From Tokyo to Singapore, 2 May – This is a tale of a reimport from Japan. It began one fine day in April, when a colleague asked whether I had heard of “The Tiramisu Hero”, since they apparently hailed from Singapore. Flabbergasted at another head-shaking, hand-flapping display of my utter lack of knowledge about developments back home, I held on frantically to the only hot lead – it was wildly popular in Japan.
Dr. Google told me that the traditional Italian dessert was being sold by a Zorro-masked cat on Rakuten, a major e-commerce portal in Japan. It had it’s own page, and a virtual queue of a lengthy 4 months. One post from a satisfied customer said it was simply worth the wait, which he/she almost forgot about, but that was balanced by others saying that they had ordered a month ago and were still waiting, or that they would have preferred if the store provided a delivery date. That’s something customers would expect from online on-demand sales, especially with hotter weather and vacation season coming our way.
Further digging revealed that the store began with an online presence before a real cafe opened in Oct 2013 in Singapore. 3 months later, they began making their rounds in major malls in Japan.
I decided to unmask the cat by venturing into its den. I found it right next to the Lions’, by which I mean the spiritual home of the Singapore national football team in Jalan Besar. The Tiramisu Hero cafe stood right across the street. Accompanied by ready eaters, I strolled past the grass porch and the tables set outside to the air-conditioned abode of the cat and its desserts.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the internal deco. A larger-than-life head of Sir Antonio, the name of the cat as I later found out, ladders were everywhere, standing on the ceiling above, lying on it, and one that stood from ceiling to floor. Sir Antonio adorned the entire cafe, flying above, hiding in space, caressing corners, posing in costumes, as he welcomed visitors to his impressively doodled lair. The signature mask and moustache were soon imprinted in the minds of visitors.
Sat down at the table, I checked out the menu. Littered with cute illustrations that teased your imagination of how the dish would be presented, our eyes fed on main course options from fish and chips to fresh pasta and familiar sides like mushroom soup, garlic bread and fries. Standard western fare.
We ordered a conservative selection of chunky mushroom soup, fish and chips, aglio olio (angelhair pasta) and savoury creamy salmon. Of course, that was rounded off with tiramisu, brownies and mud pies. A brownie came with each set, but for some reason, some were replaced with fluffier fudge-glazed chunks that tasted like carrot cake, which were still yummy but off-menu. The swap was never explained but we paying customers didn’t either, as we half-enjoyed the surprise. The mud pie was plain sinful indulgence.
The bits of food were solid, not fantastic. The mushroom soup was more creamy than chunky, while the garlic bread on the side was superb, crisp and full of flavour. That said, our selection was especially garlicky. Aglio olio was simply overpowered by the delicious bulb. Accented by bacon bits and other spices, the angelhair simply didn’t figure other than to keep the pieces together. The fish and chips were crisp and juicy, and the expertly done salmon was accompanied by sticks of asparagus. All very nicely presented, but the greens tasted thick and unshaven. Picky eaters would probably have shunned it at first sight.
Finally it was rounded off with the cafe’s namesake dessert. Original or Bailey’s, milo, kaya, durian even. Spoilt for choice and making the mistake of ordering our fixes after the meal, we had to settle for the first two. Served in cute glass bottles with Sir Antonio in various poses, the brown paperbag cover over the tin cap identified the liquid used within. All that just waiting to be opened and a spoon to sink into. Sir Antonio is a true hero of eye and mouth candy.
Budget: Around S$25 per person
Location: Shophouse opposite the hawker center at Jalan Besar Stadium
Seats: About 25 with Sir Antonio inside and another 10 without