Situated within Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), Torte is the kind of cafe that only people who know of its existence will come. There is limited free parking in the compounds but please say hi to Pai Kia Chef, Chef Jason, and inform him you’re parking there and eating at his cafe. Otherwise, he will kan you like siao, berate you like crazy. That’s why he’s known as Pai Kia chef, he speaks what’s on his mind. Actually, I met Jason at the Sweet Charity Event and he issued an open invite but I procrastinated until now.
The area isn’t huge, all outdoor siting, either at a small yard-like garden or along the corridor of SCWO. It may get stuffy on warm days. The decor itself is makeshift. But the lack of design means that the investment goes into the quality and standard of the food.
The menu isn’t extensive but it changes daily for lunch specials ($10) and dinner specials ($13).
The meatball baked in tomato, parmesan and mozzarella cheese was not on the regular menu. It was ok but a little oily and the meat tasted a little powdery.
Buffalo Wings (8 pcs, $9) with blue cheese dip, made in-house, were nicely done. Weren’t too oily, very crispy skin and it wasn’t dry in the flesh. The wings could be just a tad spicier and the blue cheese to be smellier.
Basa Fish & wedges with salad ($10 for lunch, $13 for dinner). Although the wedges were run-of-the-mill supermarket sort, they were cooked with much skill with its edges crispy. The salad is worth a mention because although Melicacy and I don’t like vegetables much, we liked the coleslaw salad. It was fresh, crunchy and sourish with vinaigrette, making it appetizing. Basa fish, a catfish native to Vietnam and Thailand, was very fresh without the slightness bit of stench. The batter was thin, and the meat was fleshy. An accomplished dish.
Penne Beef Bolognaise ($10 for lunch, $13 for dinner) was done al dente so the pasta retained the bite. It was, however, a little watery. The salad again was excellent and different from the previous salad. It was a mixture of mesclun with rocket in a delicious vinaigrette dressing, topped with a little cheese.
The roasted chicken ($10 for lunch, $13 for dinner) was very tender and juicy and (I liked it that) the flavors didn’t come on too strongly. It was mild and despite its looks, it could be considered something light. But the side dish of arborio rice stole the limelight. A short-grained Italian rice used mostly for risotto, the rice was cooked in butter, caramelized onions and roasted garlic oil, and since rice is very absorbent in nature, it carried all the incredible flavors with a texture that was firm and creamy.
We tried two risottos: mushroom risotto in cream sauce with truffle oil and monkfish risotto in cream sauce with truffle oil. Of the two, we preferred the former because it was more fragrant–the truffle scent really hits you–and the combination of flavors worked better. The monkfish appeared a little bland and needed a touch of salt. They both needed some tweaking, more flavors .
We started off with a deconstructed Apple Pie ($4.50). It came in a glass with three layers of apple: a crunchy uncooked layer, a softened cooked layer; and the thoroughly caramelized layer cooked with nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. Raisins and cranberries were added. Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Quite original and so tedious to make but a pity the effort didn’t translate into the taste. The apple was dull and didn’t come across strongly in the dessert named apple pie.
Creme caramel with gula melaka ($4.50) was irresistible. It was similar to but heavier than flan and creme brulee, very dense and very addictive.
Torte ($3, with ice cream $4.50), pronounced as “tort” or “tort-tay” or “tort-ta,” is what the cafe is named after and naturally it is the show-stopper. Torte is a flourless cake so this one was very dense, tasting almost like burnt dark chocolate, and was very very rich yet light at the same time. A must-order.
For drinks, the popular drink is iced tea ($2), which is a non-milk version of the Thai milk tea. It comes in sweetened or unsweetened. It was very refreshing. Another recommended drink is the Steward’s bottled sodas ($4). We tried the Key Lime–not too sourish and not too sweet–and was refreshing too. There are beers and wines that range from $8-$12 only.
The cafe won’t get any michelin stars soon but the food is simple, sincere and home-cooked. Everything we tasted ranged from satisfactory to fab. And the price is hard to beat. The keyword for Torte is “unpretentious,” conducive to hang out with mates. Where in town can you get food at such prices? A pity it closes so early. Kitchen closes at 2pm and 8.30pm for lunch and dinner respectively. Jason is strict about these rules because he wants to let his employees go back on time.
96 Waterloo Street
Closed on Sat
Rating: 3.474/5 tortes
PS: RERG thanks Jason for the food tasting and the hot boys of six and seven for hosting us.