Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar is a cozy bistro that resides along Clementi Road, amongst a handful of popular night-owl haunts like Al Amaan Restaurant and Fei Fei Wan Tan Mee. Cheng’s is owned by Miss Cheng (no surprises here), whom some may better recognize as the mother of the Asia’s Next Top Model contestant Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw.
Cheng’s has been in business for slightly over a year, but only recently revamped their menu. With Chef Benson Tong as their consultant, they have expanded their menu and produced new items in line with their philosophy of healthy gourmet food.
When we arrived at the bistro, the first thing we noticed was how bright and lively the place was, in stark contrast to its neighbours. Cheng’s interior isn’t particularly done-up to suit a theme or aesthetic, but its decor is homely and comfortable.
Miss Cheng started us off with the new drinks on her menu, the Passionfruit Mint Tea ($6.20) and Ultraviolet Floral Cooler ($6.20).
When the former arrived, I was instantly impressed by their attention to detail. The tea was topped with half a fresh passionfruit, its surface a caramelised golden shell. (No up-close pictures, unfortunately, my friend and I tucked in too eagerly!)
The drink itself was a far cry from boring Iced Tea, with a pleasant fruity flavour and tinges of mint.
The Ultraviolet drink is every avid Snapchatter’s dream come true. The tea was a gorgeous sapphire blue, and quickly turned pink upon mixing in the accompanying shot glass of lemon juice. Flavour-wise, I really enjoyed the drink’s sweet and tangy flavour, although at $6.20 a glass, I don’t think I’ll be sipping on one everyday.
For starters, we ordered the Cheese Baked Hokkaido Scallops with Mentaiko ($16). It took a while to arrive, which had us grumbling for a little bit, but when it did arrive, boy, it delivered.
The Hokkaido scallops were full and bouncy, and the generous dollops of Mentaiko sauce were sweet, creamy and ooh, so umami. I had to fight my friend for the last one.
The Big Breakfast ($18.90) was served next. To me, Big Breakfasts aren’t memorable simply because of how generic they are. Eggs? Check. Sausage and Bacon? Check. You know the drill.
I’m glad that Cheng’s Big Breakfast showcased some personality with an interesting addition to the Big Breakfast plate — caramelised watermelon. FYI, it’s the grilled tomato-looking thing in the picture beside the sausage.
The caramelised watermelon was really unusual, first off because it was warm (who eats warm watermelon!?) and second because it tasted like a dried longan to me. When eaten with the bacon, the caramelised watermelon was the perfect sweet to complement the salty, and brought beautiful flavour to the plate. It was quite hard to forget.
The Charcoal Wagyu Burger ($22.50 + $2 for a Sunny-side Up), I felt, could have used more salt in the seasoning of the beef patty. Great news for all big eaters, the patty was incredibly thick and coupled with a fried egg, the resulting burger was really quite tall.
The charcoal burger buns were toasted and buttery, while the accompanying mesquite-seasoned fries were very fragrant and magically managed to stay crisp and good through the entire meal.
At this point, the restaurant manager let us try some of the pastas, and despite our “reluctance”, we tucked in quite readily. The Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, Peproncino e Funghi ($14.90) was well-seasoned, with the perfect al dente texture. Satisfyingly spicy, the Aglio Olio would make a simple and good meal for the busy worker on a lunch break.
The Fettucine alla Carbonara ($16.90), which we heard had received some flak from other reviewers, surprisingly turned out to be my favourite of the mains. The fettucine was delightfully springy, and the bacon bits infused a savoury meatiness into each bite of the pasta.
Best of all, the Carbonara didn’t have any cream in it. The egg yolk and cheese, mixed into the pasta, were rich enough to carry the dish without coming off as heavy or jelat.
I’m the kind of person who typically likes creamy Carbonara till about the third mouthful, so this lighter Carbonara was a real win for me. I had seconds — that never happens.
After we’d polished off our mains, the Tower of Belgium ($13.00) arrived, beautifully plated, ever the typical cafe dessert. The waffles were slightly bready, denser than I’d like, but they softened after soaking up the melted ice-cream. I quite liked the berries on the side, as their acidity and tartness balanced out the dessert’s sweetness.
I found this dessert alright, though not much to write home about other than being real easy on the eyes.
I quite enjoyed my afternoon at Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar, by virtue of the above average fare and the comfortable, easy atmosphere.
I found my only gripe with the cafe was the waiting time for the food, which tended on the longer side. Like I said, though, my minor dissatisfaction was snuffed out by the quality of the food when it arrived.
I’d definitely recommend Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar to friends looking to chill and catch up over a meal, not anyone in a hurry. I think they’ve got a great spot, and a lot of potential, so head down and check them out — especially y’all, nearby NUS students.
As for me, seeing as their Tower of Belgium didn’t quite do it for me, I’ll be heading back next time to try their Gula Melaka Pancakes. Heh.
Expected Damage: $18-25 per pax