Homey and gives you a ryokan feeling, Chuka Cafe is indeed a find
I must admit this find is a goldmine. I could never imagine finding such a charming place away from the busy and chaotic traffic (just 5 minutes away from the old airport). Tucked in an upscale condo, Chuka Cafe (non-halal) appears to be well patronized by the Japanese expats in the area. And if they are here, then this place must definitely be doing something right to please their very picky palate. Thus we must be on to a good thing right? Well, let's find out....
When we arrived, almost all the tables were taken with the clientele consisting mostly of... you guessed it, Japanese! Even the menus arrived in 2 versions - Japanese or English. The cafe overlooks the condo's swimming pool. So there's a nice, serene ambiance to it, though the place looks fairly basic and simple. Reminds me of those little humble roadside/ryokan inns you drop by for a bite, reminiscent of Japanese serials.
Service was efficient and very helpful. Just voice your preference to the waitress and she will recommend what to order. We did, and the stuff she named was not even listed in the menu! Methinks you can even request the chef to prepare something you concocted in your head, and they will try their best to comply. True to Japanese hospitality!
Food came pretty quick. First up was our Tofu salad. It was chock-full of ham, tomatoes, tofu, cucumber and lettuce. A typical salad with a Japanese/Asian twist to it. The dressing was piquant and gave a tasty tang to the salad. Tofu cubes were soft and smooth. The lettuce came with a dash of wasabi for that extra kick to your tastebuds! Definitely a healthy way to kickstart our meal.
Next was the Gyoza. I noticed almost every table ordered this. So hey, who are we to go against the flow right? Well it was worth it! Six dumplings of minced meat and chives, just dip it in a little soy and vinegar sauce and you're one happy camper. Somewhat similar to our wantan though the skin is a little thicker.
Now on to the mains. My tori karaage ramen was rather nice comfort food. The fried battered chicken was tender and juicy. I must say the portions were generous though the salty soup tasted very much like Nissin. However the texture of the ramen was firm with a nice bite to it. Definitely different from the more commercialized outlets. Homemade perhaps?
My friend's Gyu Niku Teppanyaki Set was pretty good. It's fried beef swimming in a rich hotplate gravy of spring onions, ginger and onions. Not bad at all. The beefy gravy went well with the rice. He did comment that the miso soup wasn't as salty as the ones you get elsewhere. I figured it must have been made from scratch. So it's tasty, without that MSG overload.
Lunch was definitely very satisfying. The food appears to be more of Japanese-Chinese fusion home-cooking. That probably explains the Chinese tea served rather than Green Tea (though I prefer the latter). For the prices you pay, you get really good and simple chow that's great value for money and sure to fill you up (whether taste or portions-wise!).
Peeking at other tables, I could see more unusual yet very appetizing looking concoctions ordered by the expats. Now I feel I could have done better! Nonetheless, Chuka CafÃ© is definitely a gem of a place. Looks like I'll be back for more! Maybe I'll just drag some unsuspecting Japanese to help with my ordering the next time....