Kafe Utu

Kafe Utu brings authentic African cuisine to Singapore

Singapore has a reputation as a foodies paradise, offering an abundance of cuisine from all over the world at countless restaurants dotted across the island. However, there was a gap in the market for authentic African food which was only addressed when Kafe Utu opened its doors in January 2019.

Kafe Utu
Kafe Utu is located in a beautiful shophouse in Chinatown on Jiak Chuan, off the famous Keong Saik Road, which was once a red-light district and is now known for its trendy restaurants, bars, coffee shops and art galleries.

Kafe Utu has made African food popular with patrons from all over the world who discover the restaurant via word of mouth, restaurant reviews and after seeing photos on their Instagram handle. The adoption was easy as African and Asian cuisine is quite similar with dishes made from common ingredients such rice, cassava and tamarind.

What makes Kafe Utu a fabulous place to meet and eat?

 #1 Great décor and ambience

Kafe Utu does not just serve great African food. The restaurant stays true to its African roots with the décor and music that plays softly in the background. It is an Architectural Digest-worthy three-storey building that is helping to change the narrative about Africa: African décor is unique, chic and trendy.

First floor cafe area

Mario Gerth photos at Kafe Utu
Two stunning portraits of Hamar women from the Omo Valley of Ethiopia hang on the first floor cafe wall and scream “Proudly African”

Second floor bar and lounge area

Custom-made Malindi door
The specially carved doors leading to the enclosed terrace bar were custom made in Kenya for Kafe Utu. This Swahili style of doors is commonly found in the coastal towns in Tanzania and Kenya
Kamala Harris painting
Stop press! The painting of the African woman carrying fruit was once owned by the US VP contender, Senator Kamala Harris
Muloongo at Kafe Utu
Ongolo.com Founder, Muloongo Muchelemba, poses infront of the projector wall used as a digital photo album

 #2 Excellent service

The service is exceptional and of a standard one would expect at a fine dining establishment. Staff are friendly and attentive which reflects a culture of team members who are truly vested in Kafe Utu’s success. Some team members have been with the restaurant from before it opened and contributed to the transformation of the old shophouse. Two members of staff even have tattoos of the Kafe Utu logo – now that’s a level of commitment that is rarely seen.

Hanging out with Joma
Muloongo normally sits at the bar with Joma, one of the best mixologists in the world! The man knows his liquor. If you look closely, you’ll notice the Kafe Utu logo tattooed on his forearm.

#3 Authentic food and drink

The reason Kafe Utu has repeat customers such as our Founder, Muloongo Muchelemba, is the mouth-watering food and drinks. The décor, music and service are a bonus.

Ongolo got the exclusive scoop on the most popular dishes and drinks served at Kafe Utu.

 Starters:

Plantains and chicken
Top starters: fried plantains and buttermilk fried chicken served with mango chilli marmalade (common to both dishes), house chilli sauce and congo bongo sauce

Plantains are a popular dish across many countries in Africa with West Africa producing over 30% of the world’s supply. While they are technically a fruit like their close relative, the banana, plantains are starchy and have to be cooked prior to eating. Fried plantains are a staple in West Africa and known as alloco in Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, kelewele in Ghana and doco in parts of Nigeria. The plantains are spiced then fried until they turn golden brown and served with mango chilli marmalade.

Historians have traced the origins of the Southern Fried Chicken, which is a staple of African Americans, to Scotland (cooking chicken in fat) and West Africa (seasoning). The Kafe Utu buttermilk fried chicken is made from marinated chicken thighs served with house chilli sauce, Congo bongo sauce and mango chilli marmalade

Vegetarian options

Cauliflower and croquettes
Kafe Utu has successfully jazzed up cauliflower, a bland but healthy vegetable, by serving it with Dijon dressing. The other popular vegetarian dish is the Malindi  croquettes made from fresh cassava leaves, ginger and garlic.

Mains:

Nigerian pork stew
Nigerian fiery peppered pork stew: Nigeria is known for its pepper soup and goat meat – this pork dish delivers a similar punch. It is made from pork belly, charred peppers and smoked fish. It is served with basmati coconut rice.
Moroccan tagine and chapati
Moroccan lemon tagine chicken (red bowl) is one of the least spicy dishes on the menu and is served with quinoa. A main dish is incomplete without chapati which is moist thanks to the healthy portion of clarified butter mixed with house flour

Desserts

Utu dome and Mahamri
Utu dome is a Kafe Utu invention and one of the most popular desserts. It is made from dark chocolate, crème de patissiere, pink peppercorn, raspberry liquor, cayenne pepper and fresh seasonal berries. Muloongo prefers to eat the Utu Dome with a portion of Mahamri, the Swahili doughnuts with coconut and cardamom. She skips the mains to do the double dessert. Click on the magic of the Utu Dome to see how this dessert is transformed with hot chocolate sauce

The magic of the Utu Dome

Most popular drinks

Dawa

Dawa
Dawa

Dawa means medicine in Swahili. The most popular cocktail at Kafe Utu was inspired by Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha. This refreshing drink is made from rum rather than cachaca, lemon, orange (makes it so refreshing), Calamansi (gives it a touch of sweetness), ginger (gives it a kick) and honey. It is served with crushed ice and pomegranates. As for being a cure, it will certainly make you happy.

Malaika

Malaika
Malaika

Malaika means angel in Swahili but this drink is no angel. The cocktail is made from chilli vodka, watermelon, lemon and habanero and is refreshing, fruity and spicy. The ingredients make this the perfect drink to prepare the palette for the spicy dishes.

Ongolo tips

  • Kafe Utu has become so popular that it is sometimes impossible to walk in and get a table. The restaurant stopped taking reservations and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Best to avoid peak times which are Friday evenings and brunch on Saturdays & Sundays
  • Best seats in the house: bar seat (solo dinners) and the lounge area on the third floor if you have a party of five (pandemic-era)
  • The food is very spicy – be warned! Nothing that Gaviscon and a glass of water can’t fix
  • Portion sizes are small by American and African standards which allows you to have a three-course meal. Best to order different dishes to share if in a group. Don’t forget the chapati!

Enjoy the experience at Ongolo’s favourite restaurant in Singapore.

© 2020 Muloongo Muchelemba. All Rights Reserved

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