If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’d know that getting around by train is a huge part of the experience. But since flying over may not be part of everyone’s plans anytime soon, Shinjuku Kissa Testudo is a cafe that may satiate the wanderlust for now.
From buying a “train ticket”, complimentary meals and an interactive diorama section, here’s what you can do at this new experiential coffeehouse at 111 Somerset – a first of its kind in Singapore.
The ticketing booth looks like the real deal, complete with a glass divider and Tokyo metro map.
Just like boarding a train, you can’t grab a seat without a ticket. Before getting our table, we headed to the cafe’s “ticket counter” to order some coffee and cakes.
We were lucky enough to get the diorama seats ($3.50), which put us right in front of the cafe’s main attraction: its interactive dioramas. Other seat options include tatami seats ($0.60), counter seats ($2), and priority seats at no extra charge.
Note: Call ahead of time to make a reservation as seats are quite limited.
Isaac, the founder of Shinjuku Kissa Tetsudo, explained that he serves complimentary dishes to his customers, just as they do on real long-distance train rides in Japan.
Once we were seated, Isaac served us some complimentary Hokkaido milk, green tea, and two bite-sized chocolate muffins that you won’t find on the menu. The muffins weren’t too sweet or rich and were light enough to whet our appetites.
You can purchase the store’s in-house coffee grounds to make at home
Other than getting two servings of their Hand-pressed Sakura coffees (from $6), we also tried their Sweet Potato Roll Cakes ($8). I’m not usually a fan of coffee without a little bit of milk, but the cuppa we had was surprisingly not too bitter on its own. And true to its name, it had some flowery notes that may have turned me into a full coffee convert.
The cafe’s sweet potato roll cake made us go “Oh my god” several times in awe
The sweet potato cake was surprisingly soft, to the point where the outer layer of cream seemed to blend into the layers of airy sponge cake and sweet potato filling. The whole cake was quite light and we didn’t feel jelak after gobbling it down.
If sweet potato isn’t your thing, other desserts include Matcha Azuki Cake ($8) and Strawberry Roll Cake ($8).
While eating, the staff will come out for a “ticket check”, mimicking an actual train ride.
One thing we noticed while eating was that almost all the signs and decor like magazines were entirely in Japanese. We were served by Japanese staff too, which really added to the experience and honestly made us feel like we were in a little Tokyo cafe.
Once our bellies were filled, we started playing around with Shinjuku Kissa Testudo’s pièce de résistance: an elaborate railroad diorama with which customers can interact. According to Isaac, the whole diorama took him about a week to build.
The “exhibit” stretches across one side of the cosy seating area and is fitted with models of the Tokyo Tower, a metro system with moving trains, and even model buses and cars.
While we were admiring the diorama, Isaac came out with two model trains for us to play with and taught us how to use the controls. He expertly placed them on the tracks and let them run across the map.
This could be a fun activity for families with young children
Playing with model trains isn’t a typical cafe activity for sure, so rent the dioramas and give it a try. Rentals start from $15 for 1 hour, $25 for 2 hours, and $38 for 3 hours.
Note: Customers would need to reserve the diorama seats to rent the mini track.
While Shinjuku Kissa Testudo prides itself in being an experiential railway cafe, the food and service are more than worth the trip. From its friendly staff to unique desserts, this little haunt at 111 Somerset makes for an experience quite unlike anywhere else in Singapore.
Shinjuku Kissa Tetsudo
Address: 111 Somerset Road, 02-K02 111 Somerset, Singapore 238164
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 12PM-6.30PM | Sat 12.30PM-6.30PM | Sun 2-4PM
Telephone: 6208 0508
Find more interesting things to do in Singapore:
Photography by Li Haiyang.
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