Amber Ember smacked in between Serangoon MRT and Hougang MRT has an inauspicious name. Amber is a shade of yellow, ember is a piece of glowing coal in dying fire. In spite of the inauspicious name, it has survived three years in the competitive F&B industry and undergone renovations recently. Despite the location, business was brisk when we were there; all tables were occupied.
Their menu is mainly carb/bread-based. There is jaffles (which is like panini, except they press brioche in a waffle cast iron) which range from $11 to $13 depending on the fillings. There are sourdough selection ($14 to $22), breakfast bowls ($11 – $13), and pasta ($21 – $24).
Ingredients in the miso butter prawn ($24) include seared tiger prawns, furikake miso butter, creme fraiche, bonito flakes, kizami nori, and fettuccine. It is superb, extremely rich, thanks to the miso butter. The bonito gives it a pungent aftertaste, adding to the complexity of the dish. The prawns are fresh and firm. It’s the most expensive pasta on the menu but totally worth the money.
From the “jaffles” selection, the fowl play ($12) offers a meatier option among the rest, the rest are mostly cheeses or cured meat. Fowl play is a sandwich that includes lemongrass-ginger roast chicken thigh, mozzarella, chimichurri, and garlic aioli. In other words, it tastes like it is inspired by Thai food. It is quite tasty, but recently we had an orgasmic beef cheese sandwich at Tapasta Bar, and fowl play pales in comparison. Also: the sandwich is way too complicated, too saucy, too wet. Sandwiches are eaten with hand and the aioli on top makes it hard to hold the sandwich.
For a cafe that is so focused on breads, I was surprised that the breads were supplied and not baked in-house.
Their waffles are buttermilk based and John Lemon ($14), a pun on the legendary boyband member, possesses the same fault with the previous jaffles: there are just too many things going on both dishes, too busy, making them too complicated like a toxic on-and-off relationship. The waffles is topped with homemade lemon curd, berries, passionfruit, thyme crumble, and vanilla ice cream. We don’t understand what it is trying to achieve. Instead of a cohesive dish, the flavours are all crying out for attention like spoilt children at a childcare centre. Does it want to be savoury with the addition of thyme? Why so many sour ingredients? This is a mess.
The waffles itself has room for improvement: it isn’t fluffy enough and the taste is bland. But it is passable.
From the simple food menu, I surmise that they are really focussed on their coffee. You can tell how serious they are by the austere way they name their coffees, no playful names like the food. It’s black ($4), white (3 oz $4/ 7oz $5), espresso ($2.50), and cold brew, an additional of a dollar for ice. The coffee is roasted by Cata coffee and each glass is double shot except for the white 3oz and espresso.
Coffee is a personal thing. I found it acceptable but my partner scrunched his face. The coffee here starts off very sour but mellows into a berry aftertaste. People would call it complex.
Although the food has thought put in them and isn’t the usual cafe fare, it is strange to pair complicated food in a minimalist setting. They should have kept the food easy breezy. Less is more. We spent $66 for two persons, including service charge but there is no GST.
Price / value:
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.