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A Regular’s Guide to Daijoubu

 Cuz everything’s gonna be Daijoubu.

“Daijoubu? You mean the place that was featured on Mothership for their maid café incident?”

Yes, you heard it correctly, we’re talking about the Japanese Café located just right below SCIS, laced with intense layers of otaku culture and weeb-ery.

Totally no biases here (I have patronised them since their early days with Gobble, a social food ordering app that sent waves around campus), but I’ve always returned to Daijoubu for their dedication towards serving comfort Japanese food and the overall dining experience – it features a full wall of anime figurines and provides post-its for diners to unleash their creative juices and destress. From its humble roots in Japanese cuisine, the cafe has now ventured to also feature anime-themed food. Take its Poké Bowl for example, served in the shape of a "Pokéball" from "Pokémon", or its Gyunabe Bento inspired by the hit animated series "Demon Slayer".

It strikes hunger-o’clock and I step into the cafe’s premises, greeted by a towering mural of a Japanese-style street painted in comforting violet hues. Not long after, I’m welcomed by the staff of the store, whom I’ve befriended over the course of its operations here in SMU. 

On most days, my cravings are specific. But today, I struggle to decide what to have for lunch. Do I feel like eating their Mentaiko Cream Pasta? Or is it more of a Make-Your-Own-Bowl vibe today?

After much pondering, I finally settled with the latter, but with some tweaks to my usual order. The bill totals up to $9.45 – inclusive of a 10% SMU staff discount.

I launched myself onto the couch which beckoned me to come over and enjoy its warm embrace, iconic and remembered by all who have patronised the store. A short wait later, the food arrives.


Even though I frequent this place regularly, this was my first time trying their seared salmon in a very long while – ever since they changed their menu from the one they started with.

True enough, it didn’t disappoint.

Visually, the bowl was mesmerising. The careful embrace of the mentaiko sauce over the otherwise blank white canvas of rice was accompanied with a glowy consistency of the onsen egg, and of course – the protagonist of the day, the seared salmon, pan-fried a perfect golden. Adding to the vibrancy of the dish were sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and tobikko sprinkled over the salmon slice. 

Famished, I dug in, and… oh my, it tasted even better than it looked. The egg was a mix of lightness in the whites, while the yolks brought to the table a savoury creaminess that worked perfectly with the mentaiko sauce. While this dish does not bring out how exceptionally delightful the light mentaiko is – for that, I’d recommend the Mentaiko Cream Pasta mentioned earlier – he’s just a supporting character to our dear salmon here, who was equal parts crispy while also not compromising on its juiciness and tenderness. The cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices were the most delightful after the rollercoaster of emotions I had on this adventure – refreshing, and only leaving me for more.

Seasonal Menus: More Weeb Goodness

If you think their usual menus are the best the café can do, think again.

The café has done a few collaborations with several big titles in the anime/gaming scene, such as "That One Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime" with the theatrical release of their movies in cinemas earlier last year, as well as an unofficial "Genshin Impact" menu when they had a collaboration café too.

Earlier this year, Daijoubu also organised a café in partnership with "Arknight’s" fourth anniversary, which saw fans flying in to Singapore to celebrate the franchise’s first-ever café in Southeast Asia. The café also had a limited-time menu that left them fully booked throughout the full duration of the event, which lasted approximately two weeks.

Concluding Thoughts

As I walked to return my now-empty plate and bid my goodbyes, the café’s chef jokingly remarked,  “Wah, so clean.”

“Of course,” I giggled in response as I walked out of the café, “Good stuff mah.”

As a final-year student, I can’t help but think that it’s one of my last few times that I’ll be dining here as a student on campus – the restaurant’s lease ends this semester, and whether or not Daijoubu continues to remain on campus still remains a question.

I’ve had many conversations with the store owner, Lena, and what has always inspired me was her commitment towards establishing Daijoubu as a communal space – fervent otaku or not – where everyone hangs out after a tiring day of school. With many of us absolutely torn to see Daijoubu go should the time come, it can be safely said that she has achieved what she set out to do.

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