UPDATE SEPT 2009: THIS PLACE HAS CLOSED DOWN. It's been taken over by a vegetarian stall.
Modern Japanese cuisine at coffeeshop prices - that should be a hit with Singaporeans, given their love affair with Japanese food. Cilantro Modern Asia, formerly a restaurant at Purvis Street, aims to bring higher end Japanese fare to the heartlands, at my neighbourhood coffeeshop of all places!
We saw the signboard and menu put up but waited til they had a few weeks to settle into their operations here. You can read more about their background on ieat's blog. Today we came here to try them out.
The tempura don (S$6) comes generously with two prawns, carrot, pumpkin, okra and eggplant fried upon order and served sizzling hot. The tempura is well-executed by coffeeshop standards. The short-grain rice, however, is of inferior quality. That's lamentable as rice is a big part of the don (rice bowl) experience. But for S$6, you are not going to get those plump, glossy, chewy grains as you would from a reputable restaurant.
As with most tempura don, the sauce poured on top, along with the steam from the rice, tends to make the fried items soggy real fast. I shall remember to ask them to serve the tempura separately next time.
We were curious about the vaunted beef wagyu don (S$9.80). Yes, the beef is "meltier" than what you get in usual beef bowls but I had to concentrate to tell the difference. The intense flavour of the sauce seemed to overwhelm any delicate fragrance of the beef. Still, it was pretty tasty, even if lacking in true wagyu wow factor (for that, you'll need Aburiya's wagyu karubi). Wagyu is still best eaten seared in portions at least 1cm thick, so they retain the delicious fat. Just my humble opinion.
Again, as with the tempura don, the rice is the letdown. Both the rice bowls come with miso soup that has tofu cubes and wakame (seaweed).
There is a chilled display case in front of the stall, holding the desserts. We saw three kinds but chose the chocolate banana mousse (S$4.80). They sure didn't hold back on the chocolate. It's extremely decadent, rich and dense with a layer of caramelised banana pulp in the middle. The whole thing is a bit too sweet for my liking but I'm sure dessertaholics will rejoice while savouring this.
Service today was warm and friendly. They even use a restaurant-style order-taking machine and give out receipts. It'll be interesting to see if "heartlanders" will embrace Cilantro and make it a success.
CILANTRO MODERN ASIA
Blk 59 Marine Terrace #01-71 (modern Japanese)
Opens 8.30am (but only breakfast items like mee siam at that hour) until 9pm
Two other outlets at:
Blk 51 Old Airport Road #01-37/38 (probably the restaurant's mainstay offering)
Blk 28 Bukit Merah #01-4476 (Western)
Contact Jackie at mobile 9795-0289