SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Daniel Tan and Eileen Leow started out selling Japanese rolled omelettes and choux puffs. But when their pastry chef Alicia Wong's puffs began selling as fast as she could make them, they knew what they had to do next - open a dessert cafe "focusing on patisserie to tap on Alicia's strengths," says Mr Tan.
53 Tras Street, Opening hours: Mon to Sat: 12pm to 9.30pm, Sun: 12pm to 5pm
While the duo still run Koki Tamagoyaki and Shuu by Koki, a food kiosk at Raffles City, Nesuto - 'nest' in Japanese - comes from their belief that talented chefs should be celebrated. So while there are plans to add savouries to the current line-up of cakes and plated desserts, "we do not want to be known as a cafe," says Ms Leow. "We want to be a patisserie specialising in premium desserts."
The French-Japanese style cakes and entremets (plated desserts) are all meticulously made from scratch and baked fresh every day, and 80 per cent of the ingredients are imported from Europe and Japan. "We want everyone to have a chance to taste good cakes and desserts without having to go to hotels to have them," explains Ms Wong.
Contrary to the belief that having a specialised menu may mean lower costs, Mr Tan says it costs more to set up a patisserie than a cafe, because pastry equipment is expensive.
Also, ingredients - such as cherries from France, raspberries from Serbia and yuzu from Japan - are largely imported, which also add to the cost. "Our ingredients are highly perishable as well, and they cannot be frozen for an extended period for it affects the quality," says Ms Wong.
The 29-year-old has been a pastry chef for six years, most recently at Capella Singapore. Her fascination began in her childhood, when she often helped her grandmother bake Chinese New Year pastries.
Almost all the desserts at Nesuto are inspired by her work in the past. For example, crepes Suzette were very popular in the Capella. But flambeing on the spot is a tricky thing to do at home, "So I thought about turning it into a cake form so that everyone can enjoy it wherever they are," she says of her creation, Suzette.
Her other specialities include a light and fluffy yuzu raspberry cake, and the Foret Noir, a Black Forest entremet. Cakes are priced from S$9 a slice, and entremets from S$9.80.
The Affogato Bar
501 Bukit Timah Road #01-04B Cluny Court, Opening hours: 8am to 11pm daily
Coffee addicts, look no further. The newly opened Affogato Bar lives up to its name with no less than five coffee-based treats.
There is Death by Chocolate - chocolate sorbet and brownie chunks topped with Grande Tazza, a blend of coffee that has a sweet honey flavour and hints of Belgian chocolate.
A must-try is the Banana Ramble, where butter pecan ice cream, banana cake, fresh banana slices and pecans are topped with Mocharoma coffee, a blend of four origins with hints of apricot and a dry cocoa finish.
The Affogato Bar is opened by Fawr & Co, the distributor for Dimattina Coffee from Melbourne, XO Tea from Perth and West Coast Cocoa from New Zealand. Naturally, the same coffee, tea and cocoa are served here. Dimattina Coffee blends are used for its affogatos
Fawr & Co also supplies coffee to cafes such as Two Bakers and Pulse Patisserie, and cocoa to CreatureS and The Pourover Bar.
Its director Kelly Tang says: "Affogato is a classic Italian dessert where a scoop of vanilla ice cream is 'drowned' in espresso. As a distributor, we have access to various blends that allow us to pair the blends with specific ice creams. So what better way to showcase the versatility of our products?"
Since their opening last month, Ms Tang says the Death by Chocolate affogato has been the most popular, followed by Banana Ramble. The affogatos are priced from S$10.90.
While The Affogato Bar makes its own coffee, the ice cream is from a local supplier. "The ice cream is delivered to us every week and are only made upon order," adds Ms Tang.
The idea of just having an affogato-only shop seems to have paid off, thanks to a clientele which loves coffee and can't say 'no' to ice cream.
Creamery Boutique Ice Creams
139 Tyrwhitt Road, #01-03, Opening hours: 11am to 10pm. Closed on Thursdays
Frequent travellers to Bangkok would be no stranger to Creamery Boutique Ice Creams. The dessert shop, which has five outlets in the Thai capital, serves lava cookies topped with ice cream.
Founded by Singaporean Ian Lee and his Thai pastry chef wife Jerry Chompunush Jomsangawong in 2012, Creamery Boutique Ice Creams is now on home ground.
"As a Singaporean, I was eager to bring the brand back home," says Mr Lee, who had been searching for a suitable local partner. "A key consideration is that the partner has to be passionate about baking and committed to the quality of the ice cream and cookies."
He found that in Tan Chin Wan, a former food scientist who loves sweets and desserts. She personally prepares the cookie dough and makes the ice cream daily.
Mr Lee and his wife set up Creamery when they wanted to introduce artisanal ice cream to the Thai market. Rather than just serving ice cream on its own, they hit on the idea of lava cookies.
Customers pick from a choice of five cookies, with fillings that range from matcha to red velvet cream cheese and chocolate. The cookies are baked upon order. There are 12 ice cream flavours to choose from daily such as Black Dog, made from stout, and Black Pearl, made from rum and cookie dough.
The ice cream is placed on the lava cookie at the table, so customers can photograph the magic moment when the cookie erupts.
Mr Lee notes: "In Singapore, rental and labour costs make up a significant proportion of our costs compared to Thailand." So, rather than have a big menu with other desserts such as cakes, Mr Lee is sticking to just cookies and ice cream to give him a competitive edge. Plus there is plenty of room to innovate with the ice cream flavours. So far, customers seem to agree that his combination is still the cream of the dessert crop.