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Thursday, 9 July 2015

[Media Invite] Dinner at ARIA Cafe @ SUTD Campus

8 Somapah Road #01-204, SUTD Building 2, Singapore 487372
Tel: 6384 0854

Located within the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), right across Singapore Expo Hall 9, lays a fun-filled, graffiti-walled and multi-cuisined cafe bistro with live band.  We discovered Aria Cafe! Okayyyy, this is a media invited tasting attended by representatives from Hungrygowhere and some other familiar faces including ChubbyBotakkoala.

At the door, we were stopped by this interesting sign asking us to take a photo through a hole in the door before going in. Piqued by curiosity, I went for it. Ahhhhh, amazing effect indeed - the spot captured a scenario that appears as though the tables are situated at the edge of a very steep cliff. This was amazing, like a testimonial about the artistic aspects of Aria Cafe.

In a simple cafe as such, you'd be surprised at its thoughtfulness to cater to different people, hence the different designs situated in different corners - live band and lounge settings for those wanting to unwind, bar counter with electric points for those wishing to study or work out of this cafe, comfortable benched settings for the diners and faux grass for those who enjoy the soccer table.

Over drinks such as Bonfire Chocolate (SGD$5.00) - melted dark Italian chocolate mixed with milk, topped with torched marshmallows and chocolate shavings, served hot or cold - Caramel Latte (SGS$4.00), Thai Iced Tea (SGD$5.00) and Mugs of Chamomile Tea (SGD$3.00), we pondered the food menus excitedly.

This tasting session was interesting because they allowed us to order what we wanted to try. The problem was that we wanted to try everything - hence decided to share our food so everyone gets a bite of it all.

We started off with the soup items. The Mixed Mushroom Soup (SGD$4.00), consisting of shiitake, oyster and button mushrooms, was unfortunately a little lackluster, devoid of the usual distinctive aroma most mushroom soups should have; and the mushrooms chunks were too huge in sizes so you don't get the bite with each mouthful, the way you do if the mushroom bits were tinier.

The Beef Gumbo (SGD$5.90) - a stew of mixed beans, beef and salted vegetables - was flavourful but too watery in my opinion. Granted, it is a stew, but a thicker gravy might give it more volume and velvety texture.

Next, the Tom Yum with Glass Noodles (SGD$7.90), a palate-rousing favorite of ours, because the taste was strong and spicy, holding its own beautifully. The seafood portions were generous and the glass noodles were silky, making this an appetite-whetting dish.

Then there was the Chicken Soto (SGD$5.90), chicken broth, shredded chicken, begedil (potato) and yellow noodles. Eaten on its own, the chicken broth was scrumptious with a little herb-infused taste, and the noodles were supple; paired with the special chilli served on the side, this dish was amazing, stirring the tastebuds positively.

We could not resist some Appetisers as well, so we started with the Chilli Con Carne with Corn Chips (SGD$6.90), a Mexican's favorite minced meat dip with Japapeno peppers. Well, it was our favorite as well, because the minced beef meat was utterly tasty - umami, and hints of spiciness. The pairing with crispy corn chips made for a great choice, as usual.

Next, a very huge bowl of Truffle Fries (SGD$5.90), wafting with the aroma of truffle oil from a distance away, tantalizing the nostrils and filling the mouths with flavours and crisps delightfully.

The Balsamic Mushroom Salad (SGD$8.90) was a substantial toss of rocket salad, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, incredibly refreshing, simple, yet exploding with distinctive flavours of the sauteed mushrooms, Balsamic cream and Feta cheese.  If I didn't order anything else, I could just happily indulge in this for a meal alone.

Well, we're onto the mains now, beginning with the Mediterranean Lamb Shank (SGD$13.90) - grilled lamb shank on a bed of mashed potatoes and greens, drizzled generously with Mediterranean stew. The lamb was blissfully succulent here, infused beautifully with exotic flavours that either wrote out, or replaced the non-existent gamely flavour that mutton posesses.

Then we had the Bandung-style Grilled Beef Ribs (SGD$13.90), turning out to be another good choice, consisting of utterly succulent beef rib slices (yes, thoughtfully sliced up) with a tangy paste, served with rice and vegetables.  The beef ribs were luscious and almost melty, gliding ever so smooth and softly over the tongue, almost like a gentle frolick.

Following that, it was the Chicken Rendang Pasta (SGD$8.90), prepared with none other than macaroni! This unique and innovative dish will have eaters swooning long after eating it, especially for those of you who love the heavier, exotic flavours of rendang, tender chicken and begedil (deep-fried potato). It had all the right notes of spiciness, hitting all the right chords literally.  Oh, and the macaroni had a good taut texture to it as well.

Moving on, Spicy Crab Linguine (SGD$9.90), add Seafood (SGD$3.00) with springy strings of linguine pasta, tossed into a scrumptious mix of seafood's sweetness as well as the subtle provocation of spiciness, forming a gastronomical union of indulgence, the perfect dish for seafood lovers.

Time for desserts, aye! They have a wide variety of delectable desserts for dining in as well as special cake orders (menu on website). Took us a while to decide on what to have - a little disappointed they did not have the Coconut Cake (SGD$5.90) that I was hoping to try.

Anyway, we started with Baked Strawberry Pavlova (SGD$5.90) - baked meringue stuffed with coconut cream and topped with strawberry slices and chocolate.  The meringue in this case had the right level of sweetness without being cloying or toothache-inducing, and it was dusty light in texture, exuding bare hints of strawberries fragrance.

Then the Nutella Brownie (SGD$5.90) with a scoop of ice-cream.  It was dense and rich as described, but not overpowering or too thick; in fact, there was a gentle crunch within the texture that makes one think of biting into a chocolate bar, yet having the gentleness of rich molasses upon the tongue. Undeniably one of the best brownies we have tasted.

Last but not least, Coco Crumble Mousse (SGD$5.90). Now, this is very rich and thickly so - moist, a little sticky and very intense on the flavour and texture, like a force in itself; the perfect candy for chocolate lovers.

Finally, the Banana Date Pudding (SGD$5.90), served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and butterscotch sauce.  Another delicacy with a fluffy, light texture exuding boldly the banana aroma, yet tasting more of date's sapid notes.   Another lovely creation perfect after a heavy, savoury dinner, or to go with mug of hot tea.

The overall dining experience here was relaxing, fun and definitely satisfying. At these affordable prices and huge portions of delectable dishes, I kept telling fellow reviewers at the table that if I were an SUTD student, the food here would be a good reason for me to come to school every single day.  You don't have to be a student or staff to dine here though - it is open to public!

Thank you Aria Cafe for the warm hospitality and awesome tasting session; and thanks to Hungrygowhere for the invite!

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