The Affogato Bar: That does more-than-decent bagelwiches
To be honest I never got the affogato. If I wanted a good cuppa, I’d just settle for a regular black coffee with all its lovely aromas and scents clearly discernible. If I wanted a milky or sweet coffee, I’d be more than pleased with the humble and awesome kopi. Get it beng if you need something cold. And if I wanted dessert, I’d have gone all out with a mind-blowing scoop of gelato. What’s the appeal of mediocre vanilla ice cream mixed with possibly subpar coffee?
When I first told my sister there’s now a café specialising in affogato, she said: “What? Why would someone open such an uninteresting café?”
“Wait, an affogato’s just a black coffee right?”
Clearly not the brightest of the lot (sorry sissy I still love you!), but she’s definitely not the only one out there who doesn’t exactly understand what an affogato is. I can’t speak for the founders, but perhaps increasing awareness and introducing the affogato to the masses was the reason behind this concept.
Or could it be to change the perception of affogato that people like me hold?
It could be both if you take a quick look at their menu. “Death by Chocolate”, “Pot of Honey”, “Carota Carota”; even without their descriptions, it’s obvious these aren’t your typical affogatos. TAB reimagines desserts and cakes as affogatos, playing with different ice creams, fruits, and crumbs to jazz up the ol' classic. Gotta say they all sound pretty enticing, even to those who aren't big fans of the coffee dessert.
It's not just the flavours that are getting particular attention: TAB uses 4 different coffee blends for their desserts, each supposedly complementing the other components in the desserts. They've got the Columbian Prima Tazza with hints of hazelnut and blackcurrant; Brazilian & New Guinean La Tazza boasting a bold dark cocoa taste; Costa Rican Grande Tazza of honey and Belgian chocolate notes; and a floral and fruity Nicaraguan Mocharoma. All sounds fab and dandy, but do they really translate in the constructed desserts?
Carota Carota (S$13.90+) — Carrot cake ice cream, carrot cake, chopped walnuts, homemade cream cheese, topped with a double shot of Mocharoma
For one I definitely didn't get any floral or fruity overtones with this Carota Carota. That's not saying it wasn't good; with the tangy cream cheese, earthy toasted walnuts, and cinnamon-y carrot cake bits, this was in fact my favourite of the lot. Can't say much for the ice cream or the espresso, but it did taste like a deconstructed carrot cake, and was yummy take on the affogato I'd happily try again.
Banana Ramble (S$12.90+) — Butter pecan ice cream, banana cake, fresh banana slices, pecans, topped with a double shot of Mocharoma
The remaining 2 flavours we tried, unfortunately, were lacklustre in comparison. Take the Banana Ramble: barely any hint of the tropical fruit beyond the obvious slices, which were also just short ripe, and none of that buttery, caramelised flavours I'd expect from its description. The acidic brew did nothing to improve on the whole dessert, and kinda made me wonder if they paired the Mocharoma just cause of its "floral and fruity" description? Like fruity espresso to fruity creation? (Psst, note the inconsistent volume of crema in their espresso shots.)
Death by Chocolate (S$13.90+) — Chocolate sorbet, brownie chunks, chocolate streusels, chocolate top hat, topped with a double shot of Grande Tazza
Definitely seems so when you consider the Grande Tazza's "honey and Belgian chocolate" profile with that of the Death by Chocolate. Once again: acidic brew, not bold or chocolatey, with a bitter dark chocolate sorbet that is icier than it should be (which says a lot about the quality of the sorbet), resulting in a dessert that's overly bitter and acidic. Exactly like a badly pulled shot.
The thing about espressos, is that they turn really acidic when flash chilled — regardless of the quality of the beans. Sure better beans may have a tad more character than lousier ones, but at the end of the day when you flash chill a freshly pulled shot you lose all of its fragrant oils and essential aromas. Which really is what happens when you pour your hot espresso onto cold ice cream. That on its own renders TAB's effort of introducing 4 different blends moot.
And that's not the worst. As the temperatures of the chilled espresso and melting ice cream evens out, little chunks of ice start to form, adding a very unpleasant crunch to the whole mixture. If there was one big no-no for affogatos, it'd be having ice in it.
Granted, I never tasted the components on their own so I really can't say how great the ingredients are; what I can say, though, is they don't go very well together all the time, and as well thought-out as they appear they seem to be rather haphazardly put together.
Can I also add that they took 45 minutes to make 3 affogatos for us, with just one other table occupied then?
Special Bagel of the week: Smoked Chicken (S$13.90+) — Smoked chicken, arugula, maple walnut & raisin cream cheese
While their speciality of affogatos left me less than impressed, imma put it right out there and say I rather enjoyed their bagels. I'm a sucker for good bagels, having been spoilt rotten by Two Men Bagels, and TAB's completely exceeded expectations. The house-rolled bagels nailed the dense, chewy factor, while still fluffy enough for me to down an entire portion on my own.
Breakfast Club (S$12.50+) — Cooked ham, cheddar, egg, mesclun mix, gruyère béchamel sauce
Which I did with their Breakfast Club. Essentially a bagel-ised club sandwich, this was hearty, comforting, and nothing short of delicious. It's not fancy at all, but the ingredients melded well together, and I really liked how their hard-boiled eggs was perfectly done. None of that powdery yolk, I guarantee. The sauce wasn't overpowering, even with the extra slice of cheddar, nicely welding every component together. This is one bagelwich I'd very delightfully return for.
Deli Beef (S$14.50+) — Corned beef, arugula, red onions, sun-dried tomato cream cheese
Of course, not all bagelwiches are created equal; some combinations just don't work as well as others. I liked the sun-dried tomato cream cheese in their Deli Beef, but found the meagre slices of processed corn beef not too appealing. Especially not when the pungent raw onions end up overpowering the subtler flavours. Slightly imbalanced overall, but still a decent bite thanks to the fantastic bagel and cream cheese spread.
I may be among the few — my lovely sisters included — to find their affogatos falling short of expectations. From what I've been gathering over the gram and net, it seems TAB's been getting quite a lot of positive feedback (though describing their Death by Chocolate as rich and decadent is a vast difference from what I experienced myself). Maybe they had a bad day when I popped by, maybe they've made changes and improved along the way, maybe I'm just the odd one out. One thing's for sure, I doubt I'm falling in love with affogatos any time soon.
The Affogato Bar
501 Bukit Timah Rd
#01-04B Cluny Court
Opens daily from 8AM-11PM