfortable simmer (for most; yours truly just finds it mostly tasty!), occasionally peeking through the piquant sauce to excite.

It is because of this sauce that I find the spicy option a better pairing with waffles — the sauce holds enough body in flavour and volume to sit comfortably atop the sweet waffles, and folds into the dips of the waffles without damaging the structure.

(Pst, If you’re like me and dislike dealing with pesky bones during your meal, debone them first before placing them on your waffles!)

Oh, and if you’ve space for dessert after, get the lemon cake. The delicate flavour helps quench away the richness of the wings without further saturating your palate!

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[ Food Review — Trying more menu items! ] Before the no dine-in restrictions, a certain someone and I managed to squeeze in a visit to Flagwhite to grab some café food for dinner. (Like we said, we thoroughly enjoy the perks of being adults!)

Because we — by we, I really mean I — tend to get the same menu item 9 out of 10 times whenever I’m dining in a familiar spot, I tried r e a l l y hard to deviate from my comfort zone, and ended up getting their Baked Halibut Burger (w/ tater tots instead of fries; w/o grilled capsicum) ($16), while a peckish certain someone ordered the Beef Schnitzel (also w/ tater tots instead of fries) ($18).

Caveat: I tend to be really picky with my burgers, preferring to either subsist super budget versions or swinging to the other extreme of the spectrum by choosing gourmet options. It’s rare for me to get burgers in-between because after eating more than my fair share of burgers — most of them just do n o t justify the price point (and calories).

What I like about Flagwhite is that they do not hold back on portion sizes for their mains. While I was pretty filled up on my meal and it wasn’t bad — finishing the tater tots was quite the challenge — I’d hoped for a little larger a fillet patty. I wouldn’t have minded paying a couple of dollars more; the extra halibut would’ve helped balance out the thick tufts of aged onion jam. That said, the buns were fluffy and the jam had good flavour, but alas, the tater tots were a tad too oily this time round.

A certain someone’s schnitzel on the other hand, did not disappoint. The schnitzel was pretty decently sized without much — if any really — tendons or other similarly annoying tough/dry bits. The meat was pretty trim as well — always a plus point! Here’s something else that Flagwhite does well: They know how to season their crumb coat. Too many places don’t consider how a bland outer cover completely ruins any flavour within, but not here! The layer is thin too, which means you get the full benefit of the coat’s texture and its slightly sweeter profile, both of which complement the beef’s innate savouriness. Would defo get this again!

[ Food Review — Brunch (and all-hours) food you can’t go wrong with! ] Due to increasing workload, I’ve been eating out a lot less for brunch/lunch these coming weeks. :’) But because a certain someone was nice enough to swing by for a quick meal today, we ended up convening at our fav hangout spot: Kong!

I was absolutely knackered today, but Hanna was sweet enough to offer us a glass of fresh juice each — orange for me, carrot for him; they’re on the menu too for $6.50–$7 each! — and that perked me right up! I haven’t had juice in literal years, which meant the cups brought back some lovely taste memories. Thank you! What an enchanting way to start the morning!

Today, we were famished. This is a good thing, because it meant one of us could get what is imo one of Kong’s most acclaimed items on the menu: The Kong Breakfast ($23). We added on sausages ($5), because their sausages are actually worth the added calories (Hanna does n o t skim on getting these darlings, trust me ;))! (I got my usual order of Smoked Salmon + Scrambled Eggs & Toast ($16) because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish… And more importantly, a certain someone who allow me to peck off his plate, heh.)

Let me reinforce why after so long, Kong is still my fav place to be at — their food keeps improving! If it’s obvious enough to folks like us who dine there relatively often, I can only imagine how stark the difference must be to those who have more extended visits.

Why we love the breakfast set is for how cohesive the flavours are. Admittedly, in the early days, you still had to navigate a bit of taste divergence — the salad was too heavily sauced; the egg wasn’t as smooth — that splintered an otherwise unified exp. But not anymore! The full, rounded flavours of the bacon and sausage are mellowed out by the airiness of the eggs, and the sprinkle of salad with its milder dressing refreshed each bite without intruding on the chutney. This is why you’ve gotta get the set if you can — it’s truly scrumptious!

A friendly FYI: Because of the tightened covid restrictions, to keep our fav F&B outlets from being fined, please try to keep your visits under 2 hours, and refrain from doing work/using your laptop/devices unless you’re actually having a meal!

[ Café Revisit – Brunch food at night = peak adulting ] It’s approaching the end of the week, which means it’s time to indulge myself — by eating brunch/café food at night! (It’s s o much more satisfying than having it during the day, heh.)

Usually I’d get FW’s DIY brunch — for the curious, here’s my usual mix: brioche ($3) + shrooms ($3) + salmon ($4), with the occasional streaky bacon ($4) or scrambled eggs ($4) — but since I had an immense and late lunch today, I figured no better time to finally try a side I’ve been putting off for literal years: Curly fries ($6).

On the other hand, C^2 was ravenous, so she ended up getting what is imo one of the best items to get here: Panko Breaded Fish & Chips ($14). Here’s the thing — I can’t and don’t eat fish and chips. Dislike it immensely to the point of having strong reactions when tasting most. (Key being most.) But that doesn’t mean I’ll snub value when it’s in front of me, especially when it’s both economical and delish!

The main draw of FW’s fish and chips to me is simple: It’s huge. More often than not, you’re presented with a plate that’s actually dominated by the fish fillet; if you’re lucky, you’ll net one that even curls over the edges mid-dance, a testament to not only the size, but also how crisp the batter is. Add on the sides, and this will fill even the most ravenous of my dining partners! Oh, did I mention the batter is thin and light; a craggy exterior that works more like a skin than a full on layer that retains the fish’s succulence within? Yum!

Alas, that fish dish ain’t for me. As a functioning and responsible adult, I decided a basket of salty curly fries and two bottles of kombucha would suffice as my meal for the night! (No regrets; I’m more than satiated!)

Since I normally get their tater tots instead, I’m super glad I got these today. Turns out I actually prefer them! Instead of just rolling around tiny bullets of rough potato pops in your mouth — the texture gets old quick – you can enjoy the hard-soft duality of the fries, which no surprise, holds sauces better as well. (Yes, it comes with a dip, but ask for chilli sauce instead; you can thank C^2 for the tip!)

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[ Café Food Review — Did I finally find a replacement for P&W?? ;u; ] Starting the weekend by rinsing off my (honestly embarrassing) spell of mediocre culinary experiences with today’s gem: Grand Jeté Café at Taka!

Those who’ve followed me from back in the probably know I used to live out of Patties & Wiches. But alas, the pandemic finally did them in, and I haven’t made any headway in finding a replacement…until now!

For those wondering how they’d missed out on a new café opening in Taka, it’s because GJ isn’t new! It’s been there since 2017, but likely only accessible IF you know where it is. (Here’s a hint: It’s outside Tower B, to the left of the turn into Taka — not the main mall building)

GJ specialises in Western-Japanese item, and does the full-works. By that, I mean they’ve tonkatsu, soba, curry, pastas, you name it, jazzed up with either Japanese or SEA influences. Honestly quite impressive given the size of the place. And the food is not that pricey either (it’s a good bit cheaper than P&W)!

When we visited, it was one of those awkward 4pm-not-sure-if-lunch-or-linner kinda meals. I figured their signature Tonkatsu Sando was a safe bet for a between-meal snack, while a certain someone — who was so enamoured by their fried croquette on his last visit — decided to replicate his prev order. To help wash our fried items down, we got a side of kimchi — a little unorthodox for a café run by a Japanese lady — and a pot of lychee green tea (which was marvellously fragrant, but sadly no top-ups).

Oh boy, the food was much better than I’d expected! Don’t be fooled by the deceptive size of my ‘wich — it filled me up quick! The katsu was lean yet juicy, and was encrusted in crust that had an almost biscuit-like texture to it, which paired really nicely with the blooms of cabbage shreds, and did not overwhelm the thin bread slices.

Their croquette was where their frying technique really shone. Clad in vibrant orange, these nuggets were delicate and dry on the outside, and revealed a languid pool of pale gold within. I’m not one for croquette, but my goodness, if this is what all those anime protags have been munchin’ on, no wonder they always look so smitten!

[ Food Review — 20% off + no GST/SC too! ] What’s better than being able to get brunch food? Being able to grab brunch food at n i g h t, that’s what! While C^2 and I were perusing the frankly disappointing café dinner choices for the night, we realised/remembered that hey, Craftsmen is in Holland V, and they open until late!

I’ve only been to Craftsmen a couple of times, and only to their Siglap brunch — where I had their salmon waffles which were pretty good for café fare! — so I wasn’t sure if this branch would live up to my prev exp. What I enjoyed about my prior visits was the ambience: the space was open, the atmosphere was relaxed, with the added bonus of pretty good coffee and food.

The Holland V branch was a lot narrower and closely packed, and while that’s not the fault of the brand (gotta work that space, yo), it did impact my initial impression — it just felt like any ol’ café spot. But on the plus side, the service was warm and friendly! (Take note F&B peeps, this is one of the best ways to cultivate not just customers, but regulars.)

I was originally looking forward to some waffle action, but since I’m not feeling robust enough to risk buttermilk, had to make a 15-min decision detour before settling for their Kimchi Sourdough ($20) open ‘wich w/o cheese. After deliberating for equally long (heh), C^2 ordered the Smoked Salmon Brioche open ‘wich ($19) w/ a side of Tater Tots ($7).

What I’d intended to be a light dinner went out the window when the plates arrived — my goodness, they’re bigger than we’d expected! Even the tater tots arrived as a tiny mound, and despite having two fans of fried potato present, we could not demolish more than half of it, welp.

One thing I’ll give Craftsmen is that they know how to make a plate pop. Not just visually (love when photos take themselves!), but the contrast of textures and flavours made the entire process a really fun one: The sausage+bacon anchored the dish; the bite of kimchi contrasted it; the rich, runny yolk tied it all together; the sprouts+pomegranate seeds lifted it back up. (Personally think the cheese would’ve made it too heavy, I’d suggest skipping it too.)

Guess this is my new fav dish here!

[@meltingflavours on Insta] I ramble about food. A lot. 📝Long posts | ❌🧀🍷🥛 ⛔️Do not repost⛔️

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