There’s been a recent surge in aesthetic Korean-inspired cafes on our island — not that we’re complaining.
If you’re in need of a breather and don’t feel like jostling with the crowds at Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, or Katong, head down to Novena for a quiet cuppa at a relatively hidden Korean-Japanese fusion cafe, Cafe Gui.
The cafe opened in mid-September 2022 to little fanfare and has been quietly dishing out comfort food, coffee, and desserts in Royal Square Novena, which we all know isn’t the most happening mall around.
Like the cafes you can find in Seoul, even Johor Bahru, Cafe Gui boasts a minimalist, all-white interior with rattan accents and tiny pops of colour. Keep a lookout for the adorable cat-themed decorations peppered around the cosy space.
The food menu consists of wholesome and aesthetically pleasing offerings like Bread, Mains, Rice Bowls, and even Noodles like Bibim Guksu and Japanese DanDan Noodle, which unfortunately were unavailable during my visit.
There are several sides to nibble on, like the Chicken Karaage (S$8.90), Gui’s Tamagoyaki (S$7.90) and Ika Geso (S$9.90), or fried squid tentacles, which I eventually decided on. These are pretty straightforward, taste-wise — crispy, chewy, and flavourful. As long as you dip ’em in Kewpie mayo with a spritz of lemon, it’s hard to go wrong.
Even though I was tempted by the Japanese Canadian Premium Okonomi Hotdog (S$13.90), an okonomiyaki-inspired hotdog topped with bonito flakes, I eventually went with the Gui Breakfast (S$16.90), consisting of sweet bread with torched cheese, melted ham & cheese, chorizo sausage, bacon, salad, and a sunny side up.
It didn’t have much of a wow factor but it is the kind of homely breakfast you’d make for a loved one on a lazy weekend morning.
Other equally substantial mains include seasonal sides and furikake rice with an exquisitely plated protein of your choice, like Salmon (S$20.90) or Beef (S$21.90). Those craving the heartiest of comfort food can choose between Japanese Ramen (S$9.90) or Korean Ramen (S$9.90) — perfect for rainy days!
Fans of Squid Game and/or bento boxes, in general, should make a beeline for the Dosirak Rice Bowl (S$15.90) served in a rectangular metal Korean-style lunchbox.
This is a textbook example of dosirak, featuring Korean spam, kimchi, stir-fried pork, and seaweed arranged neatly atop a bed of rice.
Give your dosirak (with the lid on, of course) a good and vigorous shake, until all ingredients have been evenly mixed, and enjoy.
This made for a simple and satisfying meal, although I would’ve preferred a lot more spicy kimchi and seaweed to balance out all that rice.
You can find the usual coffee and tea, including the likes of Iced Americano (S$4.50), Hibiscus Tea (from S4.50) and Flat White (S$5.50), but I opted for the special Dalgona Honeycomb (S$9.90), an iced white topped with sweet and crunchy chunks of honeycomb toffee (dalgona).
Alternatively, the refreshing Yuzu + Soda (S$5.50), Korean yuzu with soda water, is also worth a try, especially if you’re seeking respite from the heat.
The desserts here, however, are the real stars of the show. Choose between the unique Korean Black Soy Pudding (S$7.90) or Hojicha Pudding (S$6.90), which was too tempting to pass up. Although the texture was silky smooth, with a distinct fragrance of roasted tea, it could’ve done without the layer of caramel syrup.
I thoroughly enjoyed the beer-inspired Floating (S$5.90), jelly containing 2% alcohol that tasted exactly like a shandy (beer mixed with lemonade or lemon soda) AKA one of my all-time favourite thirst-quenchers — it’s a dessert I’d return for.
Cafe Gui may not be your go-to for anything gourmet, but it sure is a stellar spot for coffee and desserts over a good catch-up with your bestie.
See you in Novena, soon?
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