Everyone who’s been to Japan knows the Japanese love their afternoon tea. Quaint little cafés packed with Japanese housewives chatting and socialising over dainty cakes and cups of tea are a common sight. Of course Singapore's no stranger to this, with our multitude of chi-chi coffee hangouts - one of which is the recently opened Watanabe Coffee.
Watanabe Coffee is the second venture abroad of Japan, following the success of the first Wa Café opened in 2013. Housed on the ground level of Shaw House, this outfit offers a similar Japanese-Italian fusion menu, as well as Wa's signature beverages: a freshly-brewed Siphon, a Dutch-Style Cold Brew, and a Uji Matcha premium Japanese green tea.
As its name suggests, Watanabe Coffee prides itself on serving gourmet coffee. The Siphon Coffee is prepared with Sumiyaki beans - essentially a special Wa blend of beans that have been charcoal roasted. Each cup of Wa Café Blend (S$8.80++) is freshly prepared using specialist Japanese Siphon equipment that come from Japan and are unique to Singapore. The Dutch-Style Cold Brew on the other hand uses the traditional cold drip method, which requires the grounded Brazilian beans to be steeped in room-temperature water for 8 hours. Long hours of preparation and only few apparatus means the limited quantities of the coffee are served daily.
Dutch-Style Cold Brew (S$5.80++ for regular; S$6.80++ for large)
We were fortunate enough to sample the cold brew. Very slightly acidic with cocoa undertones, the coffee had a clean mouth-feel and was fantastically smooth. It was miles apart from the sweeter ordinary cold brew, instead minimally retaining coffee's characteristic bitterness. We especially loved the attention paid to the drinking medium: pure copper mugs with high thermal conductivity are used in hopes of keeping the coffee cold for as long as possible.
Japanese Matcha Latte (S$7.80++)
Non-coffee diners would be pleased to know Watanabe Coffee's matcha beverages are no lesser than their coffees. While we can't tell if the quality matcha used made a difference, it is without doubt that they make an amazing matcha latte. Very mildly sweetened, the tea latte was rich and intense, while similarly preserving its signature underlying bitterness. What most impressed was its microfoam and velvety texture: much like a good flat white, the steamed milk was expertly incorporated into the drink, lending to delightfully creamy drink.
On weekday afternoons, Watanabe Coffee offers a Tea Set (S$11.80++) which includes a drink and a cake. It's a real bang for your buck considering the prices of beverages themselves, and a good excuse to have a taste of their delectable Japanese desserts.
Japanese Matcha Pudding (S$8.20++)
Of everything we tried, their matcha pudding was our favourite. Think a silky smooth, melt-in-your-mouth crumble-upon-touch custard, more creamy and akin to panna cotta, that is packed with the bittersweet fragrance of matcha. The pudding alone was very lightly sweetened, with the drizzled syrup and accompanying azuki paste bringing additional flavours. All in all a sopisticated dessert.
Japanese Cheese Souffle Cake
Slightly different from the usual Japanese cheesecakes, Watanabe Coffee's consisted of two distinct components: a top layer of light souffle cheesecake, and a bottom layer of aerated sponge cake. That gave the tea cake more texture while staying moist and light.
Matcha Ogura Honey Toast (S$16.80++)
What came as a huge disappointment however was their Shibuya toast. Visually it was stunning: two scoops of ice cream, some azuki beans and shiratama, sitting on a cloud of pretty piped cream, atop a golden Shibuya toast. Unfortunately it tasted less impressive. The toast was not crisp, more chewy than fluffy, and wasn't cut well into neat cubes - we had a tough time trying to tear off even the tiniest piece. The slathering of butter was also inconsistent, so some bites were yummy and others were bland. The pretty but undercooked rice dumplings did nothing to help either. For such a promising sounding dessert, it was a huge letdown and by far the worst Shibuya toast we've tasted.
Despite the one - albeit major - mistake, everything we had at Watanabe Coffee was simple but delicious. While we cannot vouch for their savouries, their sweets and beverages are definitely worth a try. It is also a bonus that the café-restaurant has multiple electric ports and offers free Wifi, making it the perfect spot for workaholics, students, or the average Singaporean who'd prefer Facebook with their afternoon tea.
350 Orchard Road
Isetan Scotts Level 1
Mondays to Thursdays, & Sundays: 11am-10pm
Fridays & Saturdays: 11am-11pm