Written by: Chua Jia Ying & Samantha Chang
This month on Echo, our team has decided to embark on a new project, one that we believe everyone is passionate about:
From the cup noodles we snatch up from vending machines on deadline nights, to the novel, opulent cafes we seek out with friends to marvel at, food is central to the student experience. It is the silent witness to our most intimate conversations, to our roughest nights and to our happiest celebrations.
Hence, we at Echo are proud to introduce the first article of a monthly series known as Echo Eats, where we review and hunt for foods to enhance your student experience here at Sunway.
For our first installment, we decided to undertake a classic comfort food: spaghetti carbonara.
CAFÉ #1: After Black
Price: 4 of out 5 ?
With college students set as their target consumers, After Black’s pasta is priced reasonably at RM6.90 a plate, a considerably affordable price tag for most college students. However, a cheaper price tag translates to smaller portion sizes. The portion sizing is reasonable and the dish itself is satisfying, though it may not be enough if you’re a big eater.
Taste: 2 out of 5 ?
If there’s one thing that can’t be denied, it’s that it hits the spot as a comfort food, if not purely because of the nature of its ingredients. Cheese, cream and carbs – these are the three C’s that spell out childhood. That said, the sauce also lacks a more complex dimension past the initial yum of salt and fat, and not enough mushrooms are added to give it the umami kick it needs. In comparison to the pasta dishes served elsewhere, the Carbonara pasta at After Black also seems to be on the drier side. It leaves the throat congested and uncomfortable. The pasta has a nice texture that one would describe as al dente, but if you prefer the texture of your pasta to be slightly on the chewier side, this dish may not be your cup of tea.
Ambience: 5 out of 5 ?
It’s clear that After Black has arguably the best ambience out of all the cafes in its row. With its chic decor and hipster music playing in the background, the cafe is a comfortable place to chill with friends or even catch up on work, provided you’re there at the right hours. However, at peak hours, After Black may not be the ideal choice for a quiet and relaxing study spot to channel your concentration into your work. It is bustling with people going in and out, particularly during lunch and dinner hours. During these hours, the wifi will have more commitment issues than your last Tinder date. In terms of service, it’s tough to hail a waiter during rush hour, but when you do get their attention, the staff are generally polite and attentive.
CAFÉ #2: Brot’z N.91 Café and Bakery
Price: 3 out of 5 ?
Brot’z offers two portion sizes for their pasta menu: a regular that’s priced at RM12.90 per plate and RM17.90 per plate for the large. The two portion sizes cater to both smaller and big eaters as – despite being priced almost two times more than After Black – they are extremely generous with their portion sizes that are comparatively much larger and more filling than A.B.’s. For a small eater like me who rarely finishes the entire plate of food herself, the regular portion is already extremely filling for me on an empty stomach. Truly a portion worth its price tag.
Taste: 4.5 out of 5 ?
The most vital aspect of a pasta dish is the sauce which completes and brings the dining experience to greater heights. Brot’z is equally generous with their pasta sauce, as each individual pasta noodle is well-coated with cheesy, creamy goodness. As if that wasn’t enough, you can request for powdered parmesan to get that extra kick.
Carbonara at Brot’z comes with a topping. They have several different topping options to choose from according to your preferences. What’s interesting is that they also have vegetarian options for their toppings, which is a plus point as it caters to a much larger consumer base. My personal favourite topping is the chicken strip, which is chopped into small pieces and fried, giving it a crispy, bacon-like texture. It adds a nice crunch when paired with the chewy texture of the pasta and its smokiness balances out the cheese incorporated into the Carbonara sauce. A downside is that while their pasta portion is large, their toppings aren’t. Halfway through your pasta, you’ll realize that you’ve run out of the delicious chicken strips to pair with your pasta! So, pro tip, be careful with your topping distribution to ensure that you won’t run out until the very last bite.
Ambience and Service: 5 out of 5
(4 out of 5 during peak hours)
Brot’z has arguably the most attentive servers as they’re prompt to guide diners to their seats and will not hesitate to offer recommendations and further elaboration on different dishes. Diners are made comfortable by enthusiastic and polite servers who are dedicated to deliver excellent dining experiences. Serving time is short and the food is served warm. If you’re not too keen on getting a drink, plain water is offered free of charge.
Like many of the cafés in its row, Brot’z is usually crowded and lively as Sunway students and staffs alike flood into the café to get their meals. The rustic feel of its decor and friendly staffs makes it a great place to grab a cup of coffee and relax. The café is quite literally a home away from home as it gives off a cozy feel, with walls decorated with Polaroids of past customers and well wishes from happy diners.
In terms of the quality of service and food, we definitely think that Brot’z is the superior choice. The delicious pasta, peaceful ambience and friendly staff are extremely worth the walk. That said, this does not mean that you should stay away from After Black. After Black may not be the best of the best for this dish in particular, but there are many other items in their menu to explore (though not all are at this price point). Both places are ideal for when you need a venue to cool off and chit-chat with friends over a cup of freshly brewed coffee and scrumptious cakes.