Everyone please assemble.
Another post dedication to my new café buddy, Liz! Yes, this one is for you, you pink kitty hoarder. (I know you are, deep deep down). Café visiting (the term hopping is a little oversubscribed now, isn’t it) is an actual addiction, I may embarrassedly admit. See, I would be at school working on my extended essay, but since they didn’t have the chemicals I needed that day for me to continue playing at and experimenting with waxy red lipstick, I jumped at the chance to pop by a new café relatively near where I stay. We squealed like idiots over the mere idea, but I don’t regret any willful squeal. No, I don’t really squeal. But for coffee and salted caramel waffles? Yes, I do squeal. Assembly it was.
I said it. Salted caramel waffles. I wondered if they would be comparable to the ones we had at Strangers’ Reunion, that nicely hidden waffle haven, propped up in the middle of a pancake stack of old Chinese shophouses will colourful boards and near-garish signs. This place wasn’t quite as hidden, seeing as it was tucked away nicely near the Botanical Gardens, where my father and I walk to every single Sunday anyway. A huge ‘A’ greeted the two of us as we approached, which really appealed to me in particular, for dreadfully obvious reasons. I liked that a lot.
Before I blabber on the wonders of crisp and fluffy waffle world, I’d just like to apologise in advance for the iPhone-quality photos. Special creds to Liz’s cam, she’s lovely for letting me snap away like a deranged foodie lunatic , but no, I don’t always happen to have my Nikon handy. And you know what? These preserve memories just as well.
The place was much more of a nook than a full-blown artisan café yard, which was more charming than off-putting, and hey, at least the place wasn’t fusty. Lit golden from the back interior, with a couple of round tables exposed to some soft sunlight. Almost in love already. After some surprising encounters with old faces, we sat down. A woman (who apparently is also the barista) was walking around, pretty heavy-handed with her red lipstick, gathering cups and saucers of quirky, contrasting colours (think lavender and a bright sun-yellow). I didn’t miss out the arrangement of homemade cakes at the front either. Assembled at Assembly Coffee. Quite ready, quite thirsty.
The iced mocha is nothing to shout feather and fame about. It was, frankly, a milky mess with a dusting of added sweetener, severely lacking in any rich mocha flavour, let alone a smidgen of caffeine. I remember admiring the traditional gradient of colour as it was brought to the table, rising from steep chocolate to alluring white with flecks of cocoa on top. The first sip was all milk, so I went ahead and stirred rather thoroughly, like how you would attempt to dissolve sodium hydrogen-carbonate in water with a glass rod to make the perfect 3% concentration. And still, mostly milk. Mostly. Alright, it was decent and refreshing, albeit far from impressive. I’ve encountered worse and I’ve had spectacular. Fell on either a 4 or 5.
The waffles came like an angel on wings shortly after. Rough-handed squeezing for that criss-crossed weaving of salted caramel, a patchwork of beckoning, tongue-tingling sweetness atop a 7-inch wide babe of buttermilk waffle. And for the heck of it, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In all honesty, that one scoop did no justice for the pairing. There should have been at least two (and gargantuan scoops, at that) to balance the rigid honesty and fluffiness of waffle with cool vanilla and salted caramel. I took my first bite, after carefully laying a bite of waffle with a good smear of caramel and ice cream. Flavours played like kids in my mouth.
Ok, it’s not exactly the bomb diggity salted caramel buttermilk mania. Once again, a serious lacking of salt in that department, but nevertheless, one cannot refuse to appreciate or acknowledge the humble beauty of that waffle. Decently crisp on the outside, with a white, light and fluffy belly. Note how I said decent. Which basically means they could’ve upped the crisp factor just that little bit more. The sort of waffle which would go all nice and squidgy after a few turns with ice cream. Buttermilk clearly does wonders in any waffle case. The ice cream offered a good vanilla flavour, though don’t expect anything artisan. They should definitely consider adding a menu option of ‘two scoops’. Really. These were good, no, great waffles, but something about them made me feel as if they still did not quite match up to the ones at Strangers’ Reunion, for those alone were absolute perfection on a plate. If I may recall correctly, they were even more crisp with better aeration throughout its slightly thicker body. Don’t get me wrong, the ones at Assembly are perfectly desirable little circles of goodness, and they went perfectly with two hours of conversation and iced home brew, but they aren’t the ones I would claim to be stellar, or the best.
Tart tart. Sweet meringue. Dense, rich, not overly cloying, balanced with the only mildly sweet cracker crust. A beautiful ochre colour. Honestly, there was nothing to complain about there. My fork sank to the bottom with the right tension as it eased through the thick, I’m-holdin-it-together passionfruit curd, which yielded the most wonderful bright notes, playing up the heavily whipped meringue and carefree crust. Loved. It. And would you look at the caramel curls on top.
As I left, I bought a slice of their homemade strawberry cheesecake for $6.50. As a child, I was a cheesecake aficionado, and seeing this humbly decorated cherub in the glass display brought about a myriad old memories, coated with rich cream cheese. I excitedly opened the square plastic packet when I got home. Too excited to take a picture, obviously. I let my fork slide right into its insides, and then nudged at the tender biscuit crust beneath. Immediately, I sensed a definite sogginess at the bottom, realising that it was probably due to the moist body of cake. It was half-collapsing, almost broken into two messy halves. A quick bite left me disappointed, for it was neither tart nor rich, despite yielding a good amount of sweetness. Pale, numb, young. The only thing which should be improved on is the structure and signature tanginess of a good cheesecake, because the ease with which my fork underwent was slightly worrying. I had a half slice anyway, because on the whole, it’s a good homemade cheesecake (with a few limp,thinly-sliced strawberries on top. Who else loves picking glazed fruit off cake? It’s a carnal pleasure).
They call it third-wave coffee movement. I say I’m coming back for the hot coffees and yolk-impregnated eggs.
26 Evans Road
Telephone: +65 6735 5647