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Jul 22, 2007 12:11 PM

Kopitiam: New Singaporian Restaurant in Lafayette

Just got back from lunch at Kopitiam, a newly opened Singaporian place in Lafayette. It's next to the Trader Joe's (where the old TOGO's used to be). The owners are from Singapore and were very friendly. Business seems to be doing okay as the tiny place was full during lunch time and lots of people were looking at the menu outside. We ordered a Set A, which included a toast with kaya, two soft boiled eggs and a coffee. The kaya was mild and pleasant and looked freshly made. It's definitely better than the overly sweet stuff from a can. The soft boiled eggs were served out of the shell and in a bowl and was cooked perfectly, with a nice and runny yolk. We also ordered a Chicken Rice and the Curry chicken. The Chicken rice was amazing. The rice was flavored nicely and was served with some slightly sweet soy sauce. The chicken was wonderfully tender and came with some minced ginger and hot sauce. This was definitely the highlight of the meal. I would go back just for this dish. The curry chicken came in a nice broth with potatoes and tomatoes. It was a little mild for my taste, but was still pretty good. The service from the owners were really great. The were very attentive and open to suggestions. I think they are a little understaffed right now, so they are only open for lunch. I can't wait to go back and try their limited, but interesting menu. I haven't found a good Singaporian place since Raffles closed.

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  1. Thanks for the tip. I went this weekend with three Singaporeans. A bit of a drive for us from the peninsula, but during the meal, we decided it was worth it.

    The highlight of the meal was certainly the Chicken Rice. The chef at Kopitiam is the same chef who made Boon Tong Kee a Chicken Rice hawkre stall favorite in Singapore for years. The meat was certainly tender, juicy, and flavorful. The presentation was appetizing, albeit not exactly what you'd see in Singapore. The thick, viscous soy sauce was already drizzled on the chicken pieces. The rice was garnished with thin cucumber and tomato slices, on green leaf lettuce leaves. The minced garlic oil and sambal chili sauces were in separate mini-bowls. The rice had a nice golden brown hue from the aromatic seasoned chicken broth. We all unanimously agreed it was the best Singapore Chicken Rice in the Bay Area. However, the purists at the table noted the type of rice grains used, nor the sambal chili sauce, were not exactly the same as what you'd get in Singapore, but the American in me will leave these nitpicks noted as just that.

    Other dishes we enjoyed:

    "Sensually Soft Boiled Eggs" (called half-boiled eggs in Singapore) - as described in the original post, served as two eggs out of the shell in a small bowl with soy sauce and black pepper on the side, to be scrambled up and eaten with a soup spoon. Very very nice.

    "Chai Tow Kuih" (called 'carrot cake' in Singapore, not anything like American carrot cake), we chose the black sauce version. Big chunks of rice flour and white radish with eggs and sauce. Quite good.

    "Roti Prata", the pancakes appeared to not be hand made, as they are at Layang Layang in San Jose, but the curry sauce made the Singaporeans feel at home.

    "Sayur Lodeh", vegetable curry, good.

    They had run out of Char Kway Teow (we arrived 1:15 pm Sunday), so we went with the Mee Goreng instead. Good noodle textures, nice appearance, a bit on the salty side. I cheerfully ate it up while the Singaporeans thought it was just ok.

    All the Singaporeans who worked there said they've been in the U.S. for 2 years and the restaurant has been open for one month, serving breakfast and lunch only, and plans to serve take-out-only dinner in future. The menu has a good variety without being too lengthy - they obviously don't want too overwhelming of a menu either for customer choice or kitchen focus. Interesting omissions from the Singaporean menu are kangkung belachan (stirfried mature pea sprouts in spicy shirmp paste sauce), beef rendang and laksa, but rendang is easy to find and authentic laksa is difficult to make here due to ingredients availability.

    The restaurant decor was sparse but comfortable. The Singaporeans noticed the table top was reminiscent of what you might find overseas. All cold beverages are served in thick Coca Cola glasses with handles, which tend to take up a bit of space on the table. Calamansi lime juice beverage was available from a can.

    Plenty of parking in the strip mall and pretty easy access from highway 24.

    We'll return maybe in a month or two to try their Char Kweh Teow and a repeat of the Chicken Rice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Benny Choi

      Agreed on the chicken rice- it's by far the best I've had outside of Singapore, the chicken was boneless and very moist, as it should be. The owner steered us towards the mee goreng and while it was authentic, I'm not really a fan of this type of noodle and the ketchup-based sauce. I really wish they'd add Hokkien mee to the menu, which is my favorite.

      I'm also surprised that they don't have laksa on the menu, though they do have a few versions of noodle soups with chicken. Seems like the menu is focused more on hawker type foods with the items such as white/black carrot cake, roti prata, roti john, popiah (which is fried, rather than fresh), and the various coffee and tea drinks.

      I also noticed the 3 variations of set menus for breakfast, available until 11:30am. $6.50 gets you a cup of kopi-o, kaya toast, and halfboiled eggs. Not a bad deal.

      They're only open until 3pm for breakfast/lunch, but you can call in to-go orders until 6pm.

    2. Enjoyed breakfast @ Kopitiam last weekend.
      Positive review in Contra Costa Times today--

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowfish

        Let's see, we had the Set with buttered buns spread with kaya, check, and ditto on the soft-boiled eggs. Roti prata with green onions comes from an outside supplier and is not so good, but the curry dipping sauce is fine. Enjoyed the "black" style of radish cakes with the sweetened dark soy sauce, but the flavor got monotonous when it was followed by the char kway teow. Probably would have enjoyed them more if only one or the other. Both dishes were improved by the sample of the housemade sambal that I requested.

        When we didn't order the tofu poppers and didn't even seem vaguely interested in them, the proprietress was so sure we'd like them, she offered us a complimentary sample. Score!
        Image of tofu poppers:
        As Mr. Chowfish and I both found out, these babies hold onto the deep fryer's heat for a long time. Be careful, they're steaming hot! Loved the light crispness of the exterior against the near molten silkiness of the soft bean curd inside.

        She also found it amusing when I asked if they'd be adding ladyfingers with belacan or fish head curry to the menu. She said the chef does these dishes well, but only makes them for the staff or by special order, because they might offend "Americans". The place is available for buy-outs in the evening, when special dishes can be ordered. Wondering what the minimum might be, I had thought it might be 25 people or so, but the owner said 10 or 12 was fine.

        The peanut cookies imported from Asia presented with the check were nice too. Very short and peanutty.

        Slideshow for Kopitiam (click on bottom edge of image for captions) -

        * * * * * * * * *
        Still time to register for the picnic in Tilden Park (East Bay), Sat., 10/6/2007

      2. link

        Kopitiam Restaurant
        3647 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          We recently returned to Kopitiam for the Char Kway Teow, as well as repeat orders of the Chicken Rice and Chai Tow Kuih. All were excellent. The textures. colors, and flavors of the char kway teow were quite authentic and good.

          The chef indicates he mixes his own viscous soy sauce, which sounds right, as the soy sauce used on the chicken rice is quite authentic tasting and not like any of the thick soy sauces available in local Asian stores.

          The newspaper review was somewhat critical of the slow service. The place hasn't even been open for two months. They'll hopefully find some efficiency in their service soon.

          1. re: rworange

            One of the photos on the wall depicts pulled tea. I asked whether it was offered, since this is a coffee/tea house, but no. The tea powder for the same flavor is available, but not served in that style, as in our climate, it cools down too fast and "Americans" want their tea hot, apparently.

          2. Inspired by this LA post on the best Hainan Chicken Rice (, I did a search on the SF boards and came across Kopitiam in Lafayette a few times.

            As luck would have it, I think I might have just missed out, as Yelp reviewers are saying that it closed this past Monday ( Are there any other spots in the Bay Area to get a fix?

            Kopitiam Restaurant
            3647 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

            4 Replies
            1. re: e_tsai

              Too bad you missed this announcement that Kopitiam was closing.

              You'd be better off starting a new thread with an appropriate title asking for Hainan chicken rice that will attract attention than appending it to this old thread for a restaurant that we know to be closed. I think you'll get more response that way.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Ah, my late-night search skills failed me - I did a search for "Hainan Chicken Rice" but didn't do a restaurant-specific one. Thanks for the tip and the link, Melanie - it looks like there were a few Kopitiam alternatives on that thread that I'll have to check out.

                1. re: e_tsai

                  More likely the messed-up search engine failed you.

                  And, here's a link to your Hainan Chicken request for folks to post their suggestions to the new topic.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    We like Singapore Old Town Cafe in Dublin in the Ulferts center.