The Populus

December 19, 2016 Ivan Teh - RunningMan 0 Comments

The Populus
146 Neil Road

http://www.thepopuluscafe.com/


Roasted Cod & Soba Noodle Salad
Roasted Cod & Soba Noodle Salad (SGD $24)



Progressive, Well-Balanced Cafe Nosh

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 7
Ambience & Setting: 7
Food & Beverage: 9
Service: 6
Value for Money: 6
Spent about SGD $33 per person.


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Founded in October 2015 by co-owners Andrew Lek and Kang Yi Yang, the same folks behind equally popular, Austalian cafe styled Department Of Caffeine, The Populus is a forward focus 'gastro-cafe', offering tasty, well-balanced dishes that pack bold flavour, big portions, and look pretty to boot. Named after the latin word for 'the people', The Populus sees a good crowd on most days, and advance reservations are recommended.

Ambience at The Populus is styled after modern, contemporary cafes in Australia. Housed in a restored shophouse, the patterned glass facade with swing door allows you entry into a warmly lit, yet elaborately designed place. Textured wooden surfaces, whose panels were fitted piece by piece, jut from the walls. Functional wooden furniture surround the elaborate pyramidal pillar, which has light emanating from it. Ventilation is better than elsewhere, as the kitchen is located on a different floor, so no cooking smells here.

Service at The Populus is partial self-service, where you order and pay over the counter, but staff serve orders to your table. While the perform tasks fast and efficiently, they seem unsure if questioned on the menu. Diner turnover is high, so staff are efficient at clearing away empty / dirty tables. While there is a proper automated queue system, there is no waiting area, so you'll have to stand around until a seat is available.

Food at The Populus is modern European / Australian in style, with each dish featuring a good mix of flavours and textures. Largely fusion cuisine, a blend of Western and Asian flavours and ingredients. Taste of most dishes is generally good, and portions are large and hearty. This makes dining here somewhat value for money, though prices are slightly higher than most other cafes. Budget about SGD $33 per person for a decent meal here.

Having visited The Populus several times, I must confess it's among the most memorable dining experiences for me in 2016. The ambience is comfortable and relaxing, service is decent enough, but the food is incredibly good. Nearly everything I had here is tasty and filling, with each component well executed. Affordable, consistent quality. Absolutely love this place, and will return for more!


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The Populus Exterior


The Populus Interior


The Populus Menu
Menu


Menu


Counter



Seeing that their coffee beans are roasted exclusively by Two Degrees North Coffee Co., it's no surprise the Soy Mocha (SGD $7) is pretty good. Deep robust flavours here, aromatic and enticing.

Soy Mocha (SGD $7)



The Honduras Cup Of Excellence #17 (SGD $7.50) is so named because it ranked number 17‌ in the 2016 Alliance For Coffee Excellence (ACE), Cup of Excellence (COE) global competition. The coffee beans originate from the San Pedro De Tutule municipality, in the La Paz region of Honduras, from the El Matazano farm owned by Francisco Antonio Castillo David. The brew has a body which is smooth, velvety, juicy, and fully rounded in texture. Tastes of cherry, plum, orange, blueberry, chocolate, and honey. The acidity is malic, crisp, tartaric, structured, and persistent. Highly recommended!

Honduras Cup Of Excellence #17 (SGD $7.50)


Honduras Cup Of Excellence #17



The Kenya Kangunu (SGD $6.50) uses coffee beans which originates from the Aberdare mountain range in the Nyandarua county of Kenya. The brew has a body which is rich, buttery, lively, and full bodied in texture. Tastes of pomegranate, peach, blackcurrant, brown sugar, and blood orange. The acidity is tangy, bright, floral citrus, clean, and sparkling. Highly recommended!

Kenya Kangunu (SGD $6.50)



Was sorely disappointed by the Speciality Mork Hot Chocolate (SGD $7.50), whose thin, insipid body is bland and tasted diluted. Fancy name, but fails to live up to it.

Speciality Mork Hot Chocolate (SGD $7.50)



The Cold Drip Coffee (SGD $6) here is very good. The body is smooth, light, and refreshing, with a decent aroma of roasted coffee beans. On the palate, it has a medium acidity, sweet then bitter, with a short, clean finish. Good!

Cold Drip Coffee (SGD $6)


Cold Drip Coffee
Cold Drip Coffee



Grain bowls are their signature speciality, and the Pulled Pork Grain Bowl (SGD $19.50) was utterly delightful. A large, hearty, filling bowl, with a base of quinoa, bulgar wheat, and pearl barley, topped with a vibrant medley of vegetables including furikake baby corn, red cabbage & apple slaw, roasted zucchini, sauteed cherry tomatoes, mixed mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, and finished with slow cooked pulled pork. Each component is well executed and able to stand on its own, but together, the complementing layers of flavours and textures is beautiful. Highly recommended!

Pulled Pork Grain Bowl
Pulled Pork Grain Bowl (SGD $19.50)


Pulled Pork Grain Bowl


Pulled Pork Grain Bowl



The picture worthy Roasted Cod & Soba Noodle Salad (SGD $24) doesn't just look good, but tastes good too. A base of chilled buckwheat soba noodles, clean and refreshing in taste, is topped with marinated mushrooms, crunchy edamame / immature soy beans, lightly pickled microgreens, all dressed in a tangy, sour savoury, lime and sesame seed sauce. Completed with a nicely tender, flaky, sweet salty roasted cod fish loin that has a beautiful oily texture. Highly recommended!

Roasted Cod & Soba Noodle Salad (SGD $24)


Roasted Cod & Soba Noodle Salad



Loved the Deluxe Seafood Linguine With Boston Lobster (SGD $38.50), a fresh bright pasta with sweet savoury lovely seafood notes. Al-dente linguine pasta noodles in a rich, sweet savoury, thick seafood bisque gravy, topped with chunks of fresh, deshelled crab meat, sauteed scallops that are plump and juicy sweet, finished with a decadent meaty sweet Boston lobster tail meat that is nicely bouncy in texture. On the expensive side, but I feel it's worth it. Highly recommended!

Deluxe Seafood Linguine With Boston Lobster
Deluxe Seafood Linguine With Boston Lobster (SGD $38.50)


Deluxe Seafood Linguine With Boston Lobster


Deluxe Seafood Linguine With Boston Lobster



Loved the Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken (SGD $23), which features a soft chewy spring onion and corn pancake, which has a clean, earthy grassy sweet vegetal flavour. Stacked with large, succulent fried chicken thigh fillets, coated in a crisp house special batter, savoury salty sweet in flavour, tender and juicy in texture. I detect a hint of Chinese 5-spice powder and cumin, though I think they have other spices in there as well, giving it a bold flavour. Finished with a creamy, house made special ranch dressing, which has sour lively notes. Very filling, this is best shared. Highly recommended!

Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken (SGD $23)


Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken
Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken


Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken



The Heirloom Rendang Donburi (SGD $20) is freshly prepared daily, but the time consuming, painstaking effort required to make this means it's a limited edition dish, made in small quantities. If they sell out for the day, that's it. Personally, I find this to be above average but not quite outstanding, with a rice bowl of seasoned sticky Japanese white rice, a trio of crunchy nukazuke / fermented rice bran pickles (daikon radish, carrot, cucumber) sprinkled with furikake, sweet sour sharp achar / Peranakan spicy pickled salad, and chunks of grass-fed beef rendang. Using a homemade recipe, the beef is slowly stewed with spices, until it turns tender and has absorbed all the savoury spice flavour. Hearty and filling dish. Good!

Heirloom Rendang Donburi (SGD $20)


Heirloom Rendang Donburi


Heirloom Rendang Donburi



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Reserve a table now @ The Populus









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