Don't hate it because it's hip

Wedged between restaurants offering hotpot and those serving dim sum on Temple Street is a cafe that is unabashedly hipster.

Think rustic decor (pots and pans on the wall, a collaboration with blogshop Au Lapin Noir) and a chef cooking with his headphones on, among other hip touches.

Some shudder when an eatery or restaurant is labelled with the dreaded "H" word.

Still, if you give Arterial a chance, you'll likely be charmed.

The Chinatown cafe opened in July, and sold sandwiches and small bites, until chef Shen Tan (formerly of Ujong and Wok & Barrel) stepped in.

She specialises in modern Singaporean cuisine, and worked with resident chef Leong Heng Siong to revamp the menu.

Now it focuses on sharing plates cooked with fresh ingredients, with almost every component being homemade.

I like how homely the dishes are. The portions are generous - important in this age of austerity - and the flavours are as bold as the plating is demure.

Arterial seems to be fond of using dou miao (pea shoots) as a garnish. It enhances the dish with that spark of "green", but if you hate the taste - I know some do - just skip it.

But be sure to stay for a coffee.

Arterial uses beans roasted by Liberty Coffee, which is almost a guarantee that your cuppa will be good.

FYI ARTERIAL

24 Temple Street

Opens Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 10pm, closed on Monday

TEL: 6222-8589

MUST-TRY STEW

The must-try here is Hunter's Beef Stew ($16.90). It features slow-cooked beef and tripe in a tomato-based stew. I love the hearty taste of a braised dish.

That it was not as heavy as it appeared was also a plus. I wish they were more generous with the vegetables, but that took nothing away from the stew as a whole.

UNUSUAL FIND

Another item I love is the pork aspic terrine ($13.90), something you don't usually find at cafes. Those who are squeamish may want to give this a miss, but this dish has pig's ears, belly and tongue. It's so light and refreshing, I could finish the plate by myself.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The meatballs in the Meatball al Forno ($11.90) are juicy, yet retain the right amount of "bite", especially when eaten with the dou miao.

It's not a show-stopper, but it's great if you're on a budget and want to share.

SAUCE OUTSHINES WONTON

My problem with the Arterial Handmade Wonton ($11.90) is that the sauce is better than the dumplings. The balsamic vinaigrette is delightfully tart, yet mellow, and it steals the spotlight from the rather ordinary wontons.

CHOCOLATE OVERDOSE

To me, it can't be called a cafe if it doesn't offer a good cake, and the Mocha cake ($6.90) hits all the right spots. It's super moist and not too sweet. You'll be floating on a chocolate high after a bite.


This article was first published on Nov 26, 2014.
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