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New eateries in NUS

It’s that time of the year where we round up the new food places in our beloved campus and present them to you as we review them!

Waa Cow

Moving over from its previous location at the Singapore Foundation Alumni House (SFAH), this establishment has now found its new home at the NUS University Town Stephen Riady Centre.

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The restaurant can accommodate 48 guests indoors and around 15-20 outdoors, having a minimalist design within its air-conditioned area to provide you with a good respite during the day. But watch out for the lunch hours though; the eatery can get really packed within its cooler interior, leaving you to settle for the seats outside.

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For our starter, we ordered the Shrimp Karaage w/ Mentaiko Mayo – deep fried shrimp in mayonnaise mixed with marinated roe. Upon serving, we were instantly hit by the intense fragrance emitted from the shrimps in the midst of our conversation.

We slowly savoured each shrimp in its entirety, with its already strong flavor enhanced by the mentaiko mayo dressing. We liked this dish because despite the strong flavours, each constituent’s taste managed to remain fully exposed, neither masked by the other.

To our surprise, the shrimps continued to remain crispy for the entire duration of waiting for the mains to be served – not a trace of sogginess was experienced!

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As one of the restaurant’s specialties, the Signature Wagyu Beef Rice Bowl is certainly a must-try when you dine at this place! By just looking at the Wagyu beef slices garnished with chopped spring onions and a generous portion of roe, we knew we were in for a treat!

Each piece of beef was sliced thin and of medium-rare texture, and we relished every tasty sliver.

Also, the rice served in tandem with the beef was slightly charred and thus afforded you with a smoky taste that complemented well with the meat! Furthermore, the onsen egg, sandwiched between the beef and rice, was well-needed in tying the entire ensemble of the dish together. A nice touch in caramelized onions was also included, to add to the myriad of flavours already in the bowl.

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Another heralded dish the restaurant offers is the Aburi Bara Chirashi Bowl – our portion was a feast for both our eyes and guts! We were pleasantly surprised by the variety of seafood that was presented to us – salmon, swordfish, octopus, Hokkaido scallop, as well as prawn. There was supposed to be tuna as well, but unfortunately, they ran out of it then and thus we were given more salmon as replacement – this goes to show how limited their portions are (as stated in the menu), so you’d better be quick to get yourself a portion before they are quickly snapped up!

Waa Cow’s take on this classic Japanese delicacy hit our palates in all the right places – the sashimi cubes are slightly blow-torched for a mild charred flavor; plus, they were combined excellently with vinegar rice, which, you guessed it, was also charred to release that smoky taste we had also gotten from the beef bowl.

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To make your dining experience at this eatery sweeter, Waa Cow gives the NUS family (including alumni) a 10% discount off your bill! Now tell me this doesn’t sound like a good dining option that is easy on your wallet!

 

The Royals Bistro

As the last outlet of Wendy’s Singapore drew its final breath, it left the NUS population wondering who was going to be the next occupant of that prime spot in Town Plaza. Then The Royals Bistro took over the location, and since its inception, has definitely been adding much vigor to the food scene in U-Town!

As you would have guessed it, this relatively new (since mid-2015) eatery is a part of The Royals group, which has been a strong contender in the Muslim market after having achieved the Halal Certification.

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You feel a sense of coziness immediately as you enter the restaurant, and Royals boasts a spacious interior with classic wooden furniture, high ceiling and the right amount of lighting. I particularly liked the circular table designs which very much encourages conversation with your group, as well as facilitates the sharing of food.

We initially thought that the restaurant has a free seating basis, given the lack of a reception desk at the entrance. It was packed when we had arrived, so the waiter directed us to the waiting area which consisted of cushion seats and coffee tables with magazines.

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Listed as a recommended dish in the menu, the Pan-fried Salmon is served with mashed potato and a side of greens. I was delighted to receive a well-seasoned large piece of fillet, which was tasty already on its own – the serving of lemon butter sauce seemed almost unnecessary. Also, as salmon is pretty sensitive to heat when cooking, it can be easy to overcook, and in my case, the meat had crossed over a little to the dry side.

Moreover, the mashed potato tasted a tad sourish for my liking and slightly seemed not to serve its purpose of complementing the salmon – a clash between two strong flavours is certainly not desired in this instance!

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We also tried the Linguine with Meatballs to see how the restaurant fared with whipping up this commonly prepared dish. Our reasoning was that the simplest of dishes may be ironically the hardest to master, being commonly produced everywhere, it would be hard to differentiate one version of the dish as the “best”.

To our satisfaction, the linguine was al dente – this solely should already serve as an indication of a good pasta dish! The meatballs were another plus point, not only was a generous serving provided, they were flavourful and disintegrated easily in the mouth. However, my only gripe was the amount of sauce which did not seem to cover the pasta adequately enough.

The restaurant also features pretty neat add-ons with any main course that you order – Set A offers you a drink (Iced Lemon Tea/Iced Honey Lemon), while Set B, a soup and a drink (Iced Lemon Tea/Iced Honey Lemon), for just an additional $2 and $5 respectively. A well-rounded yet decently-priced meal!

 

Butter My Buns

I’m very sure your friends will give you the hearing equivalent of a double take if you were to suggest this place; perhaps you would also invoke a fair amount of inevitable sniggering.

But as ridiculous (or suggestive) the name of the cafe may seem, your friends would definitely thank you for your recommendation after knowing what this eatery has to offer!

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Co-existing in the same area as Book Haven (the book store within Stephen Riady Centre at NUS U-Town), Butter My Buns can be accessed either via the entrance of Book Haven, or through its own entrance (facing the Town Green). The setting is not dissimilar to that of a typical cafe in Singapore, yet given the fact that it is situated within a school premises, this affords laptop users and heavy users of smartphones another reason to rejoice – the abundance of power points to juice up your electronic companions!

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Be it seated by the counter top with high chairs, or at the large rectangular tables, the cafe is sure to meet every need of its patrons – whether it’s to complete your assignment, catch up with good ol’ friends, or simply to get some well-deserved respite after a hard day’s work!

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The highlight of the cafe is surely to be its All Day Breakfast, featuring a large selection of typical breakfast sides we are used to, together with a few uncommon “non-breakfast” ones such as garlic bread and waffle hash. We particularly like how the eggs can be done in various ways – just like how music lovers can be divided in their music tastes, when it comes to eggs, lovers of this breakfast staple are similarly split according to how they like their eggs to be prepared. Those who like them scrambled, say aye!

The waffles were well made, especially agreeable to those who like them on the fluffier side. We tried them plain with honey and it certainly lived up to its name! The waffles were drenched with honey and each bite was a sweet sensation.

Party in the mouth, or just too much of a good thing, we let you decide (or perhaps the honey should just be served on the side to satisfy sugar lovers at both ends of the spectrum).

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For the All Day Breakfast, we went for the scrambled eggs, mac & cheese, B.M.B salad (we’re guessing it’s their trademark salad) and the sourdough bun, of course; I mean, we can’t not order the bun in this cafe now can we?

The scrambled eggs were on the creamier and moist side, which was to our liking; the B.M.B salad consisted of a nice balance of chicken and prawn slices, tossed with greens and bacon grits.  The mac & cheese was milky, creamy and slightly spicy, with the pasta done al dente.

And let’s not forget the sourdough bun, which was a delight to munch on! It was warm and fluffy on the inside, while crispy on the outside, and slightly (only slightly) sourish. Perhaps they should feature more bun options, considering how given its name, people would expect the cafe to specialize in serving buns and do well in it!

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Another item that deserves a special mention is the Thai Milk Tea Smoothie, which was a good alternative to coffee as a pick-me-up after a long day in school! Having a very strong milky taste, it would definitely appeal to those who like their Thai milk tea made that way.

Interestingly, there also was a slightly salty taste with each sip, which in my opinion was brilliant in accentuating the overall taste of the milk tea. Certainly you’re not a true cha yen fan yet if you haven’t tried the cafe’s take on this classic drink!

 

So go on, give yourself some free time and indulge in these new places. Share with us if they are indeed great add-ons to the vibrant food scene in NUS!

Photo credits: Lai Yinzuo and Nicholas Ong (for Waa Cow) and Deshawn Toh (for The Royals Bistro and Butter My Buns)

Nicholas Ong
Nicholas is a fourth year Pharmacy major who (when not buried in his notes) is finding new ways to inject a dose of quirkiness into people's lives; after all, perfect is boring.