In the cutthroat world of dainty cafes, Jewel Coffee must be doing something right to open a second outlet. Just 5 minutes’ walk from Farrer Park MRT (exit B), the stunning industrial chic decor is represented by concrete and brick walls, embellished with copper plates, the shape of jewels, and crystal light bulbs that cost $500 each.
Chef Alvin Tan, who honed his skills at One Rochester and Les Amis, created the menu together with banker-turned-owner Adrian Khong. When I congratulated Adrian on his second outlet, he said, “You have to focus on the simplest stuff like good service and good food.”
And true enough, the food was not bad. Breakfast and brunch are served from 9-11am on weekdays and 9am-3pm on weekends and public holidays. But for our tasting, we went the whole 9 yards and tried the soup, salad, pastas, and burgers.
The French onion soup ($8) is capped with baguette crust of three cheeses, Swiss cheese, Parmesan and gruyere. I would prefer the soup to be more concentrated although one of the journalists at the tasting named this her favorite dish. Another recommended starter is shio-koji octopoke ($12), Jewel’s rendition of poke, a Hawaiian raw fish salad. Jewel’s version uses pan-seared octopus that is tossed with wasabi, extra virgin olive oil and shio-koji (a Japanese fermented rice marinate). The octopus is then placed on top of a bed of avocado and ginger flower. We all loved the complexity and delicateness. This is a must order but order one just for yourself because it is so delicious and the serving isn’t exactly big, you won’t want to share.
The OMG! Burger ($20) is really OMG! and proves that I’m a brute. While the ladies named the elegant octopoke as their favorite, mine was the burger because the burger was something a caveman would eat, substantial and mean. Between the brioche buns are crispy bacon, USDA beef patty, luncheon meat, cheddar, lettuce and sunny side-up. Jewel tasted 14 brands of luncheon meat in a blind test before deciding on this X brand. The patty was perfection in itself, cooked just right, browned outside, pink within, and when I used my hands to eat like a cavemen, the juice flowed down my fingers. Everything in the burger was already umami on its own but when you put 5 umami ingredients together, it was *ka-ba-boomz*. Seriously, this was an unfair fight against my diet. To quote Abba, “My my, how could I resist you?” A must order.
While the fusion umami prawn capellini ($22) was delicious with a creamy undertone–pasta was first cooked under al dente and then simmered with homemade crustacean oil to absorb all the goodness–this was clearly from the iconic Les Amis dish with spin-offs at Saveur, 2fifteen kitchen and Noodle Story. Jewel’s version had bonita flakes and little bubbles of roe that gave the dish a lively texture.
The tender pork is imported from Spain in miso presa iberico ($34) and is marinated thoroughly in miso and mirin, giving it a sweet and salty combination. And the pan-fried Chilean black cod ($32, pictured below) was equally, if not more, impressive. I never order fish, which is my favorite meat, in restaurants because, let’s face it, fish is bland and I could steam it at home and add soya sauce. But somehow, Jewel’s black cod had an awesome marinate throughout the very fresh fish, flesh that fell of the fork in chucks not flakes. Though a little costly, both mains are must orders.
For drinks, there are cocktails and of course, what made Jewel famous in the first place, coffee. Jewel has bought a roasting machine and will roast their own beans from next month onwards. It only serves coffee from a single origin (no mixing of beans from different countries) because a coffee connoisseur can differentiate where the coffee comes from. We are no experts in coffee so we asked for the most exquisite type and was recommended cold brew. As the name suggests, cold brew uses cold water to steep through the coffee beans for an extended period of time. At Jewel, 20 hours of steeping produce 3 liters of coffee. Using such a process, the coffee is smoother and more concentrated and has a lower acidity than using hot water. We tried the San Francisco ($7) cold brew, which had a sharp sourness mellowing into a sweet bitterness. But if you don’t drink black coffee, this might be too intense.
With coffee, we had desserts. While there are only 4 desserts on the menu now and they don’t look very interesting, the mains and burgers are stars of the cafe. We shall return to eat all the burgers and the mains.
Jewel Cafe & Bar
129 Rangoon Rd
T: 6298 9216
Closed on Mon.
Rating: 3.458/5 jewels
PS: Thanks, Chenyze, Carlyn and Adrian, for the invite.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.