A collaboration piece by Nadine Lee, Danyelle Lee, and Ng Jun-Kai

Nadine: This article is not sponsored by Cates, though in my capacity as Chief Editor I will say that Justified is open to getting sponsored. The simple answer to why Cates should sponsor us is that we had three writers review their delivery service, in a landmark Justified article – the very first collaborative article... (But please note that all of our begging for Cates to sponsor us is merely in jest.)

Danyelle: Cates please sponsor. I have been using your app for a year and I am in love thanks.

Jun-Kai: If you’re feeling bougie but not quite bougie enough for GrabFood, Cates is the right option for you. But, I am never too bougie to turn down a sponsor <3

Nadine: So apparently the lockers next to Octobox are not lockers, but instead food lockers. I'm constantly thinking of what to eat during lectures and tutorials, but using the usual food delivery channels is costly (and will probably end up with me eating McDonalds' again), so when I found out what Cates was doing, I was intrigued.

In a nutshell, what Cates does is bring food from Kent Ridge to BTC, with no delivery fee. You order your food before the cut-off time, and then during the delivery window, Cates will leave your food at the white lockers beside Octobox. I was going to try this out, but I knew I couldn't do it alone: I needed the expertise of a Cates veteran (Danyelle), and a fellow noob (Jun-Kai). I sent a message to the Justified group chat asking if anyone would be interested in reviewing Cates with me, and they responded with both speed and excitement. It was time to begin.

This. (Photo credit to Nadine Lee)

Danyelle: As a long-time supporter of Cates, I could not resist promoting the app that gave me access to the best food in school. Surprise, surprise, the food in Summit is not my favourite, nor the best. See fish soup article.

Nadine: The thing is, I can't give a review until I've tried it myself. So off I went to try Cates. I like the concept, so I'm hoping the process of delivering food from Kent Ridge works smoothly. Here are some things I've heard about Cates: The food usually comes at the end of the delivery window – that is, if you order your food to arrive within 12-1pm, it's more likely to arrive closer to 1pm. Second, don't order food that gets soggy, since the food needs to make the journey from Kent Ridge to BTC.

Downloaded the app… (Photo credit to Nadine Lee)

Selected my school, immensely hurt that Cates has side chicks (Photo credit to Nadine Lee)

Jun-Kai: Be not deceived as I was in selecting the “Bukit Timah” option: it is but a barren land empty of any food options.

Picked something at random to see how the interface was like (I was testing this at night switching between my phone and doing my Equity tutorial) (Photo credit to Nadine Lee)

Honestly, this concept is similar to WhyQ, which I (ab)used all the time when I lived on campus because delivery was free and there was no minimum order. Sadly those days of staggering down to the pickup point to grab my $4 rice are over.

With that, time for Phase 2: Ordering something from Cates when I'm actually in school. I'll report back then.

The Food Is Here

Nadine: I started writing this article on Tuesday night, but didn't have the time to get my locker-delivered food on Wednesday. It is now Thursday, and I am intending to have a meal after my Equity tutorial. It is the same Equity tutorial I was doing work for when I started this article. I am such a good student.

I placed my order the night before, deciding to order Salted Egg Chicken Cutlet Rice from Taiwan Ichiban at the Science canteen. Call it reminiscing, but when I lived in UTown, I ate Taiwan Ichiban so often for lunch that it probably did something bad to my body. There is something very satisfying about a chicken cutlet, rice with sauce, and an egg. I finished up class at 11:45 and waited for my food, which was slated to arrive at 1pm.

And then something got in the way – I got sucked into the endless vortex that was the Law Careers Fair. I didn't actually think I was going to bother with visiting all three locations that the firms had set up their booths, but before I had even left my second location, I checked my phone and realized that it was 1:46pm. My food had been sitting in its little box for an hour, perhaps even longer.

Photo credit: Nadine Lee

After bashing the locker in a bid to figure out how to open it with my fists, I realized that the app had been begging me to press a button on the app that would unlock the locker. Very interesting, very brilliant, and much more techy than I expected. The collection experience was good. I made guilty eye contact with my food, knowing that I had left him unattended and lonely in his locker for over an hour while I had been talking to lawyers and receiving more law firm freebies than I could carry.

Unfortunately, it was about to get… more unfortunate. See, I'd only been alerted to the time because I had a meeting at 2pm. It was now 1.50pm, and I had no time to eat. I shot an email off to the people I was supposed to meet, letting them know that I had gotten carried away with my food in one hand and Google Maps in the other. I spent the next 20 minutes sweatily trying to find my way into the Federal Building. While I'm here, I'd just like to say that walking to the glass door of the Federal Building, only to be told to go all the way around to the Oei Tiong Ham Building… Neither me nor my food were very happy about that.

My food and I trying to find the meeting room together (Photo credit: Nadine Lee)

As I left my meeting, I wondered if I should go to the Moot Court to finish off my Careers Fair walk, or if I should just go and eat. That decision was made for me when a fellow Justified editor messaged me: "I'm coming to you." They had listened to my very bad advice to travel from Kent Ridge to BTC for the Careers Fair, and so my food spent another half-hour or so uneaten as I went to tour more firm booths.

I think I only started eating at 3:30pm, almost three hours after my food first arrived.

The packaging was fantastic – there was no spillage (which is good, because I didn't order anything that could be spilled in the first place, so that would have been weird), and sturdy utensils came packaged in their own little paper sleeves. The spicy powder Taiwan Ichiban is known for came in a cute little sachet. All around, the presentation was 10/10, and I was amazed that there was some residual heat.

Now, I've ordered Taiwan Ichiban before, and watched the staff fry up a hot batch of chicken before pairing it with steaming rice. The rice in front of me now had clumped up, and the chicken was chewy. I'm not blaming Cates or Taiwan Ichiban though, because yeah, it was me who left the food unattended for over three hours. Overall, it still managed to be a satisfying meal. Satisfying enough that I staggered to the Justified club room and took a food-coma nap afterwards.

In my meeting, I happened to mention Cates, and one of the people I was meeting with mentioned that they had ordered the Yong Tau Foo from Cates, and it was excellent. That's another option, if you're looking for ideas on what to order. I passionately, intensely recommend Taiwan Ichiban, especially if you ever find yourself on campus. I suppose it just wasn't meant to be on this day.

Delivery experience: 10/10

Packaging: 10/10

Food: My fault/10

Jun-Kai: A first-time experience calls for a special occasion; call me corny. So, what better occasion than to start Week 4 off with Cates delivering my first meal of the week!

Originally, I did not have classes at Bukit Timah this blessed Monday--my Contracts lecture had been shifted online, as had my LARC class. However, when my LARC tutor mentioned that he would host the online lesson from BTC anyway, I took that as an excuse (or a sign, rather) to come to BTC to experience Cates. Sure, I could have just ordered my food to be delivered to my Residential College (Cates has that option, indeed), but would that review be authentic and useful to a BTC foodie? Disputable.

I had my reservations about Cates--I’d heard that, by the time the food arrived, it would have already been something around an hour out of the kitchen, and I was concerned about the food quality. Hoping to give the app the best chance of success, I went with something I felt was safe: a spicy chicken alfredo from Pasta Express.

Having logged my order the night before, I left my fate to be sated to the higher powers at Cates. Throughout the duration of the LARC class, I split my attention between case theory and my growing hunger, which was a product both of being in my 14th hour of intermittent fasting, and my anxiety that the food would arrive late or in disappointing fashion. The doubt intensified as the clock struck 1pm (the tail end of the lunchtime delivery window) with no notification of the food’s arrival.

Happily, the moment I reached the Summit, I was greeted by the notification that, indeed, my food had arrived! I searched for my food and, like Nadine, was not aware that the lockers outside Octobox were for Cates; honestly I never questioned who would need storage space in such an odd and public part of the campus. I spent a good minute wondering why the food had not been set on one of the umbrella’d tables outside Octobox, before the locker thing clicked for me.

Locker post-looting

My pasta loot looked fine. For $6.20 (including delivery fee), it was a respectable portion of creamy spaghetti, chicken, garlic, and spinach. The packaging also looked presentable, and it hadn’t lost much heat in transit.

Chicken alfredo

With an iced coffee as accompaniment, I chowed down. It was everything you could ask for from a portion of chicken alfredo--rich, garlicky, and spicy as I had requested it. Was it the best pasta I’ve ever tasted? Probably not, but I’m no pasta connoisseur. I have to remark, its affordability was a major driver in making the food so satisfying; a lunch for under $10 in this economy? In this part of town?? A marvel.

Also, I’m still quite full, a surprise given that I’m writing this about 3 hours after my chow. I’m not experiencing the food coma nor the rapid onset of hunger I do with most other pastas, so thank you, Pasta Express.

All in all, my first time trying Cates was pleasant; all my worries about the quality of delivery are put to rest. Maybe I’m setting myself up for disappointment the next time I order with Cates, but I choose to remain optimistic until proven otherwise.

Delivery experience: 9/10

Packaging: 10/10

Food: 7/10

As an addendum: One thing I liked about the Cates app was that, when I decided to cancel my original order because I wanted to get my food delivered to BTC instead of UTown like I had originally planned, I was instantly rebated with in-app credits which I could use to make a new order. Your mileage may vary, but I found this quite useful and intuitive in the context of correcting a mistaken order, rather than waiting for money to be credited to your bank account.


As a lover of Cates, I have ordered from them since the start of Year 2 Sem 1 (a year and a half ago) and thought that everyone knew of their existence and was fortunate enough to be blessed with food from Kent Ridge everyday. Little did I know that hardly anyone knew about Cates. So when the opportunity presented itself to write about the app that saved me from the monotony of BTC food everyday, I jumped at it.

Last Thursday, I again ordered Cates and here is my go-to order along with everything you need to know about the ordering process.

Speaking from experience, it is best to place an order for lunch the night before. Does it take a lot of effort? Maybe. But consider this: would you rather have to eat Summit food again? Would you rather go through the torture of running to queue for food after your prof ends tutorial late? I would not.

When ordering, remember to take note of the cut-off time, or you may not be able to eat what you want or are craving for lunch. Also, be warned that though the delivery time states 1200-1300 for its delivery time, the actual ETA is more like 1300.

On Thursday afternoon, I waited excitedly for my lunch. There is nothing like Pasta Express’s Spicy Carbonara to make my day after 3 hours of class. My class ended at 12, so I sadly had to wait for an excruciating hour before my food came.

Protip: If you are hungry and desperate enough, you can wait at the lockers around 1pm. The uncle who comes to deliver the food may pity you enough to ask for your order and pass it to you without you having to collect it from the locker. The uncle is super nice and kind and will help you for as long as he is there for. Sadly, I did not take a picture with him and even if I did, PDPA is a thing. But you will recognise him when you see him!

I know some of you will be thinking “is the food still good after an hour of waiting to be delivered?” Absolutely, yes. As a connoisseur of Pasta Express, I will be bold enough to claim that it tastes just as good, if not better, when eaten at BTC. The pasta was still warm… enough. My picture does not do Pasta Express enough justice because it looks dry and cold. But be not deceived. The cream sauce is all at the bottom so mix it well. The sous vide egg was also perfectly done with its creamy golden yolk oozing.

The portion size is substantial and filling. For people who like me, wondering whether to get their pasta with spice or not, I would say “go for it!” My spice tolerance is truly terrible but the chilli added is not unmanageable and gives the pasta a good kick that really adds to the overall flavour. I cannot speak for what the taste would be like if you get a tomato-based pasta but chilli paired with a cream-based pasta is simply heavenly.

I will now attempt to rein in my ardent love for Pasta Express and move on to review some of the other types of food I’ve tried through Cates:

A snippet of my order history from Cates

Let me preface the following retrospective food reviews by saying this: If I don’t remember whether the food was good or not, it was probably average and worth trying if you’re feeling a little adventurous and horribly bored of Summit food. If I remember the food, it was either really good or really bad. But then again, these are my personal opinions and I have been told by my friends that I can be overly critical about food. I’m referring to my review of the fish soup stall which I would certainly rewrite if I could go back in time.

Asia Wok: Cates tells me that I ordered Salted Egg Chicken Rice. However, I am currently trawling through my terrible memory of the food I consumed almost an entire year ago but nothing significant is coming up. My memory seems to have grouped all the rice dishes I have ordered from Cates and concluded that they were all unimpressive. The only thing I remember is that the rice was dry. The chicken was probably average though and from my memory, was a little bit lukewarm. Not my thing but if you’re okay with that and are willing to experiment and try it, I would totally respect that too since BTC food sometimes drives us to try desperate alternatives.

Wu Yang Ma La Pot: Cates tells me that I ordered Pot Pork Noodles (funny description of Mala but we don’t judge here). Very frankly, I don’t remember that that was what I ordered but I do remember that it was pretty good. If you have been around long enough to remember when BTC had our own mala stall (Rest in Peace BTC Mala), I will attempt to compare them. If the BTC Mala was an 8/10 (personal opinion), this Mala is a 7/10. I give them the benefit of the doubt that the mala would have tasted better if it had been warmer and eaten on the spot. Still, if you are like me and often crave mala and sorely miss the BTC Mala stall (RIP), this is a pretty decent alternative!

Malapot: Logically, the malas have to be compared with one another and this one pales in comparison by a long shot. My unsolicited advice: don’t order this. The options for this stall are limited since there are only 2 options: chicken mala or seafood mala. I have only ever tried the chicken mala but I cannot imagine that the seafood would be worlds better. When the food came, the noodles were cold and dry and tasted a little bit funky (can’t put my finger on what it was). The chicken was also dry and tough. However, my biggest gripe as a self-proclaimed vegetable hater is that there were too many beansprouts. I don’t even hate bean sprouts that much, believe me, but when I paid $5.70 for mala, I didn’t expect half the meal to be bean sprouts. I mean if you love beansprouts, by all means order this mala but it was not for me.

Delivery experience: 10/10

Packaging: 8/10 [sometimes the cutlery is not delivered when requested and I got 2 spoons to eat pasta once 🙁]

Food: depends on which stall you order from but on average 8/10

The three of us hope that this article gives you some insight on what it's like to use Cates. It's simple to use, and Danyelle evidently has used Cates enough times to know all the tips and tricks, like waiting for the delivery uncle so he can give you the food straight away.

Cates, please sponsor us.

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