Being a full-time chef is never easy. Neither is being a full-time boss managing your own business. So one can imagine how tough it must have been for banker-turned-F&B entrepreneur John Wee who started selling his artisanal sourdough breads in Katong, and gradually expanding his business by opening a cafe in Upp Bukit Timah area.
Amidst the competitive cafe scene, what makes East Manhattan stands out is the insistence of making almost everything from scratch, from the breads to the pastries to the sauces in the dishes. Take for example the Manhattan All Day Breakfast ($16.80) that is served on freshly made Spinach-Rosemary instead of English muffins. The eggs seem to be accidentally scrambled that day but this platter is pretty substantial to fill up any ravenous individual.
The Basil Chicken Quinoa ($16.80) is another popular mains from its list of gluten-free dishes; another point that distinguishes it from an Average Joe. However, the resulting flavors were not the sum of the parts as the homemade basil pesto sauce was rather bland and could afford a zesty lift.
The latest addition, Mac & Cheese with Smoked Salmon ($14.80) would meet the eye of those who prefer the pasta to be less creamy. And the crispy cheese topping, which worked like savoury granola, managed to pep up the dish too.
The effort to make their own pastries as well, is laudable but it does not translate into excellent quality for every item on display. The strawberry marshmallow ($6.90) could be a visual pleasure for kids but failed to excite the palate with a elusive strawberry mousse. So is the chocolate hazelnut tart ($6.50) whose pastry base lacked the ideal crunch and buttery aroma.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of delicious creations that are worth revisiting. One of them is the banoffee pie ($6.90), a decadently sweet English classic made of toffee, cream and bananas. All credits go to its unique dark brown pie crust--an amazing combination of nuts and crushed cookies which exuded a deep toasty aroma.
The Avocado Gula Melacca is another mousse cake with a local Asian twist. The light green layer may be faint but nothing short of flavor especially when it is enhanced by the fragrant brown sugar. For more gluten-free desserts, there is the option of either almond coconut or orange almond.
As mentioned earlier, East Manhanttan started off as a bakery and the breads here are baked fresh daily from its Katong kitchen. Nonetheless, it is not apparent that they are selling artisanal breads unless you take a closer inspection at the entrance. I really enjoyed the selection of sourdough breads here ($6.80 each) as they have a tangy and chewy interior. The Pavlova, surprised me with the generous helpings of dried fruits and nuts, making this a subtly sweet bread but yet not overboard on sugar like the classic Pavlova.
Overall there is indeed a large variety of food here but it might be good if the cafe menu can be scaled down and tied in closer with the breads, which are the strength of the East Manhanttan brand.
Less could be more.
East Manhattan Bakery Cafe
19 Lorong Kilat #01-03
Tue – Thu: 10am – 9pm
Fri: 10am – 10pm
Sat: 9am – 10pm
Sun: 9am – 7pm
East Manhattan Bakery
30 East Coast Road #01-04
10am – 10pm Daily