The letter “e” font in “Complements Of” is written like an “i” so the cafe’s name can also be read as “Compliments Of.” The 20-seater pop-up cafe (expires March 2014) is “a collaboration between 3 Singaporean craftsmen who complement each other” (citation: on the cafe’s wall). The coffee is from Leon Foo of Papa Palheta and Chye Seng Huat Hardware Cafe; the food, Willin Low of Wild Rocket; and ceramics by Weekend Worker.
The decor is a cross between industrial chic and minimalist Zen. The menu is as bare: there is only one choice for breakfast (9-11.30am): soft-boiled eggs with truffle soy sauce, croissant and coffee ($8). There is also only one choice for lunch (11.30am-3pm) and dinner (6.30-10pm): salmon red rice donburi with jicama salad ($16). But get the set ($26), which is more worth it, including a coffee, the main, and dessert. You cannot order the breakfast after 11.30am or lunch before 11.30am because the waitress explained that there is a change of kitchen staff and they specialize in different areas. Actually I don’t get the logic–can’t the lunch chef cook eggs? Or can’t the morning chef scoop rice into a bowl and put salmon on top?
Chiobu and I shared the set meal and ordered additional croissant ($4 for 2). Limited dishes aside, the food was very instagrammable and delicious but little. The salmon red rice donburi had explosive flavors and textures: crunchy red rice, bits of chewy octopus, smooth but too-thin salmon slices, grains of sand of roe, and a secret ingredient which we suspected was chai poh (preserved radish you find on chwee kueh). The jicama salad was tung hoon (glass noodles), very peppery and addictive.
Since this cafe is affiliated with Chye Seng Huat (CSH), we suspected the croissant shared the same supplier–it was good and buttery but cold. The coffee, however, wasn’t up to par. Compared to CSH, Chiobu said philosophically that this latte tasted “empty” and bitter. There was no mocha on the menu.
The dessert, pandan panna cotta with salted gula melaka (pictured below) is a must-eat, one of the best desserts I have this year. At first bite, the gula melaka assailed with intense burnt sweetness–but it wasn’t at all excessive–and the sweetness mellowed to a mild sweetness with the aroma of pandan. Really awesome.
Another awesome thing was the fantastic service, friendly and attentive without being nosy. Chiobu said, “Where did they find Singaporean servers?! So rare.”
But Chiobu wasn’t impressed. She didn’t like the indecisive, halfway decor, limited food options and average coffee. She said, “It’s good that they are opened for 6 months only.” While she was right about her reasons, I focused on the positive aspects: fantastic food and service. But I’d advise people to come at a few weeks later when the cafe is ready and when it launches a gorgeous deep fried soft shell crab burger in black-colored squid-ink bun. We paid $30 for two.
Complements Of Cafe Singapore
72 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209400
Breakfast: 9-11.30am; Lunch: 11.30am-3pm; Tea: 3-6.30pm; Dinner: 6.30-10pm. Closed on Mon.
Rating: 3.338/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.