FROM OMAKASE TO DONUTS: 4 HIDDEN GEMS IN CLEMENTI, SINGAPORE

Having stayed in the North-East region of Singapore for 30 years of my life, the West has always felt like foreign land, except on the rare occasion or two where I make the hour-long pilgrimage to meet family and friends. Yet each time I venture to heartlands other than my own, I’ve had adventures worth writing home about, whether it’s a new cafe with fantastic coffee or a hawker stall marked by snaking queues.

With these hidden gems at its heart, Jalanjalan.me is an initiative born from the struggles of local businesses during the ongoing pandemic, that has now morphed into a community project highlighting history-filled neighbourhoods in The Lion City. Its interactive site showcases lesser known shops and dining establishments, inviting locals to embark on their own walking tour of each area, from Ang Mo Kio to Bedok.

Here’s what I gleaned from a walking trail in Clementi:

Cheese master Antoine Zaruba’s cheeseboard selections.

The Cheese House Singapore

Blink and you’ll miss it, this cheese shop is tucked away in a nondescript corner at mixed-use development NEWEST, with nary a visitor in sight when we visited on a Wednesday morning—a contrast to the stacks of online orders awaiting collection. Cheese master Antoine Zaruba holds court among refrigerators of fine European cheese sourced from traditional farms all around the world, helmed by farmers that maintain high animal welfare standards. Small-batch cheese such as the delicate and creamy Camembert de Normandie Fermier “Durand” from a little farm in the village of Camembert in Normandie stood out, as did the crumbly comté from la Fruitière des Suchaux, which has been matured for more than 30 months. Need a gentle introduction into the world of blue cheese? Try the Bleu de Bonneval from the village of Bonneval-sur-Arc in Savoie, which is creamy underneath a thin, mouldy rind.

More information here.

Uni by the spoonful.

Igokochi Dining Bar

Part izakaya and part omakase dining, Igokochi Dining Bar had me reminiscing about my last visit to Japan. Featuring floor-to-ceiling wallpaper of the iconic, neon-lit Dōtonbori stretch, the bar section (main image) comes alive in the evening with beer on tap, highballs, and a premium selection of whisky and sake, served alongside moreish snacks like yuzu daikon slices and dried pufferfish. For an elevated dining experience, go for the very affordable omakase sets, which start from $88. In celebration of springtime, the current menu features the rich and creamy firefly squid, rockfish lightly grilled to perfection with salt (add shoyu to the accompanying daikon to intensity the fish’s flavour), as well as a selection of sushi and sashimi. With produce flown in fresh from Japan thrice a week, the restaurant prides itself on quality ingredients at seasonal prices. The sushi, served with moulds of warm rice and generous slices of fish, were excellent.

More information here.

Dainty cakes and donuts.

Simple Café 簡單。

With Jay Chou’s best hits playing in the background and the soft whirl of the coffee machine awakening my senses, I found myself truly relaxing for the first time in the midst of a long and hectic day. Designed with a minimalist aesthetic—just wooden furnitures on concrete flooring, the sunlit space is a Taiwanese-style joint that offers sweet treats and freshly brewed drinks. To quench your thirst, go for the ice uni matcha or the hot Osmanthus oolong from Alishan, which pair wonderfully with the vanilla and lemon curd-filled donuts. Cake lovers will enjoy the Satsuma roll cake and the Berry cake; the latter is a light and fragrant strawberry shortcake filled with generous bits of the fruit. For something savoury, there’s the cream cheese smeared bagel.

More information here.

Gelato in innovative flavours.

Gelatolabo+Glass Roasters

A fun collaboration between the artisanal gelato maker and the neighbourhood roaster, the spacious café is decked in millennial-friendly decor featuring Bearbrick figurines, a colourful skateboard art piece by Takashi Murakami, and a photo-worthy mural. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by Glass Roasters’ coffee bar, which serves iced and hot coffee brewed from single-origin Colombia beans. The main affair here is the mind-blowing variety of gelato flavours available, from the classic Bronte pistachio and Himalayan sea salt to the fruit-forward lychee raspberry and rose. Together with Glass Roasters, Gelatolabo has also launched the Colombian cold brew and cookie butter bits, which can be enjoyed with the joint’s signature Tokyo Mochi waffles.

More information here.

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