Helmed by Kurt Wagner, Kafe Utu opened its doors in January 2019 as a homage to Mr Wagner’s childhood, living in different African countries including Liberia, South Sudan, and Kenya. Marrakech and Monrovia are just two of the cities that Kafe Utu draws inspiration from, as their offerings include dishes from all across the African continent’s diverse cuisines, featuring unique takes on staples from Somalia, Kenya, and more.
The devil is in the details, as the space has been thoughtfully designed to be “African in every detail”; art lines the walls, trinkets are scattered throughout, and even the doors and mirrors are hand-crafted with traditional Lamu and Zanzibari motifs – all of it a nod to the diversity that is African culture and tradition. Let your eyes feast first in this space, for it has been placed nine in the top 50 most Instagrammable cafes in the world by travel platform Big 7 Travel!
And when your eyes (and camera) are done feasting, Kafe Utu brings the heat with Cacao Kali, their fiery rendition of a classic hot chocolate. Utilising Mork dark chocolate, the beverage is both rich and smooth, sliding down the throat with ease. A sprinkling of nutmeg adds a festive touch, while the addition of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper introduces a tingle of warmth that lingers on the tongue and the back of the throat. Topping it all off is a dollop of cinnamon-infused whipped cream, rounding out the bitterness of the dark chocolate, and mellowing out the spice for a delightful finish.
In a nod to traditional African dishes, we opted for the Maharagwe for our main course, a Kenyan bean stew. Hearty and homely, Kafe Utu’s Maharagwe was served still bubbling, with the aroma of spices wafting through the air and whetting our appetites.
Featuring a hefty portion of fava and cannellini beans cooked down in a stew made of coconut cream and mirepoix (flavour base created by cooking down diced vegetables), every bite of the dish was chock full of flavour. The gravy was surprisingly light, with slight hints of acidity. Fatty bacon and pork sausage within the dish delivers a bold, smoky note, which pairs perfectly with the creative addition of creamy paneer cubes – perhaps an ode to the dish’s Indian influences.
To complete the dish, Kafe Utu’s homemade chapati (a flatbread originating from India, now popular in African cuisine) is served on the side, the perfect vehicle to mop up any remnants of the stew, which you will most definitely want to do!
And finally, desserts! Our choice of sweets is the Nakupenda, a Swahili fried dough topped with their in-house soft serve. The soft serve changes depending on the flavour of the day, but we got to try the espresso, which packed what we believe to be at least two shots of straight-up caffeine. Served atop a slightly sweet fried dough reminiscent of a mash-up between a donut and youtiao (a chinese dough fritter), the dessert felt a tad too heavy for our liking, and would have been better if the espresso flavour was milder and lighter to balance out the fried dough.
12 Jiak Chuan Rd
Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm, 6 – 10.30pm
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
In the heart of the bustling Central Business District (CBD) lies Dumplings.RU, where they specialise in – you guessed it! – traditional Russian dumplings. Located at a corner of Maxwell Chambers, the eatery has an unassuming shopfront that reveals a cosy space within. Adorned with Russian and Ukrainian knick-knacks, be transported into a quaint and quiet European enclave upon entering.
Do come on an empty stomach, as portions here are hearty and sure to fill you up! We started off with the wild hog (pork) dumplings, boiled dumplings with a generous filling of moist and tender minced pork. Unfortunately, we felt that the meat was a little bland, and could have benefitted from more seasoning. The dough wrapper was thicker than the traditional Chinese dumplings we may be used to here in Singapore, but was nice and chewy.
Vegetarian options are available as well! The paneer cheese dumplings came steaming hot. This was a winner for us – the creamy paneer filling was beautifully seasoned, and came speckled with pieces of coriander, adding a herbaceous note that lifted the otherwise heavy dish.
In traditional Russian fashion, the dumplings are served with a dollop of sour cream, and white vinegar was available tableside, as well. The condiments worked surprisingly well, with the acidity cutting through the richness of the dumplings.
To accompany our meal, we ordered the kompot, a traditional Russian homemade fruit punch. Tangy, ice-cold punch to beat Singapore’s sweltering heat, with fruity notes of raspberry and just a slight hint of sweetness, there is nothing to not love.
32 Maxwell Road, #01-05, Maxwell Chambers
(Tanjong Pagar MRT, Exit B)
Monday: 5.30 – 10.30pm
Tuesdays to Sundays: 12 – 2.30pm, 5.30 – 10.30pm
No journey is complete without desserts, and those with a sweet tooth will love this last location! Right smack in the middle of Isetan Scotts within Shaw House is Leckerbaer, a Danish pastry shop specialising in traditional Danish cookies known as småkager (pronounced smaw-kay-er). First founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, the branch in Singapore is Leckerbaer’s only shop outside of its home country, and a definite must-try for anyone looking for a taste of Danish sweets.
While they may all be Danish cookies, each and every one of Leckerbaer’s eight flavours are wholly unique, ensuring that there is a little gem of sweetness to suit everyone’s taste buds.
Two favourites of ours were Milk and Vanilla. The former features buttercream icing sandwiched between decadent milk chocolate cookies, and topped with icing sugar – think Oreo, but elevated; every bite brought a taste of nostalgia.
Meanwhile, the latter comprises a vanilla cookie topped with a mango-yuzu curd and a dollop of meringue delicately perched above. The cookie here was softer, resembling a sponge cake more than a cookie, its vanilla flavour pairing beautifully with the aromatic mango-yuzu curd. Atop, the meringue was brittle, crisp, and airy, providing a slight crunch to the dessert, and a kick of sweetness to mellow out the slight astringency and tartness of the curd.
Finally, an honourable mention goes out to the Chocolate, consisting of a chocolate cookie base slathered with a blackcurrant jam, and finished off with a milk chocolate disc. Taking a leaf out of the Blackforest playbook, this treat had a good balance of flavours, blending the sweetness of the chocolate, the tangy blackcurrant jam, and a mild nutty flavour from the cookie, which introduces a layer of complexity to the dish.
At S$2.80 (US$2) per pop, these cookies are a tad pricey, but will make for a great gift, or even a treat for yourself for some self-pampering!
350 Orchard Road,
Isetan Shaw House #01-K2 and #01-K3
Monday to Sunday: 10.30am – 8.30pm