Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pure Mind Vegetarian - Raffles Place

If you're working in the CBD you will be pleased to know that the number of vegetarian options has really increased over the last six months.  Pure Mind is located inside The Arcade, an area which can get very busy during the lunch rush hour.  There is quite limited seating (only about four or five tables), so I can imagine that it may be difficult to find a seat when things get busy.  Pure Mind opened in April 2014, and are hoping to open more outlets in Singapore in the future.

Pure Mind Vegetarian
Location: #01-34, 11 Collyer Quay, The Arcade

Contact: 62228022
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7.00am-4.00pm.  Closed weekends.

The owner of Pure Mind is Linda Tan - She opened this eatery as her husband is a vegetarian, and wanted a place for other vegetarians to eat in the city.  She named the place 'Pure Mind' as she feels CBD workers are under a lot of stress in their working lives, therefore wanted there to be an eatery where customers can slow down and clear their mind from stress.

The menu at Pure Mind is a mixture of Asian and Western delights.  There are a number of dishes that are by default non-vegan.  But the chef auntie confidently assured me that almost all dishes can be made vegan.  She even bragged that items like mushroom soup can be served vegan.  Great to deal with staff that are educated on what being vegan entails.

First dish I picked out was the Veg Mutton Rendang.  I usually have quite high expectations from rendang, as it is one of my most beloved dishes.  I must say that this rendang was one of the better renditions that I have tried in Singapore.  The only qualm I have is that the spice level may be a little too much for some.  The aroma and flavour of the dish can't be beaten though.  Customers can choose between white or brown rice (brown is $1 extra).  The poppadom and broccoli acted as good accompaniments to the excellent curry.  Definitely a dish that I would order again.

Price: $7.90.     8/10

The next dish was my personal favourite, and ranks as one of the best paste dishes I have tried in Singapore.  This is the Spaghetti Bolognese.  The default version of this dish comes with cheese, which I asked to be omitted.  The clear hero in this dish is the tomato sauce.  The flavour captured was simply phenomenal.  It has a strong aromatic beefy flavour, which matched excellently with the rich and tart tomato.  Put this sauce in a cup and allow me to drink it please chef.  The spaghetti was slightly low quality (although well cooked), but the sauce more than made up for this minor flaw.  Delicious dish.

Price: $6.90.     9/10

Conclusion - The only issue Pure Mind has is spreading the word about their eatery, and hopefully this post has allowed that problem to be solved.  Although this place closes early (and is also closed on the weekend), you will definitely want to find time to visit Pure Mind, if you don't leave with a pure mind, you will definitely leave with a satisfied stomach!

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 8/10

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Xin Man Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant - Chinatown

Vegetarian dim sum!  Singapore has a great abundance and diversity when it comes to vegetarian food.  But one aspect of Chinese cooking that is noticeably lacking is dim sum.  Yes, I am aware that places like Ling Zhi are offering dim sum, but frankly I found the quality to be nothing short of awful.  So it is easy to see that Singapore is desperately crying out for a good vegetarian dim sum place - Xin Man Yuan may be the answer to those cries.  This traditional style vegetarian eatery opened its doors recently in Chinatown.  Don't be confused, this place is located at People's Park Centre, not People's Park Complex.

Xin Man Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: #03-32, 101 Upper Cross St, People's Park Centre

Contact: 64380048
Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-10.00pm

There are two options at Xin Man Yuan, you can either opt for the buffet spread, which costs $18.80++.  Or you can order from the a la carte menu.  Here is a look at the buffet spread.
If you're ordering the buffet spread, you can order dim sum, but only a limited amount.  Pictured left are the types you can order. 
The interior of Xin Man Yuan is nothing unusual.  If you've visited traditional Chinese eateries like Miao Yi and Lotus, then the vibe of this place will be very familiar.
Here is a look at the full dim sum menu.  There is an incredibly impressive array of selections, most priced at $4.50. 
The a la carte menu is quite extensive, but has the typical array of Chinese dishes.  Many of the dishes are quite mock meat heavy.
I won't deny that the main reason for my excitement to visit Xin Man Yuan was to try the dim sum.  My first selection was the Delicious Chestnuts Siew Mai.  Immediately upon sampling this dim sum, it was clear to me that it was miles ahead of any other dim sum I have tried in Singapore.  I have also had the pleasure of trying the supposed best vegetarian dim sum in Hong Kong (Three Virtues), and I would say this is even better.  The skin was soft and delicate, and the mixed mushroom filling was splendid.  Yes, I am sure for non-vegetarians this dish will be missing the taste of smell of pork, but for vegetarian siew mai, this is as good as you will find.

Price: $4.50.     8/10

The next dim sum I picked out was Steamed Veg. Shrimp Dumplings.  This can also otherwise be known as 'har gow' or more accurately put in Chinese 'xia jiao' 虾饺.  This is another synonymous dim sum in Hong Kong, which is a prerequisite 'must order' item.  This dish is basically a steamed Chinese dumpling with a prawn filling.  I loved the fresh taste and distinguishable prawn flavour of this dim sum, and I really had to restrain myself from ordering another 10 portions.

Price: $4.50.     9/10

In my aim to give a professional review of this place, I thought it would only be right if I ordered some items from the a la carte menu.  Overall the dishes I ordered from the menu were really underwhelming when compared with the dim sum.  Starting with the Special Indonesian Curry - 'Special' is certainly one word I wouldn't use to describe this dish.  To the contrary, the flavour of this curry was incredibly bland and flat.  It was almost as if the chef added oil, chilli, turmeric and coconut milk, and then forget to add anything else.  I also found the mock meat used in this curry to be particularly unpleasant.

Price: $10.00.     5/10

Another dish from the menu which fell a little flat with me was the Jin Du Special Ribs.  I've order many mock rib dishes in the past - When I saw this item of the menu it reminded me of the good old days when I would visit Loke Woh Yuen for their amazing mock ribs.  This dish was a far cry from those glory days.  The sweet and sour sauce was really forgettable.  The chef really needs to take lessons in making Cantonese style sauces to really improve this dish.  The mock meat used for the 'ribs' was quite interesting.  It comprised of tube-shaped beancurd.  Interesting choice, but didn't resemble ribs in the slightest.

Price: $10.00.     5/10

Conclusion - If you're looking for good vegetarian dim sum, then Xin Man Yuan is a place I would highly recommend.  Their dim sum is really exceptional, there is no doubting that.  In terms of the rest of the menu, I do think significant improvements need to be made.  But I would definitely return again just for the dim sum.

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 6/10

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Southern Palace Vegetarian Restaurant - Paya Lebar

Just when I think that I have discovered almost everything (vegetarian wise) in Singapore, out pops an eatery that has seemingly existed for years without my detection.  I'm not sure how many years exactly Southern Palace has been around for, but judging from the worn down menu and interior of the place, it has been there for a long time.  This Chinese shop house is quite large, with ample seating. 

Southern Palace Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 654 Geylang Road (off Lorong 40)

Contact: 68461773/68461772
Opening Hours: Daily 9.00am-9.00pm.

Southern Palace had a list of six daily specials that were available.  These dishes change regularly.
If you don't feel like ordering their special made to order dishes, then economic rice/bee hoon and dishes are also available.
Before starting my main meal, I opted to pick out a sinful looking Curry Puff.  Priced only at $1, this larger than usual puff is definitely value for money.  Unfortunately I was quite disappointed by the quality of the pastry shell, it didn't have that crisp yet chewy texture.  Instead it was powdery and broke apart easily.  The potato stuffing was well spiced and cooked well, just not enough to make up for the poor pastry.

Price: $1.00.     5/10

For this review, I decided to focus more on the Southern Palace daily specials, therefore I selected their Sliced Fish Bee Hoon for consumption first.  By default this soup will come with milk added, so it is important for vegans to request for the milk to be omitted when cooking.  It was a cool (by Singapore standards) and rainy afternoon, so this dish went perfectly with the weather.  The mock fish and other ingredients were well done, and I particularly loved the additional seaweed on top, which was fried prior to adding into the soup.  Even without the milk, this was an excellent version of this dish.

Price: $4.00.     8/10
Lastly, we decided to order the Nasi Lemak.  Presentation wise, I liked how it arrived on the green banana leaf replica plate, visually it looked great.  The dish itself was a bit hit and miss.  The red chilli was quite unusual, the texture was almost like jam.  I also didn't understand why there were two separate mock meats, which were both almost exactly the same.  I enjoyed the peanuts and pickle, and the rice was acceptable, but lacking that delicious coconut aroma.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - Mixed feelings about the food from Southern Palace.  I would certainly recommend that this restaurant is worth visiting, especially for the fish bee hoon - The rest of the items that I sampled were quite forgettable though. 

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 6/10

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ren Xiang Vegetarian Food - Tampines

I'm constantly captivated by finding famous vegetarian hawkers in Singapore, and for today's post I will share with you arguably the most famous veggie stall in Tampines.  If you're visiting Ren Xiang during peak timings, then expect there to be a long queue of customers waiting for their many offerings.  The aunties running this stall are very warm and friendly, not the mafia thug aunties that run most stalls.  So, without further delay, let's find out if the food at this stall is worth joining the queue for...

Ren Xiang Vegetarian Food
Location: #01-80, Blk 419 Tampines St 41

Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am-4.00pm.  Closed Tuesday 

Ren Xiang have a variety of different dishes available.  I asked the auntie owner which of her dishes does she consider the best, she replied 'all of them are good' - I love that confidence.
I heard a lot of good things about the Ren Xiang Nasi Lemak, so that was the first dish I decided to order.  This dish is vastly different to how we think of a traditional nasi lemak.  There are no mock ikan bilis, no peanuts, no hash brown, no cucumbers - This is essentially not a nasi lemak.  It more closely resembles economic rice and dishes.  The rice is infused with coconut and pandan, and the traditional red chilli paste is present though.  Although this dish may be stray away from convention, it is still an impressive mound of delicious food, which I fully enjoyed wolfing down.

Price: $2.50.     7/10

One of my all time favourite local dishes is certainly Lor Mee.  I love the thick strong tasting gravy (especially when huge amounts of vinegar is added).  The lor mee from Ren Xiang was definitely above average.  There was a wide variety of different beancurd, mock meat, tofu items all inside the bowl.  The gravy was thick and full of flavour, but I wish the auntie added more vinegar inside.  Yellow noodles are not a favourite of mine, but the awesome gravy more than made up for it.  Definitely a dish that I would order again.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

Conclusion - There is no doubt that Ren Xiang is a fantastic stall, and my only regret was not getting the chance to check out more of their dishes.  I was a little surprised about their version of nasi lemak, but it was delicious nontheless.  Certainly worth making the trip to Tampines to eat - Enjoy!

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tanaka Vegetarian Food - Marsiling

If you look at vegetarian hawker/coffee shops in Singapore on a whole, I can't help be resign to the fact that most are selling the same dishes, cooked the same way - Boring.  There is however, once in a while, a vegetarian stall that really stands out as being special.  In 2013, Tanaka Vegetarian Food (Fajar) clearly stood out to me as being the best vegetarian hawker experience I have ever had.  Mr Goh, has recently been expanding the Tanaka name, with another outlet opening near to Marsiling MRT (this one opened by Mr Poh, a close friend of Mr Goh).  Woodlands and Marsiling are particularly pitiful places to be a vegetarian, with so few options around - So it is great that Tanaka can provide an option for those living in that area, especially as it opens in the evenings as well.

Tanaka Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 306A Woodland Street 31

Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am-9.00pm 

For those who have visited the Fajar outlet, the dishes on this menu will be familiar.  There are a variety of dishes available, but their mee rebus is particularly lauded for its quality.  For those who don't cosume egg, please make sure to specify when ordering, as Tanaka does have eggs in some of their dishes.
Here is a look at some of the dishes available.
Nasi Lemak, on appearance, would seem like one of the most simple dishes to make.  Chilli, rice, cucumber and then a number of mock meats usually make up the contents of the plate.  Simple it may seem, the key to any good nasi lemak lies in the chilli and coconut rice.  If those two aspects are sub par, then the entire dish is ruined.  Both those two aforementioned aspects were outstanding from Tanaka, and really brought the dish to life.  The red chilli paste is fragrant and smooth, and the rice was full of coconut flavour, without there being a compromise in the texture.  Really top notch nasi lemak.

Price: $2.50.      8/10

When visiting the original Tanaka, I was highly impressed with their Chicken Rice.  I loved how fragrant and full of flavour the rice was, without the usage of any animal products.  The chicken is made from beancurd sheets, and when combined with the red chilli and dark sauce, it really makes it superb.  Tanaka knows how to flavour rice perfectly, and the highlight of this dish is definitely the rice - It is beautifully infused, and I could happily eat it by itself.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

Conclusion - I really hope that Tanaka expand even more in Singapore, so that more people can enjoy the sensational dishes that Mr Goh concocts.  The dishes are what you would expect from a stall, but they are all made exceptionally well.  I can only think of Miao Shan, who might give Tanaka a run for their money in terms of best vegetarian stall in Singapore.  Definitely a must visit stall.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 8/10
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