I was out of place in my worn gym tee and khaki berms at Clan Cafe at Straits Clan which used to be the Majestic Hotel along Bukit Pasoh Road. A woman scanned me from head to toe with disdain. Men were dressed in straw hats or straw fedoras with oversized white linen shirts and beige chinos like they were gentleman-farmers out of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Some slicked their hair back like Italian dons and were in cropped sleeved tees a la 80s aerobics John Travolta. Thin, tall, modelly women with chic short bobs or straight long hair in ponytails wore loose, flowy blouses and suit pants. I haven’t seen such a beautiful crowd in a long time. Apparently, there is a de facto dress code here: no flip flops and wife beaters.
It is hard to describe what Straits Clan is. Operated by the Lo and Behold Group, the “project” took after the “clan” concept during the founding years of Singapore when Chinese joined clans of their dialects or regions. You may have heard of Fu Jian Hui Guan 福建会馆, Hokkien Clan. (These clans also acted as secret societies in the past.) You need to buy membership to access their gym, bar, a restaurant called The Tasting Room, and co-working space. The only area that doesn’t require a membership is the Clan Cafe, which is at their lobby.
The menu at Clan Cafe is consulted by local chef Jeremy Nguee who used to operate mod sin restaurant, Preparazzi. It’s a simple menu with healthy food like rice bowls, salads, broths, sandwiches, herbal teas, and kombucha brewed in-house. Coffee is sourced from Papa Palheta. I had their cold brew ($7) which was over-roasted and thus sour.
The miso salmon rice bowl ($17) comes with three bite-sized pieces of seared salmon, lotus roots, edamame, and sugar snaps. The rice is a brown colour but has the texture of sticky glutinous rice. Servers encourage us to mix the bowl, but since there is no sauce, it is not necessary. It tastes ok, you know. It’s just that, without much culinary expertise required.
The rempah chicken salad ($17) fares much better and is visually stunning with a myriad of bright colours, although you can’t really taste the rempah. It comes with cauliflower, purple yam, grapes, pomegranate, and greens mixed with a sweet, white creamy sauce. Not sure what the sauce is, but taken as a whole, it’s a pretty balanced (and pretty, and balanced) bowl of salad.
A thick slice of otah ($16) is sandwiched between two slices of comte cheese, which in turn are sandwiched by two pieces of brioche bread, toasted and buttered. There are three slices of these finger sandwiches. Like the rempah chicken, the spice in the otah is made for angmoh palate, and the cheese has further taken the edge off the spice, but still, it’s quite delicious. A nice contrast of textures from the toast and soft otah.
The kueh salat cake ($6.90) is very popular here and runs out quickly. When I was there at noon, there were only 3 slices left. But I compare it unfavourably to Chalk Farm’s version which every foodie worth their dime knows is the best in Singapore. It’s much sweeter than Chalk Farm’s version, and the sugar overwhelms the pandan flavour. They need to heed HPB’s recent “reduce sugar to taste the flavour” campaign. Also, the rice is slightly hard, unlike Chalk Farm’s rice which has texture but is still moist. To be fair, it’s not a bad rendition but once you’ve eaten Chalk Farm’s cake…
On the whole, the food here is simple and clean, designed for the modern lifestyle of hipsters; it’s pleasant but there is little culinary skill required and I prefer cafes that cook their food a la minute. You can easily assemble the ingredients yourself at home but people come here for the beautiful decor and to be seen. Two of us paid $75.20 including GST and service charge, but why were we charged for service when we had to order at the counter like McDonald’s? Pretty expensive for cafe food, huh?
31 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089845
tel: +65 6320 9180
10am-10pm, closed Sun
Service: NA (Pay at counter and they bring the food. Minimum contact but they are nice and dressed dapper.)
You may be interested in…
–Old Hen Kitchen, Owen Road: Good but Only Really Requires One Visit
–Thus Coffee, Upper Thomson: Renews My Faith in Cafes
–Good Thyme Bistro, AMK: We Don’t Even Have to Try/ It’s Always a
–Best Food 2017 Part III: 5 Best Cafes of the Year
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.