It seems as though Keong Saik welcomes a trendy new restaurant every month. Some, like Kok Sen and Burnt Ends, have stood the test of time, but countless nameless others lie forgotten. Over on the quieter stretch of Jiak Chuan Road lies a new contender and it's armed itself with a novel concept, Instagrammable nooks and food, killer coffee and just about everything it takes for a café to succeed these days.
Settle into a banquette on the first floor, where beautiful portraits of African women stare into your soul and the long espresso bar or climb up to the second floor to unwind on large leather couches that are the focal point of this living room-like space. No detail goes unnoticed at Kafe Utu. Not the hand-carved mirrors and doors that lead out to its outdoor event space, not the custom-made glassware and ceramic coffee cups etched with its logo and definitely not the food, which is a mix of African cuisine as well as brunch favourites with enough of a twist to keep things fresh.
It comes as no surprise that its owner, Kurt Wagner, spent his childhood living in Liberia, South Sudan and Kenya. His love for the continent and its people, art and flavours shines through in this space that stands for “humanity” in Kiswahili. Kafe Utu is a faultless example of a third place you’d want to spend all day at. Order a coffee – its selection goes beyond the usual black and white. The Bidibado ($7) is a mocha rimmed with peanut butter and pink peppercorns that’s neither too sweet nor bitter but if it’s a caffeine kick you’re craving then get the Ibada Ritual ($6), four ristretto shots poured over creamy chilled Hokkaido milk. As for the food, zoom in on the curries that are different from Indian, Chinese or Southeast Asian cuisine.
The Swahili fish curry ($29) makes for an easy introduction. A thick cut of red snapper is cooked with tamarind juice, coconut milk, yoghurt, habanero peppers and tomato and curry paste and tastes akin to Peranakan-style assam fish, but not quite. The firm fish is perfectly cooked and holds its own to the mildly spicy gravy that’s served with fragrant coconut basmati rice. There’s also the Liberian peanut chicken stew ($28), a thicker and sweeter blend thanks to the addition of peanut butter and the Caribbean goat curry ($28), a peppery concoction balances out the gaminess of the meat.
A trip to Kafe Utu isn’t complete without a taste of its crowning glory, a fluffy ricotta hotcake ($24) topped with vanilla ice cream, berries and cardamom maple syrup. Sounds basic? We know. But that didn’t stop us from ordering a second helping. And it won’t stop us from heading back for more.
IT IS Singapore’s only African café and lounge serving coffee,curryandcool vibes
TRY THIS A taste of something new like spice-infused coffee served in a beautifully decorated space
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