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Tired of the boring old brunch staples at the endless stream of cafes in hip – and “ulu” (Malay for rural or far-flung) locations that have sprouted up over the past year?

You’re not the only one. More often than not, cafe food falls into two categories: the dishes are either played safe, or they sound good/avant garde on paper but ultimately fail to deliver when it comes to taste.

Ditching insipid in favour of the inspired, here are five cafe dishes I sussed out that’s worth the trouble – and the money.

Beef & Grains ($24) from Sin Lee Foods

Always an encouraging sign when the menu proudly blares: “We don’t and won’t serve Eggs Benedict”. And boy, does this coffee-shop-turned-cafe serve up creativity in spades – I’m a big fan of the addictive Salted Egg Sweet Potato Fries ($12) and Aburi Broccoli Salad ($12).

The real winner here is its Beef & Grains, though, a umami medley of slippery sauteed orzo pasta, a generous portion of seared medium rare striploin and a fried hen’s egg done furikake-style. A couple of sweet and sour ginger slices on the side’s perfect for cutting through the richness.

Where: 4 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, #01-164  Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru

Open: 11am-9pm (Tue-Fri), 9.30am-9pm (Sat), 9.30am-6pm (Sun)

Tel: 6377 3170  Info: http://www.thebatterpeople.com/

French Toast Salpicon ($19) from The Missing Pan  


Salpicon roughly translates into the Spanish word for hodgepodge – an apt description for The Missing Pan’s surprising sweet-savoury hit.

The French Toast, crowned with a variety of fruits (dragonfruit, blueberries, strawberries) and fried nuggets of banana, looks innocuous, but dig deeper to discover a trove of chicken chunks, mushrooms and spinach stuffed inside the bread.

Drizzle over the accompanying strawberry smoked maple syrup, complete with berry chunks, to bring it all together for a filling – if unconventional – meal.

Where: 619D Bukit Timah Road  Nearest MRT: Botanic Gardens

Open: 10am-10pm (Tue-Sun)

Tel: 6466 4377  Info: http://www.themissingpan.com/

Atlantic Cod Misua ($24) from GastroSmiths Bistro & Bakery

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Run-of-the-mill surroundings nonwithstanding, newly-opened GastroSmiths – located on the ground floor of the Marrison Hotel – boasts some serious culinary chops.

Don’t miss out on the Atlantic Cod Misua, featuring two plump, flaky hunks of cod resting on a bed of chewy beehoon that’s been tossed with homemade kimchi puree.

The dishes are pretty pricey, but plebeian this joint definitely isn’t.

Where: 103 Beach Road, junction of Tan Quee Lan Street  Nearest MRT: Bugis

Open: Noon-2.30pm, 6pm-9pm (Tue-Thu), noon-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm (Fri & Sat), 11.30am-3pm (Sun)

Tel: 6336 3680  Info: http://www.gastrosmiths.com/

Krabby Patty ($18) from Rouse

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One of this year’s new wave of halal cafes, ultra-hipster Rouse bucks the trend with some bold, well-conceptualised dishes.

Take their Krabby Patty, for instance, a generous amount of shredded crab meat jammed packed into two patties and dressed with perky mango salsa.  

It isn’t always a home run, however, with the freshness of the patty varying on my visits. The dish can also make you feel “jelat” (slang for feeling overdosed) fast.

Where: 36 Dunlop Street  Nearest MRT: Little India

Open: Noon-10pm (Mon, Wed-Thu), Noon-11pm (Fri & Sat), Sun 11am-7pm

Tel: 6292 2642  Info: https://www.facebook.com/rouseondunlop/

Sweet Corn, Coriander & Potato Rosti Benedict ($24) from Chopsuey Cafe

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Okay, so it’s another version of Eggs Benedict, but the PS Cafe Group’s Chinese fusion concept takes this classic to another level.

Wok-fried potato rosti replaces the usual muffin for a nice crunch, while the sweet corn and coriander on top supplies the requisite Asian touch. Nicely poached numbers complete the pretty picture.

This is one dish that tastes as good as it looks. Only available on their brunch menu.

Where: Two locations, including Block 10 Dempsey Road, #01-23

Open: Check website for full listings

Tel: 9224 6611  Info: http://www.pscafe.com/

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on December 31, 2014. For similar stories, go to http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.