Review: Aria, Cafe of Music & Art at SUTD, Singapore
May 19, 2015
Music, street art, affordable and cheerful food (and a mish-mash of chairs) collide at Aria, a hotbed for creative talent to percolate. The just-opened cafe is at the new campus of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). BY GEMMA KOH
As the cliff crumbles around him, a man looks like he’s in danger of tumbling into the chasm below. But wait, there are bold street murals and a mish-mash of mid-century modern chairs around. And don’t the masks used as table markers and the fancy latticework around the serving bar remind you of New Orleans?
The disintegrating cliff isn’t the latest anamorphic art piece at the Trick Eye Museum on the island of Sentosa, or the Alive Musuem at Suntec City. It’s at Aria, the brand new cafe at the new campus of Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
It’s by Singaporean graffiti artist Ceno2, whose work has been taking him overseas: to Chicago and elsewhere. Ceno2 was also responsible for the other eye-popping pieces around the joint, which feels like a wacky, fun mating of street art, Mardi Gras, and split-level retro furniture showroom.
On certain evenings, a couch on the raised section (above left) – with a backdrop displaying original art – becomes the hot seat for talent. Mondays are open mic nights for SUTD students and the school’s DJ Club. Fridays are open to singers and songwriters with original work, while Saturdays see resident acoustic performer Jeni Louise holding fort. Acts who’ve taken the mic include dub/reggae/electro group Wobology.
To ward off hunger, there’s a good selection of dishes on the menu; substantial portions at friendly prices. Dishes on offer – ranging from salads to pastas to a heartier lamb shank – are mainly western dishes, with an Asian kick. Very moreish is the chilli con carne (above) with melted red cheddar and mozzarella; the secret is in the spices: cumin, cinnamon and sambal tumis. It's available with cheese fries, or as part of the chilli dog, though you can also order a portion of it on its own. Also try the westernised Ramly burger in which the patty is packed with more beef.
I particularly like their desserts; in particular, the strawberry Pavlova (stuffed with coconut cream and strawberry slices) and the butter sponge coconut cake (with the crunch of shredded coconut flesh within). For something denser, try the kaiserschmarrn: thick layered pancake with mixed berries swimming in custard sauce and maple syrup. I’m told the chendol milkshake is popular, and make a mental note to try it next time.
To walk off the meal, take a stroll around the campus grounds to see the antique Chinese buildings famously donated by action star Jackie Chan; a lovely contrast of old against a very modern setting.
Aria (at Singapore University of Technology and Design)
Expect to pay: From S$10++ to S$15++ for a main dish and a drink.
8 Somapah Road SUTD Building 2 #01-204
For reservations: Tel: +65 6384 0854 / www.facebook.com/Aria.Foodmusicarts