Not your typical cafe: Curious Palette’s new menu puts an Asian spin on pastas, meats, and desserts

Photo: Curious Palette
Photo: Curious Palette

When you’ve been around for a while as Curious Palette has, outlasting all the other cafes that ride the fickle wave of trends, sometimes you gotta switch things up every now and then to keep diners coming back for both signatures and new creations.

Since its launch in 2015, the popular eatery has seen students and cafe-hoppers pass through its eclectic space, and now it’s heading in a fresh direction, collaborating with chef Desmond Shen from culinary pop-up Magic Square. Curious Palette may be helmed by the same team behind Strangers’ Reunion, but it goes beyond brunch to offer an inventive variety of snacks, sweets, lunch, and dinner in a revamped menu that just debuted this month.

In other words, it’s not your typical avocado toast, eggs benny, or acai bowl cafe. (Those are overrated, anyway.)

Fried cauliflower. Photo: Curious Palette
Fried cauliflower. Photo: Curious Palette

Sauces and dips are made in-house, like the sweet and savory fish sauce caramel, which is drizzled on battered and fried cauliflower ($11.90). The florets, flecked with curry powder and tossed in a lemon emulsion, are the kind of easy-to-eat snack you can imagine popping into your mouth while conversations go on around you, only stopping when the bowl is empty and you feel slightly regretful that you’ve inhaled it all. Plus point: Those wary of greens won’t realize they’re eating a vegetable, which is ideal for tricking convincing them to take a bite.

Sugarloaf cabbage. Photo: Curious Palette
Sugarloaf cabbage. Photo: Curious Palette

If your only experience with cabbage comes from picking it for your cai fan (mixed rice dish), the kitchen’s sugarloaf cabbage creation ($12.90) takes the humble leaves, roasts them, and serves them with a mix of toasted nuts, seeds, buckwheat, and fried curry leaves, a butter and seaweed emulsion, and a wobbly poached egg. It’s definitely not treated like a mere side dish here, although rice enthusiasts may wish for a bowl of grains to soak up the last drops of sauce.

Moving on to the mains, the selection of buns, pastas, and meats have a bit of an Asian spin to them, using ingredients like belacan (fermented shrimp paste), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and soy sauce, as well as fermented, cured, and pickled foods. Choose from prawn mentaiko belacan pasta ($18.90), with grilled tiger prawns and chilli powder in a sauce of prawn and shallot oil, butter, and belacan; or seaweed pasta ($17.50) topped with spring onions, leek chiffonade, and wakame powder.

Prawn mentaiko belacan pasta. Photo: Curious Palette
Prawn mentaiko belacan pasta. Photo: Curious Palette

Taking inspiration from the Korean ssam (lettuce wrap) dish, the sous vide short rib ($29.90) in soy sauce, mirin, burnt onions, and apple juice is finished with burnt soy and brown butter. Great for protein-heads avoiding carbs, the meat can be wrapped in lettuce with a dash of yuzu kosho for that peppery kick. Other options to try include dorper lamb saddle with curry butter yogurt ($26.50), the cafe’s version of butter chicken, and a lovely buttered brioche roll stuffed with crayfish, prawn mayo, and fried capers ($19.90).

Slow cooked short rib. Photo: Curious Palette
Slow cooked short rib. Photo: Curious Palette

To end, a familiar breakfast item takes the dessert route. Think melt-in-your-mouth white bread, buttered and toasted, spread with kaya and gula melaka, and layered with a hunk of coffee butter ($9.50). Just like the morning dish, this one comes with a sous vide egg and “soy sauce” (espresso shoyu) for you to dip each slice in.

Kaya coffee butter. Photo: Curious Palette
Kaya, coffee butter. Photo: Curious Palette

Just as much attention is paid to the drinks (especially the coffees) as the food, so you can sip on the signature Magic ($5.50) mix of double ristretto and milk, or go for the new coconut cold brew ($6.90) with cold-pressed coconut juice, coconut water, and filtered coffee. Tea lattes, smoothies, craft beers, and wines are also available for those who like to linger after a meal.

 

FIND IT:
Curious Palette is at 64 Prinsep St.
6238-1068. Wed-Mon 9am-10pm.

MRT: Dhoby Ghaut/Bencoolen

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