Ply me with alcohol and I’ll likely get into a silly fit and start pondering why this cool diner serving Japanese Italian cuisine is named Caffé B. It brings to mind my mother’s lesson in humility. “Be the best that you can be, such that if you claim to be No.2 no one would dare take the No.1 spot,” she used to say. And where I’m at now seems to a curious case of my mother’s logic. Or perhaps the B is really short for the verb to be and a reminder to everyone to live in the moment and enjoy it. See what I mean?
Blame it on Caffé B’s artisanal cocktails. The Lycheetini ($22) features vodka laced with fresh lychee juice, lychee liqueur and rose bud sugar syrup. I took a sip of the Sake Cucumber ($22) and Heart ($25) that my friends ordered while waiting for the others to arrive. The former is muddled fresh cucumber, brown sugar, home-made simple syrup, lychee juice, kiku masamune sake and ginger slices served in a teapot, while the latter is a sweet and sour concoction of yuzu plum, lime juice, fresh raspberries and cassis. Silliness inducing or not, they succeeded in getting us to relax before we sat down to dinner.
Caffé B offers a seasonal menu featuring the best produce available, all selected by Chef Masanao Saito. Since there were six of us, we ordered an assortment of everything to share. Communal dining has its advantages.
For starters, I liked the Beef Carpaccio ($18) that offered thinly sliced wagyu beef on a mesclun salad laced with flavourful ponzu jelly bits, served with garlic chips and a truffle salsa.
For those who prefer fish to meat, the Tuna Carpaccio ($16) with sliced tuna, fresh peach, amera tomato and yuzu dressing promptly hit the spot. (cover pic)
The oyster fans among us dug into the Hiroshima Oyster ($15), a pair of large fresh oysters served on crushed ice with wasabi foam, ikura and a yuzo dressing.
I’d already eaten two eggs for breakfast so I decided to pass on the Farmer’s Egg ($12). It came laced with creamy clam espuma, shio konbu seaweed, sea urchin, lemon jam and chives and I was persuaded to dig my spoon in for a taste. It was yummy in a comfortable sort of way but I’d hit my egg quota for the day.
The Japanese twist in the dishes was unmissable as well in the pastas and rice dishes. The Golden angel hair pasta ($32) is served cold, tossed with white truffle oil and topped with sea urchin, shio konbu seaweed and chives.
The Risotto Lobster Singapore ($28) looked like a nod to a local favourite, offering butter risotto simmered in lobster broth, served with chilli lobster meat and parmesan cheese. An interesting twist on chilli crab. Equally satisfying was the Pork Porpettini with Cheese Tortelli ($22) served with spring cabbage and eggplant in a savoury tomato sauce.
We thought we couldn’t eat any more but somehow found our appetites back when the mains arrived at the table.
The excellent Lamb Rack ($24) offered up tender lamb without any hint of gaminess. The UK Sea Bass Fillet ($28) is served with tomato and turnip in a really tasty sauce pastis. Everything looked so good.
I would usually avoid battered fried chicken but enjoyed a morsel of the Pollo alla Diavola ($18) — chicken leg marinated with chilli padi, paprika and garlic. Anyone who likes beef will enjoy the Wagyu al Porto ($38) served with mashed potato and sautéed baby spinach, mushrooms tapenade, miso powder and yuzu pepper sauce.
We had two red wines throughout the evening but I was partial to the Il Pollenza Cosmino Cabernet Sauvignon ($14/glass $60/bottle). It was a balanced wine that went very well with all the dishes.
I may not know why Caffé B is so named, but I’ll accept it as it is. What I do know is that if you’re looking for a good place to spend a convivial evening, catching up with friends over yummy food and drinks, you have to check it out at its new home on Club Street.