They may have worked in the kitchens and front of houses of Working Title, Afterwit and Tipo — brands under The Black Hole Group — and the now-defunct Brothers in Fine Food, but all these young chefs and pastry makers want is to open their own cafe. So after their stint in various halal cafes and restaurants, the team of seven headed out to start their own business: Comme Me Das.
But as most stories go these days, Covid-19 happened and starting the cafe did not go as planned. Nevertheless, the team took their time to experiment with food and drinks they want to feature during Circuit Breaker, and come December 4, Comme Me Das will officially open its doors to the public.
The essence of Comme Me Das
The brand name does not roll off our tongues naturally just yet, but essentially, all you need to know is that it is an amalgamation of words from three languages: French, Spanish and Portuguese. Collectively, it means “since you give, (we give you) food – with benefits.”
According to Dinah Fazil, co-founder and PR Director, “benefits” are not just the nutritional value that is derived from food, but it also encompass other intangibles that come with a pleasurable dining experience e.g. good vibes, good company, good price.
It all may seem convoluted in the beginning, but truly, all you need to know is that Comme Me Das is aiming to be a destination for friends to gather and bond over affordable cafe food without traveling all the way to central Singapore, where The Black Hole Hole Group has, like it or not, claimed as their turf. Three of their eateries are within a stone’s throw away. All on North Bridge Road alone.
Graduating from The Black Hole Group
That’s not to say that the team left the Group on bad terms. In fact, it was the total opposite. For most of them, working for The Black Hole Group was their first foray into the tiresome F&B business. For some, it was a stepping stone to starting their own business.
But that is where they all met. “We all joke that we are graduates of The Black Hole Group,” Dinah says, referring to her time there as valuable building blocks to setting up her own business.
Besides managing the PR side of things, Dinah was also seen making the drinks at the cafe’s soft opening.
The other team members can be seen moving around fervently in the back kitchen, producing plate after plate of food.
Running the front of house and also in charge of the confections are a trio that call themselves Mix & Co. Helmed by Head Patissier Mohammad Ghazi, this is the first time the home-based business is showcasing their sweet treats in a physical shop. Ghazi, who studied culinary arts in school, is just happy to finally be able to release his tarts and other baked creations to the masses.
The food at Comme Me Das
The menu offers a sizeable selection of appetisers, entrees, salads, sandwiches, desserts and drinks. But what caught us by surprise is that nothing on the menu is above S$16.
In fact, most of the Mains only cost S$12. And the only item that is S$16 is the Mariscos Platter, a mixed seafood plate of mussels, butterfly prawns, calamari, dory fillet and served with fries.
And everything is served a la minute, meaning it is made to order so none of those pre-cooked stuff here.
Not knowing what to expect, we started our meal with safe options Sweet Potato Fries (S$6) and Sautéed Truffle Mushrooms (S$6). The sweet potato fries come generously seasoned with cayenne pepper and a choice of dipping sauce. Upon the staff’s recommendation, we chose the Garlic Aioli which turned out to be a showstopper with its creamy and nasal-flaring spice notes.
The Truffle Mushrooms are also brilliant. The earthy tones of the sautéed shiitake, shimeji and white button mushrooms are skilfully dialled up with the addition of truffle oil, garlic, and fresh parsley.
The Grilled Frango (S$12) comes highly recommended by the staff, and we echo this recommendation fully.
On the plate, it looks like a simple plate of nasi goreng with grilled chicken doused with cream sauce. But in our mouths, all the complex flavours from each component come out to play.
We particularly enjoyed the tomato herb rice, which adds an intrigue to the dish with the sweet and sourness of tomatoes, layered with the warmth of mixed herbs. The white spinach cream hovers in the background like a supporting cast, but when mixed with the Portuguese-spiced chicken, it keeps the spice levels in check like a school prefect.
On the other side of the table, the lamb dish we had paled in comparison. Called Steak d’Agneu (S$14), the grilled lamb shoulder seems to be missing any memorable flavours, almost as if it is light handed on the seasoning. Texture-wise, the meat is reasonably easy to cut. The mashed potatoes provide a sliver of hope, but we can’t seem to get past the lacklustre steak.
As with most soft launches, we understand that not everything will be up to par from the get go. In fact, not everything on the menu was available during our visit. We look forward to trying their selection of open-faced sandwiches next. Those look really neat.
Comme Me Das offers a range of drinks in the menu. Coffee and tea are pretty standard, but what’s more interesting is their cake shakes (S$8 each) and mocktails (S$8 each). The former use cakes that are made in-house by MixNCo themselves so you are guaranteed a fresh, liquid cake beverage each time.
The cake shakes are pretty decent, although we imagine children enjoying these more. It was more like melted ice-cream to us, which isn’t bad if that’s what they are gunning for. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare incidents where we prefer the cake and milk shake to be separate.
We did not try the mocktails, but we did envy other tables that have them that day.
We could not leave Comme Me Das without trying at least one of their beautiful tarts sitting in the pastry case. After battling the rather unfortunate cake shakes, we opted for something light instead.
The Berry Babe (S$10.90) features mixed berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries laid on top of smooth custard in a sweet vanilla tartshell. This delicate thing certainly lifts our spirits from the very first bite. The custard is smooth and creamy, berries are tart and fresh, and the tart base cracks easily with one swipe of the fork; all in all a stunner of a dessert.
Whilst tarts are mainstays in the menu, MixNCo will be introducing more baked goods and some breads as well. Eventually, they aim to attract the tea time office crowd who are seeking for light mid-day treats to go along with coffee or tea.
Comme Me Das occupies a retail location on the ground floor of Vision Exchange, a commercial building that is about a 10 minute walk from Jurong East interchange/MRT station.
Admittedly, it is located on the less busier side of Jurong East, but when we visited on a Sunday, neighbouring eateries seem to be bustling with customers so it might become more popular with the addition of new cafes like Comme Me Das.
It is also worth mentioning that halal cafes are still a rarity in the west, so Comme Me Das is a long time coming and who knows, they might pave the way for more of such eateries to open up in that side of the island in future.
Seeing as they are new, we are willing to overlook the minor misses in the food and drinks we had that day. The team of young, twenty-something business owners is stepping out to venture into new territories, and we unreservedly applaud them for that. We’re sure in time to come, they will improve and make a mark for themselves in the halal cafe industry here.
Till then, we are looking forward to their official opening on December 4, and will likely return to try out other goodies in the menu.