The recommendation of a taxi driver is all we needed to stop at this super local spot.

No one knows better where to eat in a city than its locals, and those who know it best are its taxi drivers. After all, if you’re spending all day driving people around town, you’re gonna know the spots where most people go, right? That’s why, whenever we visit a new place, whether in Japan, Thailand, or even Croatia, we ask a local taxi driver to take us to the best restaurant in town.

Of course, what constitutes as “the best” differs depending on the person and the location, but that’s part of the fun. This time, our Japanese-language reporter and world traveler Ikuna Kamezawa asked a taxi driver in Singapore to take her to the best restaurant in the city. “Give me more criteria,” he said, and after some negotiations, they settled on going to “the most recommended Singaporean cuisine restaurant.”

“Let’s go!” Ikuna said, but it was only after that she began to worry just a little about how much the taxi ride would cost. Thankfully, the meter didn’t rise as rapidly as she expected. Taxis actually seemed like a more affordable mode of travel in Singapore than in Japan.

As the wonderfully air-conditioned car cruised down the highway, Ikuna gazed out upon the fancy-looking Marina Bay, an upscale shopping and entertainment area. She felt like a true Singaporean.

In no time at all, the driver dropped her off at YY Kafei (園咖啡店), which Ikuna thought had a very fun name. It was neither breakfast nor lunch time, but the restaurant was still pretty bustling.

It felt like a super local place, so Ikuna’s sense of integration began to fade, and she felt a little hesitant to go in. But in these situations, you just have to go with the flow, so she steeled herself and joined the line. Luckily, since so many people ordered ahead of her, she was able to get a good idea of what was popular. For example, a lot of people were ordering the “Kaya Toast Set,” so Ikuna ordered that too.

The high-tech buzzer she received when placing her order felt at odds with the family-owned air of the restaurant. That definitely felt different from Japan.

▼ The croissants looked delicious!

Kaya Toast is a toasted sandwich filled with coconut jam and butter, which is a Singaporean soul food. The set at YY Kafei comes with Kaya Toast, two soft-boiled eggs, and iced coffee for 4.70 Singapore dollars (about 510 yen or US$3.45).

Ikuna had expected her iced coffee to be black and unsweetened, but what she received tasted much more like what they call “Cafe au lait” in Japan, which is heavily sweetened and contains milk. Ikuna didn’t know if that was the norm for Singaporean coffee, or if she’d just made a mistake in her order. It was a surprise, but not entirely unwelcome.

The Kaya Toast was unexpected too. Though she’d eaten it from multiple different places before, she’d never seen it served with such soft bread before. No, it went beyond soft; it was actually fluffy. It was also a bit light on the butter, compared to what she’d eaten elsewhere in Singapore.

Dipping it into the soft boiled egg made it taste like a chiffon cake, or almost like castella. It was completely different from any Kaya Toast she’d ever had before, but it was also completely delicious.

This wasn’t quite enough to fill Ikuna’s stomach, but luckily the taxi driver had recommended YY Kafei’s Hainanese chicken and rice, so she decided to order that too.

Ikuna has had Hainanese chicken rice before, but this was also quite different.

The chicken was shockingly gelatinous! Plus, it was served cold. It was interesting to eat cold chicken with warm rice.

The rice was pretty moist, kind of like takikomi gohan, what you get when you cook rice with vegetables or meat in a rice cooker. And Ikuna could not get over how jelly-like the chicken was. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine she was eating a savoury mizu youkan, a Japanese sweet made with soft red bean jelly.

It was an interesting experience, but Ikuna was glad she went. The thing she loved most about YY Kafei is that they have a huge menu that’s really quite reasonable. Everything is around 5 Singapore dollars, which is extraordinarily cheap for Singapore. Ikuna wished she’d heard about it earlier so she could have saved money on her meals throughout her trip. If you’re traveling on a budget in the country, definitely check it out. And while you’re in Singapore, don’t forget to shop the super exclusive Ghibli T-shirt collection that’s only available in Singapore and Thailand!

Restaurant Information
YY Kafei Dian / 喜園咖啡店
Address: 37 Beach Road #01-01, Singapore
Open: 7:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (weekdays), 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (weekends)
Website (Facebook)

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[ Read in Japanese ]