The brainchild of Asia’s Next Top Model (Season 3) second runner up Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw and her mother, the one-year-old Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar and Bistro in Clementi, is a Western bistro serving wholesome food with a healthy twist.
Said Cheng Wei, 53, Aimee’s mother and restaurant co-owner, “All around our area, there is lots of local food, which may be tasty but is not so healthy. So I thought that if I could make something nice, simple and healthy, then that would be good.”
Serves Hearty yet wholesome Western American Food
She added “My food is basically Western American style food but I also have introduced things that are more suitable for the locals, like fusion pasta dishes and tapas to go along with the beers that we sell. At nights we sell Craft beer – and I am confident enough to say that not many cafes are selling as many types of Craft beer that we have. My main focus is on good quality and reasonable price.”
The idea behind this casual bistro & bar had initially been conceptualised by Aimee, who grew tired of having local supper fare and fast food deliveries as her only post workout late dinner options. So she had then given her mother the idea to cater to other like-minded professionals in similar situations.
So Cheng’s was set up, with a kitchen that closes at midnight and a hearty menu that strikes an 80 per cent – 20 per cent balance between wholesome and indulgent fare, and the restaurant soon stared to make waves in the Clementi area as a place to go for busy yet health conscious Singaporeans.
Targets residents in the West Coast of Singapore
The restaurant currently targets residents living in the West Coast of Singapore. Said Cheng “There are lots of Japanese expats, Caucasians and Singaporeans living here but there is no simple Western food along this area, so I thought I should start up a shop selling Western food.”
She added “Our target audience was initially students of the National University of Singapore (NUS) – as students said they have limited choice of food especially at nights after school, but now we are focusing on West Coast residents as students may not have the spending power to come to our cafe regularly.”
The food at this bistro is prepared by Chef Benson Tong, a local award winning celebrity chef who has made appearances on MediaCorp TV’s Cook-Off shows as a guest judge and has recently revamped the menu to celebrate the eatery’s first year anniversary.
Together with my parents, we were recently invited to Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar to try some of their dishes.
At Cheng’s, the Breakfast menu is typically available daily till 5.00pm.
Big Breakfast ($18.90)
A main breakfast staple at most American restaurants, the version at Cheng’s comprises of grilled pork sausage, bacon, hash browns, sunny side up eggs and caramelised watermelon.
Said Cheng “This is a common traditional breakfast item but we added a healthy twist to it with the caramelised watermelons. This was Chef Tong’s idea – he wanted to replace the normal grilled tomatoes in this dish with watermelons to add something different to it, so that it becomes more unique and interesting.”
The caramelised watermelon certainly struck me as being unique. When I tried some, I felt that the caramel flavour had seemed to add a slightly sweet note to the normally plain watermelon and to a small extent this reminded me of the toffee apples that I used to eat when I was young.
And the bacon was delicious – it was crispy just the way I like it and it had a slight smoky flavour to it. The sunny side up eggs were also cooked to perfection, with the yellow egg yolk oozing out onto the plate. The sausage was also very meaty and it had plenty of bite. Dad liked the sausage. He commented that that it was “firm and meaty.”
And the hash browns were hot and crispy, though they were a tad on the thick side.
My mother really loved this dish, and she found that she could not stop eating it – especially when it came to the eggs.
Cheese baked Hokkaido scallops with Mentaiko ($16.00)
These are scallops served in the shell and cooked with some marinated pollock roe.
Said Cheng “We use the Japanese round scallops – this had been Chef Tong’s idea because this is the choice of scallop used in many Japanese dishes. As we have a lot of Japanese customers coming to our restaurant, we want to cater to them, through this dish.”
On tasting this dish I thought that the mentaiko (pollock roe) flavour came out strongly. The scallops were juicy and moist, and when eaten together with the melted cheese and the marinated pollock fish roe, the flavour was fairly unique. I think that this dish will probably appeal to seafood lovers.
The main courses are typically available from 6.00pm onwards but according to Cheng, diners can still have these earlier on in the day if they request it.
Cajun Chicken Leg Confit ($19.90)
Comprising of chicken slow cooked in Cajun marinade, this dish is served with sweet potato fries and seasoned vegetables.
Said Cheng “This is our signature dish. We started serving this when we first opened our shop a year ago and it is marinated with our special Cajun sauce and roasted in the oven – so that makes it healthier than the deep fried chicken that many other places serve. Customer feedback towards this is very positive.”
I really enjoyed the dish. The chicken had been very well marinated, with the Cajun flavour, but at the same time, not overpowering the meat.
Some of the chicken was deliciously soft and moist. However, other parts had been a little dry, though. But otherwise this was still a relatively yummy dish.
The Wagyu Charcoal Burger ($22.50)
Served together with paprika flavoured French fries, this burger consists of a Wagyu beef patty served with melted Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, Gherkins, onions and arugula (salad/garden rocket vegetable) and comes with a black Charcoal bun.
Said Cheng “Our burger is unique because we use a Charcoal bun and this makes it special. Our smaller charcoal bun is specially made by the supplier and we toast it with butter before serving it.”
She added “The patty is Wagyu beef imported from Australia. We insist on grass fed cows instead of grain fed ones as this makes the patty more juicy and tender. Two weeks after we launched this item, customers ordered this burger every night and they have commented that it is very delicious.”
My favourite part of this burger was probably the Charcoal bun! The bun was crunchy on the top and soft and warm on the inside. It also had a yummy buttery taste which made it even more delicious.
Overall, this burger is a very substantial meal. The generously sized Wagyu beef patty is meaty, filling, and tasty. The topping, including the tomatoes, Gherkins, onions and salad rocket, helped to give it a refreshing flavour and added crunchy texture at the same time.
I also quite enjoyed the paprika flavoured French fries and found myself continuously munching on these. The paprika gave the fries a delicious and slightly spicy kick which I had thought was pretty addictive.
Baby Back Ribs ($22.90)
This dish comprises of half a slab of pork ribs together with sweet potato fries, corn and purple coleslaw.
Said Cheng, “This is a typical American style dish that goes well together with the beer that we have. It is also a good choice for families to share when they want to come for their weekly Sunday dinner gatherings. It is a welcome and a safe choice.”
The ribs had a smoky BBQ flavour, but at the same time, did not overpower my taste buds. However I would have liked to have the ribs to be just a little bit softer.
What I thought unique about this dish though, was the lychee pops that were placed as a decoration on top of the ribs.
And when the lychee pops are placed into the mouth, they explode, immediately giving off a deliciously subtle yet sweet lychee flavour. I thought they were really pleasant and went well with the savoury flavoured pork ribs.
Said Cheng “We get the lychee pops from suppliers and it adds not only a nice decoration but also sweetness to the dish and combines with the meat. We have had customers saying that this is interesting. It is a creation of our chef.”
She added “If you feel that the meat is too oily, then the lychee pops are also a good contrast and they add that extra bit of sensation to the dish.”
The sweet potato fries were also another intriguing addition to the dish, and they replace the standard French fries. Said Cheng “Normally ribs go with chips but we thought that if we did something different, that would make the dish more unique. We chose sweet potato because they are a popular choice for young people who are concerned about their health.”
Compared to your standard potato chips, which are usually served well seasoned, these sweet potato fries have a natural, sweet flavour coming from the sweet potatoes, and this gives them much more flavour when eaten without too much seasoning or salt included.
Dad enjoyed these sweet potato fries, and had mentioned to me that they taste a lot better than French fries. He had also liked the sweetness coming from them.
Tower of Belgium ($13.00)
This is a dessert comprising of crispy Belgium waffles stacked and topped with coconut ice cream and fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries).
Said Cheng, “This is a simple waffle dish but to make it more unique, we stacked the waffles on top of each other instead of serving it as many other shops would do.”
The waffle is definitely yummy. It was quite light and warm and and I loved the generous helping of maple syrup which had been added to the dish. The coconut ice cream, which melted in the mouth, also added a nice contrast to the waffles and it was a good balance of hot and cold inside the mouth. The coconut flavour was not that strong, though.
Unfortunately, because we had left the waffle sitting for a while prior to eating, to take photos of it, the waffle was not quite as crunchy as it should have been. However it was still a delicious dessert that I enjoyed and ended up eating more than my fair share of, though.
There are three signature drinks at Cheng’s and these are the:
- UltraViolet Floral Cooler ($6.20)
- PassionFruit Mint Tea ($6.20) and the
- Earl Grey and Thyme Sparkler ($5.50)
Out of these three, my favourite one was probably the Ultraviolet Floral Cooler. A mint-based drink, this is a very unique creation because it is served blue – but upon dunking the lime “ice tray” into the glass, the colour magically changes to pink.
Watch magic happen as the UltraViolet Floral Cooler changes from blue to pink.
The flavour is also delicious with the sweetness of the mint together with the tangy flavour of the lime – it is a perfect contrast that I had really enjoyed.
The PassionFruit Mint Tea is also yummy, bearing a strong, tangy flavour of the PassionFruit and it is also served with a piece of caramelised PassionFruit inside the glass. Thanks to the piece of fruit inside, there are small chunks of passionfruit inside the glass too, adding to the refreshing fruity flavour in this tea.
For the Earl Grey and Thyme Sparkler, the flavour of the Earl Grey tea is not as strong as I had originally thought, thanks to the Thyme herbs, but I thought the combination of these two flavours were quite interesting and they balanced out each other well, without either one overpowering the other.
My mother, who is not typically a fan of the traditional Earl Grey Tea, also commented that she had enjoyed the Earl Grey and Thyme Sparker drink and added that it had been quite refreshing for her too.
As a whole, the food here is definitely hearty and wholesome and I rather enjoyed the meal. The portion sizes may suit diners with a bigger appetite.
Both my parents had also commented that they had a good hearty meal and that they were both feeling quite full after the dinner.
Thank you again, Cheng’s Gourmet Food Bar, for the media invite to the food tasting session.
Cheng’s Gourmet Bar and Bistro is located at:
28 Clementi Rd, Singapore 129758
Tel: + 65 6464 0617
Daily Brunch/Lunch: 11.30am 5.00pm
Daily Dinner: 5.30pm 11.45pm