Many people have probably heard of the new Hello Arigato at Upper Thomson, which amassed a lot of attention on social media for its amazingly cosy minimalist decor but perhaps even more for their tantalising beef sando. That gentle pink cross-section? Pure food porn.
Really, the entire cafe space for Hello Arigato is perhaps one of the best-conceived in Singapore. Besides the chic and elegant Japanese-Scandinavian decor, the whole place also gives off an air of intimacy that feels like you’re in someone’s living room.
Besides the sleek green couch and coffee table combo tucked into one corner of the cafe, the various shelves that are populated with pop culture nick-nacks also all feel very personable. An abundance of props that bear the name of iconic brands such as Kinfolk, Tame Impala, and Supreme gives the whole cafe a trendy edge too.
Hello Arigato is also located in a nice accessible spot in the stretch of shophouses at Upper Thomson that house the likes of popular brunch spots such as One Man Coffee, so it’s a no-brainer for many cafe hoppers to add into their itinerary if they play to make a trip down to the area.
What I tried
Without hesitation, the first item I decided on was naturally their wildly popular Gyu Sando (S$26). The alluring pink insides were simply like a siren song calling up to my inner beef lover and I had to experience what the hype is for myself.
When it arrived on my table after some wait though, I found the Gyu Sando looking slightly odd as compared to the photos I’ve seen on Hello Arigato’s social media—it was a bright red, but not in an appetising way. But I thought: “Hey, maybe it’s just the lighting playing tricks on my eyes.”
When I bit down, expecting the torrential release of beefy juices, what my teeth felt instead were the tenacious fibres of the thick beef struggling for dear life to not succumb to the force of my jaws. In the end, I had to forgo trying to slice through the sando with my teeth and resort to the good ol’ fork and knife instead.
It’s not terrible but the beef was, to put it mildly, quite inadequately prepared. While it was impressive to be given such a chunky slice of beef for S$26—much more substantial than more expensive beef sandos at upscale Japanese joints—it was simply too tough to bite through it.
To give Hello Arigato credit, the rest of the ensemble worked pretty well; I quite enjoyed the sauce and the airy crunch as the toast cracked apart. But really, the inherently stringy and hard-to-chew beef just didn’t really work in a sando context. If I wanted to eat my beef with a fork and knife, I would have gotten a steak somewhere else and not endeavoured to chew through the resistance of their beef. I’ve had my share of raw beef so I’m not really averse to rareness in beef either—in this case, the thickness just didn’t help like one would enjoy raw beef in something like a carpaccio.
That said though, Hello Arigato’s other signature sando, an Otah Sando (S$20), was quite the exciting discovery. Ingeniously put together with a lot of thought put into it to reflect classic local flavours, the textures and flavours were all on point.
As far as otah goes, theirs packed quite the potent burst of flavours with a mild spice while the kaffir lime sambal added a pleasant burn that really complemented the flavours. It all comes together when the moist otah texture mingles with the diverse layers of crunch from the katsu batter, cucumbers, and milk bread—a textural party worth indulging in.
In my opinion, Hello Arigato’s unique Tom Yum Somen (S$18) also required further tweaking. It’s a decent dish no doubt but lacked some of the punch and nuance to come close to replicating the complexity of tom yum soup. While I enjoyed the cold soup and springy strands of somen, it felt slightly one-note with not that many spice notes peeking through.
Another execution flaw was the inclusion of stems of lemongrass swimming about loosely; biting on them released some of that familiar fragrance but instead of an even distribution of its pleasant aroma, you get an odious overdose.
While you’d suspect that Hello Arigato offers solid coffee with its minimalist coffeehouse vibes, their coffee is just okay. The White Coffee (S$6/S$7) was pretty unmemorable, but it’s not far off from what you’d get at some of the common brunch spots—not really something to nitpick about.
If you ask me, a trip to Hello Arigato is more for the hype and the vibes—at least for now. There is definitely a lot of potential there though, as can be seen from the rather deft fusion of Asian flavours into cafe fare, even if the disappointment of their signature beef sando almost made me go “No thanks, sayonara“.
But I can see a redeeming arc for this new cafe if they work out their kinks. But as it is now, S$26 for a beef sando that I struggle to even bite through? Arigato, but no arigato.
For an enjoyable beef sando that doesn’t require shelling out crazy restaurant bucks, I recommend going to Gyu & Tori; it’s not the same quality but it’s also half the price and still mighty enjoyable, probably the best price to quality ratio for a beef sando in Singapore.
Expected damage: S$25 – S$30 per pax
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3 / 5
227 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574359
227 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574359