It’s obvious Singapore has a penchant for cafes, with a new one seemingly opening its doors every other week — even during a pandemic. So, it’s only fitting that my last real dine-in experience before the current Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions kicked in was at one of these well-loved food establishments.
Situated in the heart of Rangoon Road in Farrer Park is Daizu Cafe, a Japanese-Western fusion concept characterized by its inviting, minimalist aesthetic. The two-level space features ample seating, and large floor-to-ceiling windows allow plenty of natural light to flow in. A neutral palette in design and decor sets the tone here, which is a welcome change in a city full of loud and vibrant spots.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the city, guests can immediately feel a sense of calm as soon as they step through Daizu’s doors. According to Claire Huang, the cafe’s spokesperson, it was all part of a deliberate and carefully thought out design plan.
“We wanted a place for people to get a respite from their day, and have lunch and feel like they’ve transported to Tokyo,” Huang explained. “We wanted a place that was muted and understated so people can really relax and unwind. It’s a place where people can even feel comfortable to dine alone.”
I visited Daizu with another Native team member on a sunny afternoon, and although the spacious outdoor patio was enticing for a brief moment, the indoor seating with air-conditioning was much more appealing in Singapore’s climate. On days when the temperature is much milder, I’m told it’s not rare to see many furry friends enjoying themselves while their owners indulge in Daizu’s offerings.
We are seated on the second floor, in a corner table with direct views of the entire lower level dining space — people-watching at its finest. I noticed a second expansive bar up here, which is the counterpart to the main coffee bar downstairs.
As for Daizu’s food offerings, its menu is long and comprehensive. Maybe we were hungry, but every item sounded fantastic. From rice bowls and main dishes to fresh-cut sashimi bowls, and from pastas and brunch creations to small plates and desserts, we knew we were in for a feast. Not to mention its signature coffee and tea selection, as well as a healthy amount of alcoholic options.
With the help of Huang, we ordered several popular dishes and some lesser-known gems. For starters, we tried the Fried Broccoli (deep-fried and served with house-goma dressing), a simple yet flavourful appetizer that’s perfect for sharing. The Steamed Chicken Dumpling (served with a special spicy mahi sauce) came highly recommended, especially for those who love mala. I personally can’t handle too much heat, but this dish had a good balance of spice and umami, making it mildly addictive.
As for drinks, we tried the Iced Uji Matcha Latte and Iced Strawberry Cocoa. Daizu only uses high-grade matcha, and the slightly bitter taste confirmed its quality. A side of syrup can be added to sweeten the drink, which was exactly what I needed to make it more suitable for my sweet palate. I took a sip of my colleague’s strawberry cocoa and I was transported back to my childhood, where I gorged on many boxes of Meiji’s Apollo Strawberry Chocolate, which is exactly what the drink tasted like. It was a delicious blend of fruity and decadent notes, and something I’m definitely ordering next time.
Next up was Daizu’s Spicy Bara Chirashi (featuring an assortment of spicy marinated diced seafood). The bowl comprised of a generous amount of salmon, tuna, tako, ikura, and edamame — a dreamy combo for all sushi and sashimi lovers.
Then came the Steak Frites (pan-seared striploin with garlic shoyu, house salad, and seasoned thick-cut fries), which is a classic French dish found at many Parisian cafes, and an item I didn’t expect to find on Daizu’s menu. Our request for the steak to be done medium-rare came out perfectly and pre-sliced, much to our liking. No complaints about the house salad, though the thick-cut fries tasted a bit dry — but was salvaged with a roulette of house-made sauces brought to our table.
Because we ordered a variety of items to try, we didn’t have room for some of Daizu’s smaller specialities: fries with special sauces. The kitchen still wanted us to have a taste of its original sauce creations, so we were able to dip our frites in sauce flavours such as mentaiko, wasabi mayo, truffle mayo, curry aioli, and more. We’re told the chef may eventually bottle his own sauces and make them available for purchase. If that’s true, we would be the first to line-up for a few of the truffle-mayo bottles.
At first glance, the fan-favourite Garlic Butter Sakura Ebi (spaghetti with house specialty garlic-butter sauce and fresh prawns) looks like a nice, regular seafood pasta. After we took our first bite, it was evident that this dish was special. The al dente spaghetti paired with the mouthwatering house sauce immediately lamented it as one of our favourite dishes. It’s one of those unassuming dishes you won’t forget anytime soon.
Our last entrée was an off-menu item: Chili Soft Shell Crab Pasta. On the menu, there is a rice bowl rendition, but we wanted to try something that was lesser known yet still a show-stopper. The dish featured spaghetti bound together with mushrooms, edamame, house speciality chili-crab sauce, and a crispy soft-shell crab. The chili-crab sauce tasted authentic and the soft-shell crab on top was sizable — an overall great blend of Italian-meets-Singaporean flavours.
Finally, it was time for desserts. We chose the Lime Meringue Tart and Honeycomb Cheesecake, hoping to get a good contrast of flavours and textures. The cheesecake was smooth and creamy, while the Malteser-like chocolates gave each bite a nice crunch. The tart was tangy and refreshing with a buttery crust — we enjoyed it more than the overly sweet cheesecake, especially after a large and heavy meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed the generous, tasty portions served here at Daizu. Although it’s a fusion cafe, all of its items were fuss-free and easy to appreciate. Sometimes fusion fare has a bad rap attached to it, but that was definitely not the case here.
The atmosphere was indeed relaxing, though it felt a bit empty because of the looming dine-in restrictions. I can definitely see it as a busy and cozy space as soon as dine-in is allowed again. During this P2HA period, all of its menu items are available for takeaway and/or delivery on various food platforms.
There’s good reason for the larger than usual space at this cafe, and it all makes sense after Huang enlightened us with the vision behind Daizu’s concept.
“We come from a place of building experiences, and we are setting up a space for coffee workshops and coffee tastings,” Huang explained. “[They can] try their hand at being a barista and learn about latte art basics and the history behind coffee.”
The cafe’s multi-functional space is also perfect for bartending workshops, which it offers. Larger and smaller-scale weddings also take place here, which is a smart way to adapt to utilize its square footage.
My best tip for your visit to Daizu is to wear loose clothing, because you’ll want to order everything on the menu. I’m not sure when dine-in will resume, but as soon as those restrictions are lifted, I’m heading straight back to this eatery for round two.
This article is in partnership with Daizu Cafe.