Lucky Cat Cafe, Hougang: Boundless potential; worthy of a second try

Whilst my colleague, Ping Er, was scared off meat by the zombie movie, Cooties, my decision to have a vegetarian day at least once a week started as a New Year’s resolution to consume more wholesome meals to nourish my ever-changing pregnant body. 

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After a week of uninspiring home-made salads and wraps, I knew I had to get better tasting vegetarian food into my system to keep up with this resolution for at least four months more before my baby pops. Fortunately, Lucky Cat Cafe came into the picture. 

With so many new cafes appearing around the island, it often gets a tad bit challenging to differentiate the good from the average. Appearance-wise, Lucky Cat Cafe might not stand out from its counterparts, but what differentiates them from the rest is their take on the food itself. 

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Lucky Cat Cafe focuses on vegetarian Japanese fusion cuisine with an array of interesting house-made tea and coffee brews that is often difficult to find; especially in the neighbourhood of Hougang

What I tried

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My meal started with the one dish that intrigued me to step foot into this restaurant—Salmon Sashimi (S$4). Place this plate of vibrant orange slices in front of me, and I would easily call it as the real deal. Yes, that’s how intricate and realistic they looked. 

As a food writer, it has been my rule of thumb to first taste a dish without any of its accompanying sauce. “This is how you can savour the natural taste of the ingredients and its freshness,” my chef instructor in culinary school would normally preach.

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Indeed, on my first bite, it didn’t taste like anything at all. Apart from its chewy, gelatinous mouthfeel, the Salmon Sashimi itself was bland, with only a slight tinge of saltiness. The deception came in when I dipped them into my saucer of soy sauce and wasabi

This was when the konjac jelly transformed itself into a slice of raw fish. No wonder people often say adding soy sauce makes a difference. In this dish, the sauce was where the magic resided. 

Wanting to try Lucky Cat Cafe’s specialities, I asked the staff for some recommendations. That was how the Shiitake Cream & Cheese and Yangnyeom Monkey Head Mushroom ended up on my dining table. 

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Shiitake Cream & Cheese (S$7)—based on its name alone, I can already see why this is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. I mean, who could ever resist deep-fried shiitake mushrooms filled with cream and crowned with torched cheese?

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Here, the contrast of the crunchy batter, juicy mushroom and rich, indulgent cream was just texturally sinful to the lips. Torching the cheese slice gave it a touch of smokiness, complementing the smörgåsbord of flavours that excited my palate. 

If a dish leaves a pregnant woman and her husband fighting for the last piece, you know it warrants a try.

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It’s 2021—the century where food should be liberally seasoned to bring out its maximum flavour. But Lucky Cat Cafe’s Yangnyeom Monkey Head Mushroom (S$11), unfortunately, made me feel the exact opposite.

“That is way too much yangnyeom,” was my first thought when I popped a monkey head mushroom in my mouth. Here, the sweet-spicy Korean sauce overpowered the natural taste of the mushroom.

As the popcorns of Yangnyeom Monkey Head Mushroom were thoroughly drenched in the fiery red sauce, it took away the light crispness from its batter, leaving me with chunks of heavily seasoned bites. 

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Just a light coating of yangnyeom will probably work better in bringing out the meaty flavour of this wonderful fungus—the kind of taste which I would very much appreciate especially in a vegetarian restaurant. 

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Thank God there was the Tofunagi Maki (S$12)—the saviour from my yangnyeom overdose. Sitting on my roll of cucumber and crispy tempura bits maki was a slice of barbecued seaweed tofu which encompassed the beautiful briny notes of an actual freshwater eel. 

After a while, I caught myself wondering, “Wait, is that tofu or unagi?”

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Elevating the brilliance of this dish was a thin film of teriyaki sauce that added the touch of sweet-savouriness typical of all unagi-related dishes you find at a Japanese eatery. Refreshing and light, these Tofunagi Maki were just as addictive as their meat counterparts. Before I knew it, they had vanished.

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The Japanese Katsu Curry Noodle (S$12) was a dish that sat well in my belly with its warm comforting notes. Lightly spiced and studded with gigantic hunks of potato, carrots and a slab of breaded mock katsu, it was indeed a moreish bowl of delight.

Whilst the use of thin Korean noodles might not provide as much textural satisfaction as compared to the regular yellow noodles, I personally preferred its smooth, slurpable texture. Just a change in noodles made this dish more palatable and easier to digest especially when paired with the other side dishes. This was probably the only bowl of noodles I could wipe clean without any guilt. 

Final thoughts

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My mouth-watering experience at Lucky Cat Cafe made me realise that we don’t necessarily need to sacrifice on flavour while eating healthy. With that being said, too much seasoning might not be a good sign either. 

There might be a mash-up of hits and misses at this three-month-old cafe, but with the quality of food dished out from its kitchen and the support from the community, it certainly has boundless potential to improve and shine.

I, for sure, will be back simply because I know it is worth a second try. 

Expected Damage: S$10 – S$20 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 3 / 5

Lucky Cat Cafe

35 Hougang Avenue 3, Hougang Community Club, #01-02, Singapore 538840

Our Rating 3/5

Lucky Cat Cafe

35 Hougang Avenue 3, Hougang Community Club, #01-02, Singapore 538840

Operating Hours: 9am - 10pm (Daily)

Operating Hours: 9am - 10pm (Daily)
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